Some Slap Happy Office Art

You know… slap happy. As in it makes us happy and we slapped it up on the walls without over-thinking it (to the point of what-should-we-frame paralysis – which can happen if we’re not careful). Although we did talk about a few other options and eliminate them based on certain factors, such as:

  • one giant piece of art on each side of the window = too symmetrical for our taste, and too repetitive with the big rectangular window in the middle (so it would look like three big boxes)
  • open shelving = too much shelving since there are two walls of it thanks to the dining room built-ins (it would be shelving with more shelving beyond it)
  • mirrors = too much, since we already have a large framed mirror hanging over the file cabinet on the opposite office wall

So we decided to use frames that we already had in a balanced-but-not-completely-symmetrical arrangement. And as is the usual agenda, we tried to go with things that have meaning, feel personal, and make us smile. Are they perfect? Nah. But perfect is overrated. They just make us happy like our chipper green office chairs. So in a way, the fact that it’s not perfect is kind of perfect for us.

We liked that we had a “John’s side” (the right) and a “Sherry’s side” (the left) so since John loves maps, typography/handwriting, travel, and high-contrast geometric shapes, he ended up with this little medley:

Not only does it represent a bunch of things he loves (type, maps, travel, geometric shapes, etc), it’s also personal because:

  • the map is a typographic map of Richmond by a local artist (it’s actually made up entirely of words, more on that here) – I just painted the Ikea mat with the same gray paint that we used under the chair rail to help it pop
  • the handwritten/typed item on the far right is a blown up copy of a tiny comment card from a meal that we shared in Alaska during our Honeymoon (we wrote things that we ate and what we saw on the comment card and kept it as a souvenir to remember that day)

On my side I knew I wanted Clara to paint me something (everything she makes is my favorite thing ever, what can I say?) and I liked the idea of framing a textile that I loved (some fabric leftover from Clara’s weekly project, which I also used a few years ago to reupholster a bench that now sits in her nursery).

It doesn’t hurt that the lattice shape of the fabric ties in with the lattice detail on the chairs… and also seems to relate to the high-contrast geometric print on John’s side. Gotta love happy accidents like that. To us that just screams: meant to be.

As for how we approached the whole office art thing, here’s the order of this whole project (although we’ve done this multiple ways so there’s definitely not one “right” formula):

  1. Went through our existing frames to see what we had to possibly work with (and found the five that we used for a grand total of $0 spent)
  2. Laid the frames out on the floor in groups until we hit on a balanced but not symmetrical arrangement that we liked
  3. Hung the frames without anything in them, just to get a sense of how they’d look on the wall instead of the floor
  4. Began the art hunt (we figured we could trim/blow things up to work with the frames we had – although sometimes art comes before frames for us – it varies)
  5. Pulled our typographic Richmond map out of the playroom since we knew it was one of the things we wanted to hang (and painted the mat for that frame with leftover wall paint from under the chair rail)
  6. Went through our “memory box” full of movie stubs and love notes (it’s just a shoebox-sized container full of keepsakes), which is where we found the comment card from our honeymoon (which we blew up 420% at a copy shop to fit the frame)
  7. Dug up some sentimental fabric that I loved (which was also used here and here)
  8. Found a high-contrast print in my little file o’ art from years past that worked nicely on John’s side (it balanced out the handwritten comment card and the detailed type-map)
  9. Stripped Clara down to a diaper with some water-based Crayola paint and had her go to town on a large sheet of paper that would fit the frame I wanted to use with it
  10. Ran to Michael’s to grab some large colorful sheets of paper to create “mats” for some of the art (to better fill the frames and tie in some happy color since the office is our cheerful little bubble of unicorns, rainbows, and puppy dogs)

It definitely feels mixed & matched yet balanced enough for us – and it’s bold & happy without giving us a headache. We like that the color palette is diverse (Clara’s painting is full of color and there’s a black & white print, so it’s pretty varied). Even with all those colors/styles, the dominant tones (like teal and grellow) relate to the chairs and the dining room curtains – and the white frames help unify things. We definitely plan to play around with room accessories in other colors though (some pops of orange or coral on the desk might be fun) so we’ll have to see where things go…

Oh and here’s the view from the dining room. I love that the office is so light-washed and the dining room built-ins are so dark. It really helps keep the spaces from blending into one big rectangle-fest. Oh and I’m on the hunt for a new runner that’s not so matchy (plum could be fun – or even textured burlap).

As for how much this entire update cost us, since we already owned all the frames we just spent around $9 at Michael’s on the large colored paper “mats” and $4 at the copy shop (FedEx Office) blowing things up. So that’s a total of 13 bucks for five pretty big pieces that we get to stare at whenever we’re not gazing at our laptop screens.

