Jamie’s Dilemma: Ideas Anyone?

We’re finishing up some stair-runner prep today (painting walls and ceilings, and let’s just say the old runner isn’t leaving without a fight), so John will be back with the full rundown for you tomorrow. In the meantime, I couldn’t wait to share Jamie’s design roadblock and hear what you guys would do. We had so much fun sharing Shannon’s dilemma last week. I knew you’d have awesome ideas, but never could have guessed that 500+ comments (some with links to photoshopped ideas and more!) would come rolling in. And we’ve heard from Shannon, who can’t wait to get started and has promised to send us photos when she’s finished! So let’s dive right into Jamie’s issue. Here’s her letter:

Hi Guys!  I have been trying to figure out a way to ask for your advice on this awful wall in my house! Note: for anyone who wants to play around in photoshop, just click this image to enlarge it – and you can share your creation in the comments by linking to it on a free photo-sharing site like Flickr.

We moved this summer and did a ton of updates (paint, flooring, etc). We now have this huge blank wall that has an awkward vent & our doorbell in weird spots, along with 2 doorways and an off-center vault in the ceiling! Fun, fun….  

I can’t really put any furniture on the wall, so I’m trying to figure out how to decorate it that is kid/pet friendly and not too spendy. You can see in the photos we have warmish gray walls, medium-toned wood floors, and lots of black & white accents. Thanks in advance!  – Jamie

Update: Due to a lot of questions about the layout, Jamie just took these additional photos.


Much like last week’s dilemma, I stared at it for a while and said things like “hmm, since Jamie said it’s so narrow that she can’t add furniture there, even sconces or shelves or a narrow bench might stick out too much, so maybe the answer is some cool art or some sort of treatment on that wall.” You know, something like a stencil or wallpaper, just to add interest and take the focus off of those “wall warts” that we all seem to have (I interned with Country Home in college and guffawed like a weirdo the first time I heard vents and outlets and doorbell boxes referred to that way by the editors).

My first order of business would be to paint them the wall color (probably not the light switches since you touch/use them all the time and the paint wouldn’t hold up, but definitely the large heating grate and the doorbell and perhaps those two smaller jacks/outlets on the floor) just to help them blend in more. Then I think hanging some large scale art would continue to divert attention away from those little wall interruptions. Thankfully there aren’t any grates or plugs that are in the middle of the wall, so I would just mass a nice collection of things in that area of the wall. Something like this might work:

That’s an oversized canvas that I found here (I thought the colors went nicely with her furniture since there was some blue and black along with some warm tones in the sky that pick up on the wood floors). Then any four thin black frames (these are from West Elm) with two of them in the larger vertical size and two in the smaller square or horizontal size could beef things up even more and tie into the black and white rug.

To save money Jamie could also just buy an over-sized canvas and paint something abstract with blue, black, white, and even some sort warm tones like the canvas in the picture above. She could also find four secondhand frames at thrift stores or yard sales and spray paint them black and add black & white family photos or keepsakes (like a blown-up stub from a special plane ride or broadway show). All four of the images/items could be enlarged/printed at a place like Fed-Ex for under $15.

The next possibility that I played around with was some sort of really cool accent wall there, like this fun constellation wallpaper. I loved the pops of blue in the stars (to tie into the chairs) and the dark tone seems to go well with the dark bookcase behind the sofa and the tones in the rug and pillows.

Update: I know this one’s a little out there, but I thought I’d do one tame rendering (the one above this one), something more dramatic (this constellation paper), and something in the middle (the image below this one). And heck, since big scribbly accent walls of chalkboard paint are all the rage these days, I don’t think this is too far from that look.

That wallpaper is pretty pricey though, so I thought if Jamie liked the look but it wasn’t in the budget, she could paint that wall a dark charcoal color (like Outerspace by Sherwin Williams) and then make some star stencils out of acetate or plastic from the craft store and paint some randomly placed blue stars (in Open Seas by Sherwin Williams) all over the wall to get the look. Oh and once again I would paint things like the wall grate and the doorbell the background color to help them blend in.

