I don't know why, but even after all that work it STILL wasn't right. Everything still seemed so cluttered. Even though I LOVE my homemade chalkboard, I wasn't happy with the photos I had on display or how they were displayed in easel frames on the mantelpiece itself. I have been cruising Pinterest for MONTHS checking out different arrangements for above a fireplace for inspiration.
Then finally it clicked! I found and ordered this print:
(available at this Etsy shop. Tons of cool customizable prints here!)
And then I set about collecting my absolute favorite photos and treasures to display. I already had many of the frames on hand, so I just spray-painted them all the same glossy espresso brown color. Then I got to work arranging.
Top to bottom: a favorite b&w photo of John's grandparents, our new "heart for Africa" print, a small framed antique stamp from Zambia (a gift from a dear family friend who has now passed away), my favorite photo of my mother's parents, clock from Target, my spray-painted candlesticks topped with a pair of antique lion bookends.
Top to bottom: John's old Texas truck license plate, favorite photos of Elijah, our wedding, and Syd, a "shopping list" I found in John's truck not long after we were married, my African nativity made from Coke cans (a gift from my husband), an "H" for our family name (a wedding gift).
It says, right there near the bottom: "(I want to marry Amanda.)"
And the final product!
(I am still learning to use my camera. But you get the idea!)
Here are my recommendations for a project like this:
Make sure the photo frames are the same color. It really helps with continuity! Whatever color you choose, it's super easy to just spray paint everything. I think it makes it look really nice. This is also helpful AND CHEAP when you're re-purposing photo frames you already have on hand as I did! I didn't go with red because I wanted to showcase the chalkboard and I thought making it all red would be a little too overwhelming. Also a lot of my knicknacks are red so I wanted a neutral color to balance all the brightness.
Framed photos/keepsakes look better matted. I got this tip from my friend Elizabeth and I think it looks much more polished this way! Have I mentioned that Elizabeth has the cutest house EVER and I want to copy EVERYTHING she does? She does … and I do. It's a sickness of mine.
If you are going to have a few knicknacks on the mantel, be sure and leave space for them as you hang your photos. I planned the arrangement with the pieces I'd chosen and tried to leave space for them so there wouldn't be an overlap. I think this makes it look less cluttered and more intentional. I didn't want a layered look here (and there's nothing wrong with layering, per se, I just wasn't into it for this particular project).
Use the space. I hung photos as far to the left and right as I could to make the space appear larger. I also positioned the red candlesticks past the corner (the corners of the mantel are beveled at an angle into the wall).
Choose wisely. In my case, I wanted to be really selective about the things I displayed so prominently. I chose things that I LOVED, were important to both me and my husband, and wanted to be in full view all the time. I put some thought into what our "treasures" were and if they reflected the personality of our family and home. After that, it was pretty easy to choose.
Balance is important. I chose to line up the uppermost hangings with the top line of the chalkboard so it would look balanced. I tried to mix large and small pieces on both sides so things would look even but not too perfect or matchy-matchy.
My last piece of advice is to choose a focal point in your room and minimize everything else. When I was hanging all this above the fireplace I realized that the television (hung way too high) on the adjoining wall made everything look busy and took away from the new decor. To minimize the clutter I took the television off the wall and set it on the t.v. cabinet, which was about two feet lower. It made a huge difference (you can see this change in my Flickr set, which I'll link below). I might hang the television back on the wall eventually in the lower position, but I actually prefer it on the entertainment cabinet now … even though it's way more accessible to grubby little hands who think it works like an iPad. Oops.
Now I can say I love our front room! I think it really reflects our family's personality. We love coming home and seeing the chalkboard and the ever-changing quotes and verses we write on it (makes a great "Happy Birthday" sign when needed too!) and showing our friends and family our favorite photos and treasures.
Since our front room is in order we are now working on Sydney's room (she now has a big girl bed! And we're planning on moving little brother in sometime soon!) and turning Elijah's room into a playroom. I'm on Craigslist EVERY DAY searching for the furniture I need to get the projects done.
Are you still tweaking your house and searching Pinterest high and low for ideas? Cause I think I might be doing this until the end of time. It's FUN!