We still have other office things on the agenda, like: getting a permanent rug (most likely longer, not as wide, and darker), adding more permanent art to the other side of the room…

… hanging some window treatments (probably homemade roman shades), and adding a proper lamp and side table for the leather chair corner, etc. But for now we’re just grateful to have something on those have-been-blank-for-the-last-ten-months walls. Can’t believe we have stared at blank walls for almost a year. The shame! Especially since the frames were just sitting around in our playroom and it was only $13 to fill them with some happy-go-lucky stuff.

But enough about us. Have you guys ever blown things up at a copy shop like a comment card from a memorable meal? How about stripping down your toddler and “commissioning” some custom art? I thought I was going to be really Type A about colors and design but I just gave her every color of the rainbow and watched her go to town. My little artist…

Psst- Here’s another post about a ton of sentimental things we’ve framed around the house.


  1. says

    Your site is such an inspiration. I really appreciate how you take your updates & projects one day at a time. We did 3 months of everyday craziness remodeling our house, scraping down our popcorn ceilings, texturing, painting and now we are so exhausted we haven’t done much in the last month or so. Lots of good lessons we can learn from YHL!

  2. says

    We just got a new kitchen table and I have spent many hours hunting down a eggplant table runner in RVA with no luck! I ended up picking up some fabric at Joann’s to make one myself :)

  3. diana says

    Really great! On the list is there a new rug, maybe? (you know, I have plenty of ideas for you:). Good idea with the runner, and plum will make a nice choice.

  4. says

    LOVE IT! my husband and i are real cheese-pots when it’s comes to keeping things like tickets from the movie on our first date and the gifts bottle of wine from our b&b on the honeymoon. I LOOOOOOVE the idea of blowing up the images and making them art. LOVE IT!

    my wheels are a’turnin!

  5. says

    AW! I love love love it! I am in the works of redoing my office and I love how simple, yet perfect you guys did this. Such inspiration to use things we already have. I might find a letter my hubby wrote me now. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  6. says

    Love this! I love looking at how clean your house is. LOL Mine is a wreck right now since we are moving/switching rooms. The choices for artwork are perfect. I love the idea of having some real personal touches instead of run-of-the-mill prints,etc. Still trying to find my Pinterest challenge project too, by the way! Can’t wait for that!

  7. Angie K says

    When my son was about 3 I gave him a canvas and paint and let him go to town. He did an amazing job…people always comment about the art asking where I got it. I tried this again when he was 8, but he ended up putting too much thought into it and we ended up with a “mud” looking picture. It made me sad that he was so quick to become so hindered by what other people thought.

    If only we could keep them little for longer!!!!

    • Karla says

      I love this too! Maybe you can do something similar to what you did with your ‘P’ pumpkin. You can tape off words or you can do it in reverse. have her finger paint the whole canvas then tape off letters, paint over it and then peel off the letters? That could be cute!!

  8. Kate says

    Up to this point, I really disliked the color on the chairs, and I especially didn’t like them with the fabric you put on the seats. But I totally get it now with the colorful art. Still may not be my style, but I really see it coming together and appreciate where you’re going with it. Great job!

    • says

      Thanks Kate! One of the challenges with sharing stuff on a blog is that unlike a makeover show, it takes months and even years to get to the after! So a lot of people have no idea what’s going on in the middle part (especially us sometimes- hahah). We just take it one day/project at a time and build as we go! Those chairs looked crazy at first to some folks because the rest of the room was sooooo neutral (gray walls, white trim, white desk, white file cabinet, wood desktop) – so when they were added without art and accessories and all that good stuff they definitely stuck out a lot more instead of tying in!


    • Anna says

      I completely agree, Kate. I was just going to post this but you did it for me! I love the art on the walls and am still not in love with the color of the chairs — but they do go together. Definitely seems like your style, John & Sherry! Great work guys.

  9. says

    I love your approach to putting up and choosing art. We just hung groupings of art in our basement, and we were looking for the same kind of feeling: balance, meaning and fun. Perfection is totally overrated!

  10. says

    I have to learn to wait until ya’ll are done to see if I like it! With the new art, the lamps totally work! Love it.
    I love the idea of blowing up something sentimental and making it art. I’m hoping to try something like the “P” art. My husband hates sappy stuff, so I don’t think he would let me blow-up anything too personal (like a favorite card or something). Ahhh, the joys of decorating when your significant other has an opinion about it. I don’t know how you and John do it!
    Again, great job!

    • says

      Aw so glad Meg! I knew the lamps might throw people off without art (my mom was confused) but once they weren’t the only thing on that wall it would hopefully balance out. Mom already called to say she loves it! Whew. Haha.


    • Penny says

      Oh man, is that the secret to getting Harrison Ford to show up and hang out with me? Time to go buy a million old maps.

  11. Meagain says

    Darn…I wish I could say that I like it….I’m more of a symmetrical type girl. There just seems to be too much going on…

  12. Rebecca says

    LOVE IT! You guys definitely have “the eye” for hanging pictures/art. I am working on hanging items on our picture wall along the staircase, trying to get the non-symetric layout it hard but looks awesome when you get something good.

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