Tag Archives: gallery wall

Reader Question: Bringing Color Into a Baltimore Home

Hi all, it’s Mera and Katie teaming up to answer some design questions we recently received from Heloisa, a Red House West reader.  Details about her house and photos are posted below, and we also included the first paragraph of her email because it’s basically everything we’ve ever wished someone would say about our blog and reading it put big, huge smiles on our faces:

I love your blog – and I’m not too much of a blog follower but I stumbled upon yours and got hooked. What I find different is that you both have such sophisticated, yet simple and fun decor taste. And you go for all kinds of DIY projects without necessarily knowing how to do it beforehand. To me, it always reads: ‘you can do it too!’

I’m writing to ask for some advice – any you could give – on choosing wall colors. I know this is no simple task.  I need to take action as I am sick of my monochromatic home and I was hoping perhaps you could get me started. I’m hoping with some advice I can move from talk to action… (I’ve had 12 swatches of different colors painted on my dining wall for over 4 months now…notice on picture below next to mid century hutch):

Red House West || Reader Question

I feel I have quite a few nice pieces of furniture (mostly thanks to craigslist) but it doesn’t seem like it is coming together…I’m thinking it might be the lack of paint and art on the walls that makes things look a bit dull. What do you think?

Red House West || Reader Question

I love the dark/bluish greys, loved the emerald greens I saw on your post and love wallpapers. My initial idea was a dark grey on the wall the tv will be mounted on and one light grey throughout the open space. But I do love the dark wall colors…but not sure how it will look as this space is not super luminous throughout the day. I wish more light would come through but this is the typical Baltimore row house and not many windows…so I do want to maximize the light that comes through. I also thought of painting the ceilings some kind of white to give contrast. Anyways – I’m open to suggestions, light or dark colors and am ok with taking some risks!

Red House West || Reader Question

So there it is…any ideas you could spare? I hope so!

First of all Heloisa, you have great furniture and a beautiful space!  We love all your plants and are impressed by your Craigslist prowess.  Katie is crazy for the hutch in the dining room, and Mera is ready to burgle the hand planter from the table next to the chair. Your home is lovely!

We – like you – think your space will benefit from the addition of color, art on the walls, and a few cozifications.  We’re going to take this step by step and we’ve broken our answer into four categories: Paint Colors, Gallery Wall, Over the Sofa, and Textiles.

Paint Colors

Even though we’re big fans of wallpaper and saturated color, we think painting your walls a single color all the way through will highlight the openness of the space and make it look brighter.  We’ve got some ideas for bringing in the jewel tones and patterns you love in other ways, but we’ll get to that in a bit!  We think your instinct for light gray was right on, and we really like the idea of having white trim and a white ceiling that contrasts with the delicate gray walls.  We learned from Katie’s recent foray into the sometimes harrowing world of gray paint that choosing one is no easy task, but we’ve got some suggestions for swatches to try in your space.  We would definitely recommend you look for cooler grays rather than warmer ones, which can often skew tan.

We suggest purchasing sample pots and painting them on a big piece of white paper (a poster board cut in half works great) and sticking them not just on the wall, but also on the floor to get a sense of how they work in your space.  Here are three you might want to try:

  • Katie is really happy (deliriously happy) with the Crystal Ball by Miller Paint she used in her living room.  Miller Paint is an Oregon company (and as far as we can tell doesn’t retail on the east coast), but many paint retailers will be able to find a formula and do a color match for you.

Red House West//Miller Evolution Paint

  • Crushed Ice by Sherwin Williams is light and fresh and would be worth a try:
  • Sterling by Benjamin Moore is another one that looks nice and bright:

Gallery Wall

Art is a great way to liven up a space and add accent colors and personality.  We like the art you have hanging next to the window (great mix of frame sizes and shapes!) in your living room.  We would consider moving that and expanding it, so that it is behind and around the TV.  Having art around a TV gives the eye another place to focus, and makes the TV seem less important.  Having a gallery wall that includes some vibrant art will make that wall a focal point, but without actually painting or wallpapering it a different color from the rest of the space.  Here are some examples of TV/gallery wall combos that we think look just right (you can also check out Mera’s TV/art wall here):

What to Hang Over the Couch

We wonder whether you’d be able to relocate the gorgeous credenza that is currently to the left of your couch over to the wall next to the window (where your art is hanging).  Moving it will break up that long horizontal line and make it more natural to center something over the couch.  Because we suggest you hang a gallery wall behind your TV, we think you should stick a single large piece over the couch so things don’t look too busy.

