There is plenty to consider when it comes to tackling a blank wall. Like scale. Is it a blank wall with no furniture nearby? Sounds like you are looking for an item with large coverage. Is it above a table crowded with lamps and ephemera? Maybe a small gem of a piece will do.
Then there’s the material. While I don’t live in the Bay Area any longer, I am haunted by the idea of a frame falling on my head while sleeping through an earthquake, so I only hang soft textiles above a bed. Ceramics and metals work well in a kitchen, where they’ll hold up well to splashes of food or odors from the occasional burned pot.
And, of course, price. If I had the resources, I’d probably have a painting on every wall, preferably a big, splashy collage canvas from Jaclyn Conley or a grid of small geometric compositions from Michael Moncibaiz. But alas. Budget constraints have forced me to get creative, and over the years I’ve unearthed plenty of excellent non-original-artwork wall decor. My favorites, below.
These NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) charts are an incredibly affordable option to cover a large wall area (they measure 36.5″ x 52.5″ and cost less than $20). My favorite thing about them is the way the diagram inverts our expectations of a map, putting the ocean, instead of the land, as its primary focus. Framing these can be a pricey endeavor; in the past I’ve bought big 1”-diameter dowels and staple-gunned them on like a scroll hanger; I’ve also seen these used as wallpaper in small rooms.
I always recommend people buy and frame small quilts, like these from Louise Gray (Haptic Lab’s baby quilts are good too). They are much more affordable than a similarly sized print and bring dynamic texture and richness to a space. Quilts are safe to hang anywhere, including in a baby’s room or above a headboard. I recommend a wall- hanging dowel or a quilt hanger for mounting.
I have a whole collection of Molly M paper cuts around my house, some in soft neutral tones and others in wild neons. Constructed of many layers of laser-cut paper, the pieces have a sculptural depth and a complexity of assembly that is at once both machine crisp and lovingly handmade. These are the hangings in my house that most often stop guests in their tracks.
More stylish than a whiteboard, these acrylic memo boards have been a lifesaver in the kitchen and my kids’ rooms, where they stand ready for grocery lists and word games. The clear, non-ghosting finish lets your wallpaper or wall paint color shine through.
I come from a long line of wildflower women. My grandmother built huge gardens in the untamed Virginia countryside, and my cousin Emily Thompson crafts magical installations from the Northeastern landscape. I inherited none of their patience or talent but still wish to surround myself with beautiful botanicals. Every couple of years, I like to buy a preserved wreath for my front door and the kitchen; my favorites balance branches and florals and capture a bit of that wildness. I love what Terrain carries, including this moss-thistle-twig composition, and for an even more maintenance-free option, I like the fairly convincing faux botanical wreaths from Bloomist.
I order custom fabric-covered corkboards, with and without wood frames, from family-run Bangor Cork in Maine. My favorite are the mottled heather colors, which work well in kids’ rooms, tech offices, and our own design studio. Even the custom options are affordably priced, allowing you to create shapes to fit specific areas, like a long horizontal pinboard for displaying art in a nursery or covering for a full wall. If you’re in the mood to order right away, there are some great ready-made options available now.
Tapestries are such an easy way to add warmth, color, and pattern to a room without investing in artwork or wallpaper. I love these hand-sewn and -embroidered pieces from Küdd:krig HOME. With their soft forms and organic line work, they look great hanging from a simple rod on a white wall. Dowel- mounting kits from this maker can also be a great foundation for a changing display of textiles, like block-printed fabric pieces and collected tea towels.
Okay, just one more quilt! I can’t help myself. Vacilando Studios makes bold, graphic pieces that frequently pay homage to mid-century American artists like Robert Motherwell and Yves Klein. In our studio, we like to hang small versions of these, such as the petite 22x28, with binder clips and strings in unexpected colors.
Constructed of simple stoneware beads and bars by artist Janelle Gramling, this could tuck nicely above a side table or even hang on a bathroom wall.
I like these for their sharp, modern geometry. Plus they can be used as mobiles if you have high ceilings or just lay flat on a bare wall.
I’ve seen a lot of great wood pegboards out there, but these candy-colored metal boards from U.K. brand Peg and Board feel very fresh. In cotton candy pink, saffron yellow, mint green, and cobalt, they’re bold enough to set a tone for the decor of a room. And the powder-coated metal finish gives them a fun vintage feel.
Another DIY kit, this set includes jute twine and a set of preserved eucalyptus branches. Bunting can hang in a window or on a mirror and works well as party or anytime decor. Simple and rustic, it’s a good way to add some no-maintenance greenery to your space.
I have a soft spot for vintage schoolhouse Americana, from old pull-down maps to classroom clocks to colorful cafeteria trays. I’ve also amassed a small collection of vintage wool pennants, which my children love, so I’ve started buying them their own pennants, fun camp flags for above their beds, and personalized versions for their doors.