The Gallery Wall

Eclectic gallery wall

Image from: myrenovatedlife.blogspot.com

I knew configuring our gallery wall in the living room wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t realize what an insanely huge pain it would be. My Pinterest was filled with grand, eccentric gallery walls (like the ones above and below) and I was excited to get started.

I knew ours couldn’t be as grand, given our space constraints (really the only place that worked was the small space above the piano). Nor could it be as eccentric (my husband doesn’t really do eccentric), but I was determined to make it work.

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Image from: laurelberninteriors.com

Thankfully, designer Anna who came to the house in October (remember the zebra rug dilemma?), had already figured out and given me dimensions. I taped out the 85″ x 40″ space on our dining room floor and began unwrapping artwork (that was still packed up from our San Francisco move last Spring).

We actually have a decent amount of art (much of it was collected by our parents – pieces they picked up from their travels to Japan, China, Germany) and all of it was acquired before my husband and I started dating (hmm, I don’t like that. We’ll need to remedy that soon). It was a challenge trying to decide which pieces went well together without looking too uniform. But it was a fun challenge and I enjoyed figuring it all out.

IMG_9625 (1024x730) So now what? How were we going to transfer them to the wall? (I have to add that the art stayed on the floor like this for about a month! My husband and I both sort of ignored it, not wanting to deal with the next step.)

I’d seen articles touting the ease of cutting out pieces of paper the same dimensions of the art, taping them to the wall, driving a nail in each and voila. Simple, right?

Do this first!

Image from laurelberninteriors.com

Wrong. Cutting the paper to the exact (and we are exact around here) dimensions proved too difficult (I didn’t have thick packaging paper so I tried wrapping paper). The paper kept crinkling and it was hard to trace around the frames. And even if I did get to the point where I traced and cut them perfectly to size, I’d have to arrange them all over again on the wall, which was going to be a headache.

My husband suggested cutting a piece of cardboard (to the display dimensions), arranging the pieces again and tracing around them. This was the hardest part for me. I took pictures of the layout so I could recreate the display, but when I tried to arrange the art on the cardboard, it just wasn’t right. It took SO much tweaking before I was satisfied (I’m talking eighths of inches, but when you’re dealing with something you’re going to see every day, it has to be perfect).

IMG_9939 (600x800)He ended up tracing the art (using a level, to make sure everything was straight) and figuring out where the nail holes should be. Thank goodness he took over at this point, because for sure I would have screwed something up.

IMG_9938 (1024x1022)Then he centered the cardboard over the piano, taped it up and re-marked the nail holes on the wall (through the cardboard). He also put all the artwork up on the wall and leveled each piece.

IMG_9941 (1024x722) Hurray! I really happy with how it turned out. I regret not having the painters re-paint the walls a deep gray-blue (Brewster Gray, I love you!) while they were here doing the kitchen/family room. It would have added a dimension and feel to the room, adding mystery, while also making it more inviting. But it’s still a possibility down the line and the gallery wall definitely helps pull the room together and makes it feel more lived-in.

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820 Jones Street: My First San Francisco Apartment

Apartment Building

Photo Credit: Anomalous_A at Flickr (Click to view his full photostream.)  Number 56 is on the right (with the window open), second floor from the top.

I moved to San Francisco at the end of 1996. I had been living in Reno, Nevada for two years and was itching to get out of its eerie strangeness (if you’ve ever been for an extended amount of time, you know what I’m talking about). I worked as Publishing Coordinator for Addi Galleries’ publishing division (limited edition fine art prints). When they announced that a new location (now occupied by the Martin Lawrence Gallery) was being built in Union Square, I jumped at the chance to relocate as the new gallery’s Administrative Director (for a cool $13 per hour).

366 Geary - former location of Addi Galleries.

366 Geary. Addi Galleries’ San Francisco location. Photo: Martin Lawrence Gallery

In one extended weekend, I set out to find my new apartment. My whirlwind search was a success (reminder there was no Craigslist yet); the rental agreement 820 Jones Street, #56 was signed at the end of my trip.