Large art can be really expensive, but a beautiful rug like this vintage Moroccan one (hung horizontally) could be a great alternative. The colors are gorgeous and this would be a great way to bring those darker tones you love – and some texture – into the room.

You could use your considerable Craigslist skills to find a big mirror, which would brighten things up by reflecting light around the room.  We think one that’s a little ornate would be an interesting contrast to your mid-century look – maybe something like this:

Or, if you’re still interested in bringing wallpaper into the space, you could frame a panel (or two or three) of your favorite pattern.  Just make sure it’s not too busy so that it doesn’t compete with the gallery wall.


Now for our favorite part, textiles!  Colorful pillows and throws will tie your space together and make it feel “done” once you have more art on the walls.  Here are a few rooms that are mostly white and grey, but that come vividly alive thanks to the addition of colorful fabrics:



Because emerald green was mentioned specifically in the question, and because it’s a color that we love too, here are a few richly hued pillows and throws that we think would look beautiful in the space (although not necessarily all together):

Emerald accents
  1. Throw blanket
  2. Splatter Paint Pillow
  3. Oil Painting Pillow
  4. Pom Pom Pillow
  5. Emerald Lumbar
  6. Kantha

Thanks so much for sending us your question Heloisa!  We hope we gave you a few new ideas and if you’re willing to share pictures of your finished space down the road, we’d love to see them!

We’ll be back on Friday for our final post of 2014 – yep, Red House West will be taking a break so we can spend the holidays with family and friends (and, you know, work on our houses).  Thanks for reading along!

Small Victories: Getting Art off the Floor and onto the Wall

Now that our living room is painted and I have a few new tricks for creating inexpensive frames up my sleeve, I thought it was time to give a gallery wall a try.  I have always liked the look of walls filled with art, and I’ve been debating what to put above the credenza for quite a while.  To refresh your memory, here’s a picture of the space I’m talking about:

Red House West//Miller Evolution Paint

The last time I tried hanging a gallery wall – at our old house – it was an abject failure.  In retrospect I think the pictures I hung were too small and the wall too large, but whatever the reason the result wasn’t good.  This time I decided to be more scientific about my approach, so I made a round up of art walls I love then tried to dissect why.  Here are the pictures I referenced:

Looking at these images I decided I like art walls that:

1. Have a mix of sizes and shapes, and a variety of frames (not all matching)

2. Have a loose arrangement – I don’t like a perfect grid, but prefer irregular space between the pictures

3. Have a mix of media

4. Cover the whole expanse of the wall

5. Balance color – it looks more like a collection when there are common colors among the images

The first thing I did was gather my pictures together.  The art for this wall is comprised mostly of woodcuts and drawings, and is a mix of pieces I’ve had for years and a few things I’ve recently picked up at thrift stores.  I measured a space on the floor in the same dimensions as the wall and played around with the arrangement.  In trying to make a balanced composition, I considered the size and color and how much black there was in the image and frame.  I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of this step, but the picture I took is on my phone which is – most inconveniently – in my mom’s car an hour away.  I am pretty alarmed by how unmoored I feel without it.

To make things more cohesive I painted the frame of the portrait black (bottom right in the photo below) and painted the matting of the two kelp drawings with a leftover sample pot from Farrow & Ball (top right).  Once I had an arrangement I liked, Cameron and I worked together to place most of the art on the wall.  We started by hanging the largest picture in the bottom left, then worked our way up and over.  We decided to line up the outside edges of the frames but just eyeballed the spacing otherwise, so the layout wouldn’t be too rigid.  Our living room walls are plaster so we used a drill to make pilot holes for the nails, and we used a little level to make sure things were hanging straight.  There were four pictures I had trouble deciding on where to place, so I traced them onto newspaper and played around with the configuration. Once I figured out their placement, I measured where the nail needed to go for them to hang at the right height and drilled right through the paper.  This method worked great for arranging the smaller frames!

gallery wall with newspaper templates

And here’s the completed wall:

Gallery wall

The picture on the bottom left (by Alaska artist Sydney Bishop) is one of the very first pieces of art I ever bought, back in my transient days when I never lived anywhere long enough to actually hang things up.  I carried it around for ages and then my mom had it framed as a gift a few years ago–I love the style of it and the setting.  The two smaller pieces are also from Alaska, and I like them next to my  $0.99 thrift store drawing and its fabric-covered mat.

gallery wall left sideI was determined to include this art deco frame on the wall.  I liked that the shape was different from all the other frames, and it’s way too pretty to be languishing in a closet.  I don’t have art that fits it though, so I covered a piece of cardboard with black fabric and attached two ravishing airplants.  I just balanced the plants on straight pins so they’ll be easy to take down to water.  They’re looking mighty fine above the adenoidal lady portrait.


