Before and After: A No-Reno Project Fills This 1920s Dining Room with Personality

published Apr 24, 2021
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About this before & after
Home Type
Apartment
Project Type
Dining Room
Style
Modern
Skill Level
DIY
Rental Friendly
Yes
Post Image
Credit: Alyssa Low

Large blank walls are exciting — so many different decorating options! — but sometimes the choices can be a little overwhelming, too. Do you go for one oversized piece of art? A full wall of wallpaper? A triptych? The options are nearly endless.

At Alyssa Low’s 1920s condo, the walls in her spacious dining room had been (mostly) blank for years. While it was a favorite place for her and her husband to spend time, “we’ve always felt limited on what we can do with hanging artwork because of the picture window molding on the walls,” Alyssa says.

Credit: Alyssa Low

For a while, they had just one large piece of art in the center of the wall, but the scale didn’t seem quite right. And once the couple started working from home and using the dining room even more, Alyssa was starting to get tired of the blank walls. “Maybe the reality of being on video calls all the time inspired us to up our background game,” Alyssa says.

Credit: Alyssa Low

So Alyssa pulled out the collection of artwork that had been in storage for a few years to see if she could put it to use in the dining room. First, she measured each of the pieces she already had; then, she used some Photoshop magic to create a quick mockup of a layout she liked. After that, Alyssa cut out paper pieces in exactly those sizes that she could tape to the wall to test drive the composition. ““It was important for us to take the time and sit with this before we started nailing things to the wall,” Alyssa says.

For any spots where Alyssa felt like the art she already had wasn’t quite right, Alyssa took note of the needed measurements and ended up making a few of her own original pieces to fill the space.

Credit: Alyssa Low

New frames came mostly from West Elm or Target, but a couple pieces — the dragon block print Alyssa and her husband got from Japan, and a large oil painting — required a pro framer’s touch.

While the space certainly started out nice, the new gallery wall makes it feel a lot more homey and personable. The key to the couple’s success? Taking a long time to complete this seemingly small project — about six weeks. She suggests anyone else working on something similar do the same. “Plan it out before jumping right into it,” Alyssa says. “That means sitting with the awkward unfinished stages because, in the long run, you’ll be happier with the finished result.”