Category Archives: Living Room

{Living Room} Adding Height With Curtains

While I was waiting for the worst of the downpour to finish this weekend so I could work in the garden, I decided to attempt to hang curtains. I say attempt because a level line is never guaranteed and I didn’t have my stud finder (AKA TimTheFarmer).

Our living room continues to baffle me a bit – it’s also the entry and is a super tall room that contains the stairway and the loft that leads to the bedrooms. The previous owner used it the TV room, but we don’t like the idea of that. It needs to be the thruway into the kitchen so it keeps the seating to one side of the room. We’re still kicking around the idea of taking some or all of the wall down between the kitchen and living room. Basically, I don’t know what to do with this space. So, for now I’m working to make it feel inviting and cozy while taking advantage of the height of the room. This is from before we moved furniture and painted:

EntryRoomWe have our accent wall, which is my favorite! 


And, we hung my grandma’s antique skis way way high on the wall to draw your eye up. 



Because the room has sloped ceilings that are very high at the top and end at a “normal” height by the door and front window, the front wall feels low. A common way to work with tall ceilings is to hang long curtains high above the windows. It adds height and in our case, can balance out a shorter-feeling ceiling that is competing against tall walls.


I picked up curtains and a curtain rod at Home Goods for $30. There is seriously no other place you should buy curtains and curtain rods. They are alway half the prices as anywhere else and unless you’re going for custom curtains, you can probably find something that will match. The curtains are 96″ long which puts them at least a foot above my window. And look, my line is (relatively) straight!


The pattern fit perfectly with our room. It’s a traditional floral pattern made up of modern, funky colors: turquoises, dark grey, and chartreuse colors which perfectly complement my new old chair, rugs, and vintage ski posters.


Someday we’ll figure out couches and seating in this room and whether or not to pull the wall down, but for now, I love how the curtains add both height and coziness to this room!

{Living Room} How to Hang A Picture Frame Gallery Wall

Update: Kim sent me a picture of the picture frame gallery wall at Panzur and I inserted it below.

Oh my goodness! It has been so fun to see everyone come through from Our Fifth House – thank you for your sweet emails! I have gotten so many great ideas from all the comments on Carmel’s post about our kitchen lighting dilemma. For today’s post, I’d planned to show you the project I did this weekend in the kitchen, but a reader noticed our the picture frame gallery wall in this post and asked about it – it’s a post I’ve meant to do for a while, so since that project preceded the kitchen project, let’s start there! 


To start at the very beginning, a few years ago our favorite restaurant put in a new installation where they hung empty picture frames layered on top of each other along a whole wall. I LOVED it – Kim is super creative and artisitc – and hoped to do one of my own someday.  


To start, I knew I’d need some cool, vintage (read: old) picture frames. In anticipation of moving into a bigger home, we spent a fair amount of time last summer poking through flea markets and little local antique stores. Well…I would actually call them picker or junk stores because they’re not fancy curated antique shops, which is perfect because things are a little more dusty, beat up, and inexpensive – exactly what I wanted! It was funny because most of the sellers couldn’t believe I wanted old beat up frames and would give them to me for free or just a few dollars. My favorite find was this turquoise frame from Mexico, part of a great day’s haul from a big flea market (see what I did with the antique scale here). 


After painting the whole loft, stairwell, and entry/living room, I was determined to get a few decorations up before our Second Thanksgiving feast. That morning I got out all my old frames and knew I’d need a few smaller ones to offset the three large ones I’d picked up. I’d bought a bunch of distressed white and light blue frames from Michaels (or HomeGoods…I think it was HomeGoods) a few months before and thought they’d fit in the with old frames. I removed their glass and backing which I stored safely in a box in the basement for if/when I wanted to use the frames for actual pictures. Tip: pick frames with similar colors to pull the wall together – in my case I went with antiqued blacks/grays and turquoise.

