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Jamie’s Dilemma: Ideas Anyone?

Hammer Construction


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 anoff-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/petfriendly 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


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? Submit a photo or two, along with a few sentences about what bugs you or has you stumped to


[This article was originally written for Young House Love]