Hanging a Collage

Happy New Year!  We painted our family room a while back and after sitting back and admiring the paint job, I knew I needed to cover it up…  Well at least some of it up with art or pictures.  The area really in need of some bling was the wall space above the couch.  Our ceilings are vaulted and the wall behind the couch is like 15 feet high so I needed something to fill the space.


I thought about wall art but honestly, I didn’t want to pony up the cash for something large which is what I needed.  The next best thing to art is a wall collage.  I also liked the idea of a collage because our family room is fairly informal and I wanted something laid back and also meaningful and reflective of our crazy family.

If you’re going to have a collage, then there has to be some kind of theme uniting the pieces otherwise the collage turns out very eclectic which is fine if you’re going for that look.  To unite my collage, I chose to use the same type of frame: white with clean lines.  No crown moulding type frames, just frames with straight lines.  Over the next couple weeks, I gathered coupons from Michael’s and Hobby Lobby (because I hate paying full price for frames I know I can get discounted) and gathered my collection.  I chose all sizes of frames with the only constraint is that I needed one big enough to hang the awesome scratch-off map I got from Urban Outfitters.

After getting a whole bunch of frames, I tried different arrangements on the floor to see what would work, then texted them to my sister to get a second opinion.  Here’s one arrangement that I tried that I ended up NOT liking but it’s an example of how I arranged things on the floor:


It was just too busy for me.  So I tried a dozen other arrangements and finally came up with one I liked.  Then I cut out templates of the frames from leftover wrapping paper.  You could also use newspaper but if the frames are large, you have to tape the newspaper together and that’s a pain in the rear.  You don’t have to do that with wrapping paper.  I also marked on the template where the hanger was on the frame.  Then it was time to tape the frames to the wall and hammer in the nails where I marked the hangers on the templates.    All this took about 15 minutes.  Then I hung the actual frames and took a long time straightening and getting the spacing right.

To keep the frames straight, I used 3M hanging strips which worked great.  They not only keep the frames from tilting and moving but it’s another layer of hanging power which is necessary because if one of the frames falls and we’re sitting on the couch, that will leave a mark!  So here is the final product:




I prefer to not have the collage width be wider than the couch so I kept the collage fairly narrow.  We hope to get a big sectional soon and at that point I’ll add on to the collage to make it wider.

I still have to fill in some of the frames with either art or pictures of the family and I want each and every piece to be special to us and not just something I slapped up so I’m taking my time to fill all the frames.  Some of my favorite frames are the scratch off map mentioned above:


The picture that my eight year old son drew of my father in law who recently died is especially meaningful to us.  Every time I look at the drawing it reminds me of him and what a  great, funny person he was.


I also really like the map of Maryland that we got off of Etsy with Columbia marked since that’s where we live.


I love how it turned out and can’t wait to fill in more of the frames and to also add to the collage.  Overall it was a fairly pricy project only because even with the coupons, the frames ended up being about $10 – $20 a piece but it is still a lot cheaper (and more meaningful) than large wall art.

Making a Mantle

So after a long hiatus, I finally have a chance to post some of the living room projects that I’ve completed.  The mantle was the one that I liked doing the most.  After painting 24/7, it’s fun to do something different (even if it still involves a paint brush).  I wanted a custom mantle for our newly painted fireplace but didn’t want to shell out the cash since I knew it would be expensive, so I headed over to my local building reclamation shop to see if I could find some inspiration.  I like to go to Community Forklift (www.communityforklift.com) in Edmonston, MD because it’s a huge warehouse chock full of recycled building materials.  There are thousands of doors, cabinets from full kitchens, tons of wood, antique elements, and many other finds.  What I was most interested in were slabs of wood since I knew I could fashion a mantle out of an interesting piece of wood.  So I found this beauty and like the nerd I am I was in love with it as soon as I saw it:


I like this piece because it was the right length and I loved the highly grained quality of the wood.  I wanted to highlight the grain and not hide it with two much “product” so I tried stain and also lacquer on a a sample piece with the following results:


The top (the tip of the wood) is a dark wood stain and the bottom is a clear lacquer.  I really liked the lacquer because I wanted something glossy that allowed the grain of the wood to pop and lacquer fit the bill perfectly.  I didn’t know that much about lacquer before I used it, so I don’t want to say that it was a crapshoot whether it would turn out the way I wanted, but it was :).  I painted about 8 coats of lacquer using a soft wide brush and allowed the coats to dry for at least 3 hours in between coats.  I wanted the piece to be GLOSSY and look wet so I just kept painting until I achieved that result.  But after all that painting I found that the bad thing about lacquer is that it REALLY smells, like the kind of smell that stays in your nose with you all day so use a fan to blow the fumes away from you and don’t paint in an enclosed area unless you like a major paint high and/or a killer headache!

So after three days of painting and then cutting it down to size, *ta da* the mantle now looks like this:




The underside:


Not to be too designer-geeky but, I liked keeping the mantle looking rustic against the modern white brick of the fireplace to add some textural interest giving the two elements a nice juxtaposition.   I kept the bark on the mantle to give it even more texture and it also made the mantle look more organic since the bark kind of curves a little making the mantle bow in the middle.  The  mantle also ties into the beams on the ceiling nicely.  This is definitely a project I recommend doing since it was cheap (it was $100 total to include the slab of wood, the lacquer, and the material to hold up the mantle) and it looks great!