One lesson I learned when Jesse helped me with my first gallery wall was to lay out your whole plan on the floor, before you commit to holes in the wall. That’s the kind of planning that would never cross my mind and I use it all the time now! So, I laid them out in a few different patterns on the floor until I got the arrangement I liked. Then, I took a picture so I could reference it once I started hanging the frames.


To hang them, I started with the two largest frames that were to be flush to the wall and used little picture hanging nails (one or two nails depending on the mounting hardware the frames came with). Because they’re empty, the frames are super light, so I didn’t worry about finding studs (insert TimTheFarmer saying, “Plus you already found one.”). To hang the pictures the frames that were floating, I used longer picture nails which I only hammered in a little (enough to hold the weight, but far enough out to keep the frames off the wall). To keep them from getting wonky, I put a nail in behind the floating corners of the frames to keep them off the wall and fairly level/flush. The frame just rests on the nail in the bottom corner. Finally, to keep everything fairly level since there’s a fair amount of balancing going on, I stuck 3M mounting strips between the frames to hold them all together. I checked the straight lines both visually and with a level, and then accepted that they might be a teense off in places (let your OCD go, folks). I made a handy dandy nail (in pink) and 3M strip (in green) map below. The curvy arrow is the floating support nail. Let me know if it’s helpful or super confusing!


I’m not a big fan of whoever placed that darn thermostat in the middle of the wall (which we’ve since replaced with an even bulkier one I have to work around…but it saves us heating oil!), but I did take that into account when working on the layout. 


Also, I picked up the vintage ironing board and metal pot at one of those junk stores and the white table at a garage sale. I love all the old stuff you can find living on the East Coast! The metal buckets are from our wedding (from JoAnn Fabric) and the flowers are from Michaels.


To summarize the tips:

1. Gather your supplies: empty frames, 1 and 2 inch picture hanging nails, 3M mounting strips, hammer, and level.

2. Lay out your gallery wall on the floor, rearrange until you get a layout you like, and take a picture.

3. Start with hanging your largest pieces first that will be flush to the wall. Hang with smaller picture nails. 

4. Float your next round of frames by using longer picture nails that will keep the frames off the wall. Hammer your nails in enough to hold the frame, but leave enough extra to be above your first level of frames. Add a second nail in the wall at the bottom corner of your frame for your frame to rest on to keep it floating.

5. Take a step back and then use a level make sure the frames are generally level. Keep the frames from sliding on each other by sticking them together with 3M mounting strips. 

6. Cross your fingers that you’ve secured everything well enough that the teenager and dogs running through your house don’t make the frames wonky (luckily I did!).

Have you tried a picture frame gallery wall? Any tips to add?


How to (Accidentally) Paint an Ombré Wall

So, remember that time I said I was really good at picking paint colors? Turns out I’m also really good at jinxing myself. 


I spent the first month we were in this home picking up paint chips and trying to figure out which light grey would be our all-over grey. My vision for our house was to paint all the dingy white walls to a crisp light grey, paint all the orangey wood trim a shiny white, paint the ceilings the same light grey, and paint a few accent walls here and there. I picked a medium dark grey to go behind our pipe bookshelves in the loft and what I thought was a nice light grey for our “main” wall color that would go throughout the house. I was ready with all the painting supplies when my parents showed up in November and asked “what can we help you with.” 


As the darker grey went on the wall where the bookshelves would go, I was loving it. Then, as the “main” grey went up on the stairwell wall, I was starting to worry it was too dark to be our all-over grey. We painted the entire stairwell and the upper half of opposite wall that goes all the way down into the entry/living room. After two coats, I knew it was too dark and went back to the paint chip pile. We tried out three colors and went with Icy Avalanche. 


Because tall stairwell walls are so hard to paint, we decided to leave that wall the darker light grey and pondered what to do with the opposite wall that connected to every wall on the main floor. While sitting on the couch with our glasses of wine looking at all our hard work and trying to decide how to do redo what we’d already done up top, my mom suggested we ombré (I think you can use that as a verb??) the wall, blending from dark to light. I called her crazy. We had another glass of wine. She suggested it again. I rolled my eyes. There was NO way we could do that and make it look seamless. I figured we’d have to repaint. I should define ombré – I know my dad will ask what that means. I gotcha Dad. 