Next I tried more of a color on that wall with this subtle fern teal wallpaper. Once again, if Jamie would rather paint, she could just go for a similar solid blue tone (like Grand Canal by Sherwin Williams) and she could layer in a feathery fern-like stencil (like this) to get more texture with a slightly darker color (like Really Teal by Sherwin Williams). Then I layered in the same art from my first mock-up, which I thought was a fun addition to the mix.

Next I kept the walls the same, but went with two oversized framed prints instead of the larger canvas & black frames combo. It’s dangerous that I found this art while doing this dilemma because now I want to buy all four of these. I’m in love. These definitely would be a spurge, but I love how big they are and they feel crisp and layer in nicely with her furniture. And if Jamie would like to get the look for less, she could try finding some similar botanical prints (like these) and pick two of them to frame herself.

Lastly, just for fun, I put these succulent prints on the constellation wallpaper, just to see how it looked.

Oh and a few last thoughts I had were:

  • a giant mirror to bounce light around and open things up
  • one or two windows or even a glass door hung on the wall for added interest/architecture (like this)
  • some modern decals instead of a stencil or wallpaper could be fun (like these, which could play off the rug nicely)
  • a wall full of magnetic paint followed by chalkboard paint (so things can be interchanged and the whole wall can be sketched and scribbled on like this)
  • an entire wall of cork squares (they’d be interactive and would also absorb sound and add some cool natural texture)

So those are a few places my brain went. Can’t wait to see what Jamie thinks and to hear all of the other ideas you guys have for this bare wall of hers! And of course we’re crossing our fingers for after photos to share.

Psst – Got a particularly tricky spot or a dilemma in a certain area of your house? Please submit at least three photos of the space along with a quick sketch of the floor plan and a short description about what bugs you or has you stumped to advice@younghouselove.com.


  1. says

    Maybe I’m not very adventurous but I like the first one with the oversized art over the wallpaper options.

    Or you could do one big picture and instead of the art flanking it, you could do something slim like antique ladders on each side of it? Use them to hang unusual pieces, maybe letters on a string that spell something that is sentimental to them?

    • SJ says

      I agree with this. I’d also say switch the couch with the chairs & possibly get a larger rug. Right now (& it may just be from the perspective of the picture) it looks like everything is just sitting in the middle of the room, there’s nothing grounding it to the room. Some volume on that wall would help everything look more cohesive.

    • Cara says

      Ladders to hang yhings from. Love it. It’s a huge wall, so I think you’d have to layer, but that’s where I’d start playing. (After painting the wall warts.)

    • blaze says

      SJ I don’t think Jamie is likely to rearange the furniture. If you look carefully at the left side of the picture, the couch is facing the fireplace and there is a TV over the mantle. Personally I might orient the couch to the big empty wall and wall mount the tv and some surounding art on the big empty wall. I’m not a fan of tvs over mantles, I always feel like I arrived late and got stuck in the front row of a movie theatre. I can publicly admit I watch more tv than fires so the tv gets priority in any seating arrangment. (Love John and Sherry’s LR arranment that allows you to see the fire but orients the furniture toward the TV and it’s at a comfortable viewing height.

  2. Jayme says

    I love the idea of a large canvas photo, maybe of a family picture in neutral tones? I think a cute family/kids photo brings the focus on who lives there while also being art!

    • BeccaK says

      I love this idea! Large canvas family photo, or collage of photos that could grow over time to consume the whole wall. How fun would that be?

  3. Dani says

    We’ve got a similar wall situation, and I think I’ve settled on doing a gallery wall along the whole length. I’m with Sherry on painting the doorbell and vent though!

    • says

      I would do a gallery wall of mismatched frames in white and black with the existing wall color. The only thing I don’t like is that this would make it feel like you’re ignoring the top half of the wall. That vent makes it hard to go up a bit higher with the art if you do one big piece. I like the idea of staggering one up higher and the other lower to get things up higher in the space.

