dear kb files: no painting allowed!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

hello friends! today i am excited to present to you the second installment of my design advice column, 'dear kb files.'  after posting about this new endeavor of mine here & asking for your questions, i was thrilled when i started receiving emails from readers.  i truly enjoy taking your design problems and turning them into solutions.  this is what i have been trained to do!

today's question comes from the lovely kate from the blog a day in the life.  she asks...

dear kb files,
i love the idea of your new "dear abby" posts. i am an accounting major with a love for all things design- but with a major far from creative i love finding new design blogs. your blog is a real treat!

i got married seven months ago and am currently working on how to make our apartment more like a home. my husband and i are both still working on our undergraduate degrees, so we have a teeny tiny budget. what is a way i could revamp our dull white walls without killing our budget? painting is out of the question, but the white walls are starting to remind me of a prison. our apartment needs some life.

please help!



oh my dear kate.  you have no idea how close this question hits home.  very soon, i too will be a newlywed, living on a miniscule budget, and attempting to turn our first apartment into a home.  and i'm sure you & i aren't the only ones!  hopefully this solution can help us all out.

your problem is plain white walls that you cannot paint.  my solution is simply this... gallery walls.  and i promise this is something you can do really inexpensively.  and this solution comes in 4 easy steps.

step #1:  find your inspiration

by simply searching for 'gallery walls' on pinterest or google.  find the shots that strike you immediately & recreate those in your own style & with your own flair.

photo credits:  1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

(and while there are countless great gallery wall images out there, 
i really tried to find ones featured on WHITE walls!)

okay, so now hopefully you've been inspired.  the next step is to source the 'stuff' that will create your gallery wall.

step #2:  find the 'artwork'

and although we would all love to have original artwork on our walls, most of the population cannot afford to do so.  BUT, i can promise you there are affordable ways to make your collections intriguing even without original pieces.  in order to do so, you need to broaden your definition of 'art' just a bit.  i think this makes your gallery wall even more interesting.  my gallery wall rule #1 is to mix it up.  you don't want all paintings or all graphic prints... use a little of it all!  and some of my greatest sources/ideas for inexpensive art are:

decorative paper

thanks to wonderful online stores like paper source, it is super easy to find a patterned paper you love, frame it, hang it & voila!  you've got colorful, textured, beautiful art on your walls.  easy peasy.

(this concept also works with fabric!  have any random, small-ish pieces of leftover fabric you don't know what to do with?  frame 'em & hang 'em!)

diy paint-chip art

 photo credit: 1 // 2 // 3

so simple, so inexpensive, so colorful!  with my personal infatuation with color, i will definitely have to tackle this one myself.

free print-ables

yes, you heard me right.  so many lovely graphic designers now offer FREE downloads of some of their most popular prints.  here are just a few of my favorites so graciously provided by snickerdoodle, {q.a} design (offering ALL 50 states & several countries), inspired by charm, and collected.  thank you, thank you, graphic goddesses.

etsy artwork

there are so many talented artists out there... you just have to find them.  a new favorite artist of mine, the amazing laura dro, sells her original artwork from her etsy shop starting at just $45.  and to celebrate the kb files hitting 100 followers (woot, woot), the lovely laura will be sponsoring a giveaway right here next week.  be sure not to miss it!

once you have sourced & chosen your affordable artwork, you are ready to move on to the next step.  and really, you can frame anything.  old calendar art, poems from books, pretty greeting cards.  the possibilities are endless & it is amazing what something can turn into inside a pretty frame!

step #3:  frame it!

affordable, personalized frames are quite easy to come by these days.  my rule #2 for gallery walls... use frames of different sizes & shapes to create visual interest.

you can 'splurge' on a ikea ribba frame, raid your local second-hand/vintage store for fun shapes & sizes, and don't forget... you may not be able to paint your walls, but a fresh coat of paint to the frame can make any gallery wall all the more exciting.  my favorite frame re-vamp almost always includes a can or two of krylon metallic spray paint.  yes, please!

once you've got your framing all situated, you are now ready for the last step!

step #4:  plan and execute

this is probably my least favorite step of the process, but if you take the time to plan it all out before you start hammering & nailing... i promise, promise, promise you will be pleased with the results.  my rule #3... put the hammer down, plan before you nail!

the better homes & gardens' tried & true method.  cut scrap paper to the size of the frame & mark the nail location on the paper.  using painter's tape, move the paper templates around the wall until satisfied.  then hammer the nail through the marks.  remove the paper template and then execute!  you are finally ready to hang your gallery wall!

my dear kate... thank you so much for your 'dear kb files' submission.  i sincerely hope this helps!

any gallery wall tips/tricks you know of that i missed?  or maybe you have your own idea to help out kate?  if so... please, do share!

perhaps my support of gallery walls in the home comes from my background in art history & my love for museums.  i don't want to overdo it, but i'm thinking that my someday home will feature quite a few of them.  in the living room, the office, the kitchen.  better start collecting my artwork now!

and please, if any of you have any design dilemmas you would like some help with, please don't hesitate to ask.  i will be taking 'dear kb files' submissions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  just email me at  i really appreciate your support!

and for more interior design & wall art inspiration... be sure to follow my boards on pinterest.  i must admit... i'm a little addicted.

see you tomorrow, my friends!


  1. I love the idea of putting up paper before hanging pictures. I saw the idea on another blog or Pinterest or perhaps somewhere else and thought that would have saved me so much pain when I moved into my little house! They didn't just mark the paper with the nail hole, though. They poked a hole where it needed to go. They also wrote which picture it was on each paper and saved them so that when they moved again they would know already. I also love the pop of color from frames.

  2. love this katie! thanks for the great ideas!

  3. katie, this is such a great, well thought out post. i am super impressed and will be using this when we buy our first home!

  4. just recently i found an old collage frame and framed some old post cards i had lying around for a smaller space such as the bathroom. it turned out really nice and was easy!

  5. I love gallery walls! The look is so stylish and chic!!



  6. Love this post! I also love the idea of your "dear abby" emails. I just may have to write in to you asap! I am in need of help while I re do our bedroom.

  7. The whole idea is just fantastic.


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