I believe the rent was $875, which covered 420 square feet of studio space, including a separate-ish kitchen, huge walk-in closet (which some tenants used as an office) and tiny bathroom. The basement housed a coin washer and dryer, and also the garbage bins, which more often than not had huge roaches scurrying about. (I have a phobia of roaches. No, seriously. Have you ever woken up to find yourself squishing a flying cockroach just inches from your mouth? Didn’t think so.)

The ad in the paper (the paper!) said the apartment was in Nob Hill, but some would say it was really in the Tenderloin. I think technically it’s Lower Nob Hill, (“Tendernob” came into use in the early 2000s, a term I’ve never liked nor used), but I always told people I lived in Union Square, as it was a short three and a half block walk to the actual Square.

map820

I had the corner unit, so I could see across the street to Sutter. Back then, the Commodore Hotel (now a residence hall for the Academy of Art) ruled the block, with its popular Red Room nightclub (all red decor, as one would guess).

Commodore Hotel

The Commodore Hotel. Photo credit: Phil H. via Yelp.

Next door to the Commodore was the Titanic Cafe (now the Cafe Bean), a small diner that served breakfast and lunch only. Sometimes on weekend mornings I would sit at the bar and treat myself to a their buttermilk griddlecakes for $5.75. It was the first time I saw the sign, “Tipping is not a city in China”.

titanic.logo

My first few days in the apartment were spent trying to keep warm (one of the windows didn’t shut and my radiator was jenky) and to function on very little sleep. I didn’t yet have a futon; I slept on a bed made of my bathrobe and towels, and used my comforter for covering (why did no one tell me about heating blankets!? I would have bought one in two seconds!). I also didn’t have curtains for I can’t remember how long.

I arrived during the week between Christmas and New Years, so the city was even louder than usual and had a weird energy that made me uneasy. On New Year’s Eve, the the town went wild with people yelling, honking car horns and throwing calendars out windows (a tradition that has since stopped).

Inside view of 820 Jones Street

The inside of 820 Jones Street #56 on move-in day.

Soon I was sleeping through the 5am garbage collections, the wailing fire engine and ambulance sirens and the late-night revelers (whose sidewalk voices sounded like they were in the apartment). I looked forward to watching the transgender prostitutes walk the streets on weekends, getting into cars with their “dates” and arguing about who was on who’s turf. (This weekend ritual only lasted a year or so. I faintly remember some movement to “clean up” the area, which pushed the girls from Jones Street to Polk.)

820 Jones Street building

One last look.

Coincidentally, 820 Jones was also my third San Francisco apartment. In 2000 I lived at #51 for about five months. This was during the dot-com boom and the rent was up to $1100. I saw an online ad dated October 2013 for a 3rd-floor unit. The rent was $1895.

I drove by it the other day on the way to get my hair cut. I pulled over and got out to take a couple photos and say goodbye. I had forgotten it was painted my favorite shade of pink – a realization that made me suddenly so happy. I smiled all the way back to my car.

It’s Electric! (aka: GAH!)

electric stove

The stove.

Oh my gosh. I just found out that the stove in our rental apartment (where we’ll stay when we first move to Grosse Pointe) has an electric stove. I’m kind of freaking out. I don’t know what it is, but I have a huge aversion to the electric stove. I see one and I make a funny noise and start backing away with my hands covering my face.

I need to preface this rant by saying that I am first of all grateful beyond words to friends who are renting us the apartment dirt cheap, not to mention having to fix the place up for us and move a houseful of furniture elsewhere, just so we can move in all of OUR crap.

But back to the stove. Cooking is one of the things that makes me happy. And I am going to need to go to my happy place a lot in this apartment, I just know.

Does anyone out there have any tips on how to cook electric?!

How not to burn popcorn, for example? Really, how not to burn anything. Or how to bring a delicate sauce to a slow simmer?  Or how to remember not to put my hand on a hot burner that wouldn’t still be hot if it were a gas stove!