As I was taking pictures, Dean got sick of all the attention that he wasn’t getting and decided the gallery wall would be much improved by the addition of a fat fur beast.

gallery wall 2

He was right of course!  I’m liking the gallery wall, and like how the many frames on this wall are balanced by Beatrice’s looming visage on the opposite one (don’t know who Beatrice is?  You can see a picture of her in this post).  Hope you all are having a great week – come back on Friday for a round-up of costume ideas for Halloween!

Room Tour: The Adult Lounge

This week I thought I would show you the room we call the Adult Lounge.  As I’ve explained before, nothing adulty-adult goes on in here.  After Opal goes to bed we retreat to this room to drink a beer and watch a show (current obsessions include Orphan Black and Parade’s End).

I’ve been working away on this room in fits and starts for months, and it has become one of my favorite spaces in the house.  Unfortunately I don’t have proper before photos, so here are some candid outtakes from my life to give you an idea of where I began:

tv room before

If you’re able to, direct your eyes away from that handsome man and adorable wiggly baby (who is obviously a genius!), into the room on the left.  I went through a pretty heavy duty every-room-painted-a-different-color-including-but-not-limited-to-an-oxblood-accent-wall phase, and this room was no exception.  The TV sat on a cheap espresso veneer stand, and there was nothing on the walls.  It was sad.

The beauty emanating from these creatures always made the dismal room seem not so bad.

We lived like this for years, and it’s not like we never spent any time in here.  Nay, dear reader, time was spent:  All five seasons of The Wire, and all six seasons of The Sopranos.  Twice.  All this time led to the formation of an indent in my spot on the couch that was the exact width of my posterior end.  We called it The Gulf of Badonkin.

Progress: this was after we ripped out the carpet and 9,000,000 staples and painted the walls white.

The photo above shows a progress shot.  This was after I painted the walls white, and we ripped out the carpet and nine billion staples.  The floor under the carpet is finished fir.  You can see in the progress photo the over-sprayed paint on the edges of the floor, and under the rug there is some damage from the staples and tack strips.

On a recent visit my mother in law basically refinished the floor while Chester and I went to a movie.  Yes, I am the kind of person who leaves her mother in law on her hands and knees sanding while I go out gallivanting.  She did a great job, got all the paint off, and made it look beautiful again.

Now, at long last, it looks like this:

Cromwell's handsome mug does wonders for a room.

This room is really small, and because of where the windows and doors are, the TV can only go on the far wall, which means the couch has to go under the window.

The couch is from sofa.com.  I could not love it more.

The couch is a dream; petite but incredibly comfortable with its down-wrapped foam cushions.  Wolsey has shown no interest in scratching the velvet, and the dogs, who spend a considerable amount of time looking out the window from this perch, haven’t stained or torn the upholstery (knock on wood).


In this photo the console table looks more red than it is in real life.  The color is actually electric watermelon, and I’m crazy about it.  The cord management situation isn’t perfect, but it isn’t a major eyesore either.  I hung the artwork partially behind the tv on purpose, on the theory that it makes the tv look less important.  The large boom box painting is another by Carol Crump Bryner.  The dog portrait to the left of the tv is of my beloved Megan, my Mega-Babe.  A kinder soul never lived.


My love of birds and plants is on display in this room, as in every room of the house (see, e.g., the mallard footed mirror in the bathroom).  The print is of a raft of Murres, by the late great Diana Tillion.


One of the difficulties in this room was fitting in another place to sit other than the couch.  It’s hard to tell from these photos, but there is a door to the right of the TV, as well as the door that leads into the room by the stairs. That means that the only place a chair can go is in front of the bookshelves, which felt awkward.  Enter the hanging chair.  I have always loved hanging chairs because they’re fun, but in this case it just made the most sense.  It’s a super comfortable place to sit, it doesn’t take up much visual space in front of the window and shelves, and it’s nice to be able to pivot toward the couch for conversation and toward the tv for a show.  Also, and of paramount importance, the cats approve.



Hey Meatloaf.

So, that’s the Adult Lounge.  Thanks for coming along on the tour, and here are sources for the non-vintage/one of a kind items:

Rug, West Elm / Coffee Table, West Elm / Console Table, Blu Dot / Chevron Side Table, West Elm / Table Lamps, West Elm / Couch, sofa.com / Hanging Chair, Serena and Lily / Bird Planter, West Elm / Kilim Pillow on Hanging Chair, One Kings Lane