Story Walls – Part 2

I left off with Wall Stories and a promise to elaborate on choosing art and objects to personalize the way that you tell your individual story.  You may be wondering then why I have chosen examples in black and white, and monochrome to instruct you on how to best tell your story.

Color and style preferences cloud the big picture concepts. People have a tendency to subconsciously make literal interpretations, that inflect distracting individual biases, and distracting from taking away overall concepts that make your design a success. Let’s wipte the slate clean for considering cheat-sheets…..

A composite of elements from One Kings Lane


Modified Symmetry –

Many people find the confines of symmetrical expression pretty dull – yet beginners are overwhelmed by the complexities of how to create an A-symmetrical arrangement. If your experience makes an Asymmetrical story wall a scary concept here are some simple designer tricks to help your design reach past your experience level.

* REMEMBER – your layouts need to conform to wall studs that are 2″ wide placed 16″ apart – find your studs with a stud finder and mark them out first. Use graph paper to mark your layout centering items over studs for hanging.* That may sound condescending, but you would not BELIEVE how many designers measure entrance dimensions for furnishings incorrectly…

  • Center your story wall area over a large piece of furniture, across from a double doorway, or across from and centered between two same-height windows to create balance. If you are centering between two windows, make your opposite wall story room the same height, with your off-center vertical axis centered vertically 2/3 in, either left or right.
  • Center a vertical axis 2/3 into the total area occupied by your story wall.
  • Choose either interesting matching items (when using identical items the shapes MUST exert strong outlines to avoid a “matchy matchy” text book design result)
  • Or – choose two elements identical in scale to flank your story wall, that both have some relationship to the story wall or to one another whether in color, surface, or context. These items provide that solid relationship to symmetry that functions to close the lines around your design, creating unity and balance.
  • Choosing the two identical pieces for strength in shape or surface to avoid that matchy-matchy pit-fall while ensuring the simplicity of a successful result.
  • A great way to choose a piece with distinctive lines is to copy an image of pieces you are drawn to into MS word. Right-click your mouse and select “format picture” and then click size > Type in 10% > Now click the layout tab – select “tight” – below the layout click the button that says center. You will see a thumbnail in the center of your screen. If your piece has great lines as a thumbnail, it will always work in real life.
  • Use free-form items of the generally shaped items (stars, circles, triangles, octagons, etc) in repetition in the area that occupies the minority (the remaining 1/3) of your design and repeat those shapes. TIP:  don’t exceed the outer boundary of your story wall’s total area; this means you need to consider the size of the items in the number of repeats carefully.
  • Add one item with function. I added a sconce above. This adds some unexpected presence to the design, but hard-wiring is a permanent and complex solution. Get the look with a plugin wall lamp with a cord cover to emulate a sconce – you can even take a sconce to a local lamp store and have it re-wired to plugin!

If you incorporate light, remember non-reflective glass for the framed objects closest to the wall light(s).

Your finished design will have all the attributes and predictable ease of symmetry but will also have a polished sophistication via the addition of free-form elements, off-set.

A-symmetry is harder for many people to grasp and execute because it does not rely fully on balance. Like any abstract idea, it involves an additional layer of complexity.

Asymmetrical elevation1 – Design Formula blogspot

The example I shared in my last article from the Design Formula Blogspot is really strong, and I shared some instruction on using a horizontal axis, but I can see how this would leave many people still not knowing where to begin….

Let’s simplify Asymmetry – and begin the process of making thoughtful choices about your story’s plot.

Example 2 – Simplified A-symmetry – A composite of elements from One Kings Lane

I have made this example very simple – don’t take this as a limitation. Use this example instead as a starting point to stretch past….

  • Begin with a vertical axis again – this is a cheat.
  • On one side of your axis, place a large object or four united objects to create an elongate rectangle to work from.
  • On one side of your focal off-center shaped area try to place multiple not-squared objects that have a relationship to the topic center piece – I used weight, or scale both literally and figuratively.
  • On the left place a square, circular, sunburst or any solid shape that begins a new conversation unrelated to your central conversation – we are adding interest and diversity to the story – subplots.
  • My horse is off-center center between the two stacked groups – off-center is important to Asymmetrical placement.
  • To the right of your central plot, build on subplots for interest. Sub-plots some relevance to the story your wall is telling and add interest.

ANOTHER OPTION – A composite of elements from One Kings Lane

  • outside the objects your repeated next to your largest area, stack smaller elements that either add up to the height of your main topic, or add up to 1/3 of the height of the off-center focal area (as shown above) with the space between frames and positioned horizontally, and always off-center using the space in-between hung objects as your new axis.
  • Now create a stepped group layout. I used stacking tables to the right to emphasize the steps.
  • Here I have used completely different flanking items. The different width of the grouped tables balance the off-center story wall area – a low book shelf on wheels would also do the trick

Now add your voice – who are you? Are you funny, have you traveled, do you have children, love what you do, where you have been or dream of where you’re going?

Say it on your wall – if it’s your first place, you don’t have much history, use a different lens – the image below is from the Australian archives of the country’s settlers. Have a dish to pass, invite your friends and ask them to bring a black and white phone shot of themselves printed out, and make hand prints. Frame their images with a had written story about the two of you, and frame them all in the entry or living room. This will welcome your friends every time they come, and can expand to include new friends.

From the National Archives of Australia

If you have children or grand-kids, frame their best pieces. Include items and pics together that have meaning. I used to take my kids on walks and to the playground, and pick up leaves, flowers or acorn caps to press, and include a note about what we had done on that date. With this, the frames and matte selection keep it in step with your style.

Oshibana – pressedflowersart store on Etsy

willowcreekartworks store on Etsy

Buttons with history are fabulous inserts with family or community images – they tell stories of people who have left or entered our lives and shape our lives and belief….

Printing family photos or images you love over old book pages is a great way to define a story wall, and reduce the white noise that family photos can create in rooms – keep the photos black and white and let the images create a color story. Thrift stores are great places to find old encyclopedias with pages ripe for up-cycling.

Vintage Cephalopod Octopus Dictionary Page Linda Schenck on Etsy

There are as many ways to tell a story as there are stories – use some cheats to help you focus on what you want to say, instead of stressing about how you will say it!

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