We just finished up a really fun job, and even though I was only planning to blog once a month, I simply can't wait to tell you all about it.
It all started when an interior designer from out of town contacted us to ask for help installing a large gallery wall with 27 pieces in total. Even for an experienced designer like her, that kind of installation can be a lot to do in one day... and this particular project was even more complicated because all of the walls in the home were plaster.
And did I mention that it was going in a stairwell?
And since the designer was coming in from out of town, we weren't able to plan the layout ahead of time. This arrangement would be designed on the fly... a daunting task for anyone to do on their own. So when her office called to describe the project, we were more than happy to help out.
We started with custom-cut paper templates. This is a great way to make sure that you're distributing the largest pieces well, and taking into account the architecture when you're doing the placement. It's important to be accurate at this stage.
Almost anyone can plan a layout with templates and enough time, but paper cutouts only address one part of a complex installation: the sizes and shapes of the pictures.
The real "art" to picture hanging is pairing varied pieces of art together, and this collection was challenging because there were a lot of different kinds of pictures. There were pale etchings with fine lines, bold black-and-white woodcuts, colorful watercolors, and restrained botanicals. The frames were varied as well.
And in an historic home like this, the rooms are smaller. There was no large area where we could lay them all out on the floor. You had to arrange them all in your mind's eye, so to speak. This is where it helps to be a trained artist!
The moment of truth comes when you're hanging them. We all loved it right away.
After consulting with the designer and homeowner, we had paired the restrained color of the botanicals with the bolder woodcuts. Further up the stairs, the bright watercolors would be grouped with the more restrained black-and-white etchings. This kept any section from getting too bland.
As I was surveying the collection, one piece stood out to me as the kind of picture that is nice to live with: this delicate Asian floral.
I don't know how else to describe this kind of work; its beauty is usually somewhat subtle at first, but tends to unfold over time. So I suggested that we put it next to the kitchen door at the bottom of the stairs where you would see it every day.
Further up the stairs were the three colorful watercolors I mentioned earlier. Rather than putting them in a line, we spread them into a curve to lead you further up the stairs.
We also ended up pairing a vintage family portrait alongside some of the art created by the people in the portrait. This is exactly the kind of touch that makes a picture collection feel personal.
There's another element that doesn't come through in these photos: the placement of the most important pieces. We wanted them to be at the right height to gaze into when you're standing on the stairs. However, when you were standing on the ground floor, they looked like they were too high up. The arrangement of the smaller pictures around the larger ones strikes a balance and makes the layout appealing from all angles.
At the top of the stairs we had bold paper silhouettes and woodcuts to set off the gentle colors of the print in the middle.
We have a system for hanging pictures into plaster while avoiding cracks or chips, and I love it because it also avoids leaving dust. And since we were mounting all of this art in a stairwell, we also added removable Velcro tabs behind the bottom of each piece to keep them from slipping out of alignment.
We were also very careful about how we spaced the pictures. There's an art to this as well. Sometimes you have to stick to exacting rules, and other times you have to break the rules to accommodate a small or oddly-shaped piece.
The whole layout swept up the stairs, ending at a framed record album which the homeowner had a sentimental attachment to. We paired this with two homemade Mother's Day cards which her kids had made years ago. I have to say, I love the way the homeowner and designer collaborated to include a mix of regular "art" alongside cherished family mementos. And I'm very glad that they had enough pieces. You really need a lot to fill a stairwell.
Notice how the colors of the prints tie into the colors of the Mother's Day cards, and also notice how the colorful pieces are evenly distributed along the wall. That was all planned into the layout.
Somehow it reminds me of a flock of butterflies flying up the staircase.
The homeowner had been in the home for three years, but she said it made her feel like she had finally moved in.
She left us a very kind review on Google:
"Arthur and Faith completed a daunting 27 piece staircase art installation for us. The results are better than I could have dreamed.
If you have a big project in mind and you're not sure where to start, give us a call. We've got the experience to make your art really sing.
9:00 am to 5:00 pm, M-F
Owner: Arthur Teel
113 Rector Branch Road
Marshall, NC 28753