Ombré: Gradual blending of one color hue to another. It’s often done on hair, clothes, cakes. It’s not so often done on walls.


The next morning, I had a brilliant idea. Let’s ombré the wall! Not really…but we all know those people who say no to an idea and then “come up” with it a couple days later. I will totally give this one to my mom. I had no interest in repainting, so I ombréd ( I think you can also used it as a past tense verb?). To be clear, I totally winged this. Also to be clear, I did not want this wall to look super ombré, meaning I didn’t want an obvious dark upper area and light lower area; I was hoping that with the height of the room and a smooth enough color transition, you wouldn’t know I started significantly darker at the top.  To give you an idea of the transition we had to make, here’s a corner at the bottom of the stairs (on the opposite wall) where the light grey meets the darker light grey.


Here’s how I painted an ombré wall, with some tips on what I’d do different:

Prep: have both colors of paint on hand, two roller refills, a paint tray for each section of color (see point 2), and plastic wrap. You may also need a hairdryer. Obviously. And, patience – there will be lots of mixing, touching up, waiting for paint to dry etc. And faith, this will work if you are willing to work it out. 

1. Accidentally pick (or intentionally start) with a darker color in the shade you want to end up with at the bottom and paint an upper section of the wall.

2. Break you wall into sections (either mentally or with tape/pencil lines) to gauge how many chances you have for a color transitions. In my case I had 5 color zones.

3. Paint the section at the top a second coat. 

4. As you start to blend the colors, you want to enable a transition to the next section without being so light that it’s obviously your lightening the wall. For my first next section (that makes sense right?), I mixed at about a 7/8ths dark – 1/8th light ratio. Put this color into a new paint tray. **this is a lesson learned, I just kept lightening what was in the tray, and didn’t have any of each shade left to go back for touchups**

5. Roll your lighter color onto the wall below your dark color. Blend up into the dark color about a half a roll stroke. When you’re painting over the dark color, don’t push hard on the roller – this helps to blend it a bit.

6. Lighten up your paint again (I went to a 3/4:1/4 ratio) and put into a new paint tray. Again, blend about a half a roll stroke (that’s definitely a new phrase I’ve coined) up into the darker color.

7. Repeat these steps until you reach the bottom section – by that point you should be using mostly, or all, the light color. I learned that color transitions are hard to tell between walls, so even though the bottom of my ombré still contains a little darker paint, you can’t tell it’s different that the adjacent walls. See?


8. Wrap up each paint tray with plastic wrap as well as the roller. Number the paints in the order you used them so you know which belongs to which section. Let the paint dry on the walls and look for points that need retouching. Use the fresh roller refill for the darker areas up top and the old roller for the lighter areas at the bottom.

TIP: This is where I learned what NOT to do. I didn’t have these handy paint trays on hand and when the top section needed retouching, I tried to guess at the blend, and got it REALLY wrong. It was waaaaay lighter than the upper section paint. If you get into this situation or need to match the color for some other reason, I recommend making a paint blend in a small container and then painting a small section of the wall with it. Act like you work in the paint department at at Ace (which I used to, sort of) and use a hair dryer to dry that section of paint. This will tell you if you need to go lighter or darker. I did this about 6 times to find the right shade for the upper section I botched.





RESULT: It totally worked! You really can’t tell that the upper section is MUCH darker than the lower section (the darkness in the picture below actually comes from shadows, it’s lighter in person), nor can you tell that the adjacent walls are slightly lighter. Mom, you were right. Nice work. Also, a thanks to Larry for moving the ladder over and over for me. And, if you missed the post on how to hang antique wooden skis, check it out here.


Have you every attempted an ombré wall?

p.s. It turns out it’s really hard to take pictures of paint on walls – apologies for the ever changing photo quality!