      Here is an example of hanging stuff up high from our house: http://kellyandjeremiah.com/2013/hanging-pictures/

  4. Lisa E says

    Pretty room Jamie. Love Sherdog’s third option with the blue accent wall and artwork. If you didn’t want to do “big art” like that, you could still have the blue accent wall and make it a gallery wall. Can’t wait to see what develops!

  5. erin says

    i’m kind of with jayme — doing family pictures would be pretty awesome. but with some color on that wall to give it some pop. i know she wants it to disappear, but i think if you make it pop the wall warts won’t be as annoying =)

    • Lisa says

      I was thinking gallery wall too. They can use various sized frames and offset them. If it’s not a perfect grid it can fill the awkward shape of that offset peak more naturally and draw less attention to the peak. Also, you can distract from the wall warts that way because instead of standing out they are just another item on the wall.

      Not sure if I’d go with 1 color frames or various color frames. I think I like the idea of mis-matched frames to make it fun and friendly. But still coordinated, no orange frames next to purple ones!

    • CampDallas says

      We had a very similar situation in our first house and it lent itself beautifully to a great gallery wall! Highly recommend!!

    • Kourtney says

      I agree, I think a huge gallery wall with varying colors (but same range/tone of colors), sizes, and shapes of frames would work so well for this space! She could even throw in some different items like mirrors, taxidermy, etc. just to mix it all up…which helps the wall warts blend better. I also like the photo ledge idea a few comments down! Can’t wait to see what they choose!

    • says

      I had the same thought! The gallery wall would camouflage all of the vents, light switches, etc and would be a fun way to put family pics and such on display. She wouldn’t even have to repaint!

  6. Sharon says

    The first option has my vote. It looks clean and earthy in keeping with the style she apparently has going on already

  7. says

    We had a similar dilemma at our last house a few years ago. We tackled a large, vaulted blank wall (it had our doorbell on it too!) but hanging picture ledges and a plethora of varying frames all leaning against each other. (And we painted that doorbell, too.)


    I could see two or three long ones on Jamie’s wall full of family photos and art that ties in with her color scheme. Or we kept ours (photos and art) a grayscale theme to tie them together.

  8. says

    I think a two tone wall would look great – the bottom half being lighter (beadboard, paint, etc) perhaps separated by a chair rail/top of the beadboard. The top half, painted darker (and with the vents painted) could become a gallery wall- canvas prints, photos, corkboard frames to pin up kid’s artwork. A lot of frames would break up the “wall warts” even more and make them less noticeable.

  9. says

    What about tacking up a piece of matching crown moulding at the height it is on the other wall and painting the wall white above that so it would appear more like a slanted ceiling? I agree about painting the vent and doorbell the wall color to camouflage them, too.

    • Susan J says

      This is a fab idea. I was trying to fix the very same problem (asymmetrical wall/vaulted ceiling, etc.) and I came upon the same photographs online. We’re definitely going to try the “flying” molding idea. I would:

      1. Paint the wall a color that compliments the furnishings, but not too bold a color as to draw attention to the shape of the wall.

      2. Create a gallery wall with picture ledges and layer, layer, layer.

      3. Include mirrors in your gallery. They will reflect the side of the room opposite the mirrors, and detract from the size and shape of the wall/ceiling.

      4. Perhaps consider painting the ceiling a lightened version of the wall color, so that the ceiling slant is not as apparent as it is now. A white ceiling also draws attention to the wall.

  10. lulu says

    I have a wall like this and I put a very narrow faux mantel up. Hung artwork and decorated the mantel to further camoflauge the warts.

  11. says

    What a wonderful space to work with! I like the idea of using art- large scale is a must though or it would get lost on such a large wall. Since it’s a walkway, I’m not sure if this would work but I would love to see a row of hanging plants- from the ceiling. like this one: http://www.designlovefest.com/2013/11/make-it-43/

    obviously a diy version would work best but I thought the ceiling is so high you could hang it above your heads and make it really feel natural and fun in there!

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