Bringing Interior Walls to Life

Collections of hanging objects can make your visual voice heard
Eclectic Living Room Interior With Comfortable Velvet Corner Sofa With Pillows
Photo by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz / iStock / Getty Images Plus

There you are — proudly, though perhaps in a state of exhaustion, surveying the interior expanses of your new home or apartment.

The floor is still littered with boxes, though your furniture seems to have taken a stand as if it intends to stay. A few rugs remain rolled like cigars along the baseboards, and the walls — well, the walls are vast, empty rectangles and squares of abandoned space. No matter how the floors and furniture may come into focus, the walls will seem regions of doubt that few normal people relish facing.

There are just too many choices — or not enough — when one contends with walls. Unlike floor areas, where a sofa and a television seem to know exactly which space they were meant to inhabit, or where a skinny Tabriz hall rug has only one choice to make, walls are everywhere. From tiny alcoves backing a kitchen table to megalithic expanses in great rooms to half-walls above wainscoting in the dining area, even tiny bathroom walls present all the challenges that might be involved in going on a first date. How much do you want to reveal about yourself, your interests, your proclivities, your tacky hobbies, your rogue’s gallery of relatives or an odd preoccupation with your own face?

We turned to experts in this fraught region of design and to other authorities to remind us that your home is, after all, your kingdom, and that you are its king or queen. But no royal ever got anywhere by being shy or reticent. Instead, advice from one and all seems to be: Follow a few artistically correct guidelines in balance and scale, and then make your visual voice heard as loud as a billboard or as subtle as a demitasse. Take another look at your walls and see a canvas, a sculpture garden, a Soho gallery or an album of Aunt Debbie’s photos of buds, but do it with confidence that nothing on a wall can really be wrong.

Designer Delena Denham of Delena Denham Interiors in Pensacola advises people to determine a home’s focal point, often a fireplace.

474b9602 Ccsz

Designer Delena Denham of Pensacola achieved a strongly horizontal and distinctly nautical effect by arranging paddles and a bit of fishing net on a wall. Items on the coffee table complement the wall display. Photo by Tyler Teston

“For rooms without a fireplace, you would usually put your largest piece of furniture against your biggest wall,” Denham said. “Use this as the foundation for a statement wall and arrange your pieces around it. Think of it as dropping a rock into a pond, the ripples get wider and wider as they spiral out.” advises making paper cutouts of the frames or items you will display, then taping the paper to the wall before drilling holes or adjusting your layout. First laying out the whole design on the floor can also help you adjust the spacing.

Denham said larger pieces should be placed near the bottom of a collage, as if one were building a pyramid, otherwise the heaviness of your artifacts will “upend the room.”

“I like to arrange the base of a wall collection in a straight line, almost like an artificial picture line or chair rail,” she said. “And I always tell my clients to never break up their collections. You want to keep your treasured pieces together to tell a story.”

For highly subjective wall collections, consider making a gallery in a back hall, study or home office.

“That way, if one is invited to that personal space, they’re more likely to have an appreciation for your personal artifacts,” Denham said.

Recently, Denham arranged the wall of a client’s den with items from a war in which he fought, complete with photos, display cabinets and pieces mounted on wall hooks. If mixing personal articles with photos, Denham makes sure to use the same frames and glass, be it matte or glossy, for consistency.

“The continuity should speak to you because you’re creating your own museum that no one’s going to enjoy like yourself,” she said.

Some examples of that kind of wall harmony may be a grouping of toys beloved by your children when they were young; your seven lovely guitars too long lost in the closet; aligned shelves holding a dozen vintage cameras; straw hats beach-worn over the years; record covers; sparkling mirrors of various sizes; jigsaw puzzles you never thought you’d solve — with maybe a piece or two missing; and even a vertical garden of green plants. All of these, and whatever other thematic treasures you’ve forgotten, can now be brought out into the light.

As long as you’re personally invested in your collection and are prepared to spend time with friends who want to know the story behind each piece, look at your walls in a new way, and get personal!   

Categories: Decorating