D.I.Y.ing My Super Boring Hallway

City Mama, County Mama: D.I.Y.ing My Super Boring Hallway (By Lonelle Selbo, Life Au Lait)

A few nights ago, Catherine (the MC Midtown director), messaged me to say she read and loved a post I wrote, recently published on another blog. “You write like a musician”, she wrote and I swooned at the beautiful compliment.

I have been in the writing and editing biz forever. I’ve been published more times than I can count and have directed dozens of magazines onto newsstands across the country. I’ve managed designers on countless projects, designed loads of logos since my son was born three years ago, and still, every time a new project hits my desk, I feel like I’m faking it.

A friend of mine just posted in her incredible blog about ‘imposter syndrome’—a term that describes high-achieving individuals who are marked by a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.’ High-achieving or not, talented or a hack, successful or otherwise—every time I get a compliment on something I’ve worked hard on for a client or myself, it means the world to me. It’s a reminder that I’m pretty good at what I do, and that I’m helping other people succeed at what they do.

On that note, I’ve been working on a project over the past few weeks for the most demanding client on my roster: me. I can be a real hardass boss. I’m relentless in the pursuit of perfection and when it comes to projects involving home design and decor, my assistant (aka. husband) will attest to the fact that I’m the total, absolute worst.

Putting up paintings is the most frustrating, because I’m never 100% certain of what I want until I see it in reality—and sometimes I need to see it a few times before I’m really really sure. This means a lot of extra nail holes, a lot of rethinks, and a seriously pissed off drill-handling partner. So when I decided to reinvent my boring hallway, I wanted to make sure I could do a lot of it totally solo and compose the really annoying parts using design and layout programs on my computer, rather than in real time on the wall.

This DIY project was composed of three main parts.

Step 1: Find a kickass mirror that would fit between two totally awkwardly placed light sconces on a reasonably large, white, floating wall.

Step 2: Source or build a cool, but timeless console table or bench to serve as a furniture feature below the mirror

Step 3: Figure out how to fill the rest of the empty wall space without rewiring the electrics…if even possible.

The thing is, each of these steps has to take maximum 20 minutes. That’s the absolute longest I can spend on a task and do it well (which is why I break everything up into baby steps.)

1. Luckily, I had a mirror from the old house that fit perfectly. It was round with an ornate frame so not a lot of real estate in which to see oneself, but it was pointed out to me that there are a lot of mirrors in our house and as a higher traffic area, it wasn’t the primary place one would perch to gussy up. Okay. Fine. I can live with that.
Mirror, check.

2. My dad suggested we try putting this raw aluminum outdoor bench beneath the mirror and everyone pooh-poohed it. I was sure the bench would be too deep, too rough, too outdoorsy, but to placate him, I said we’d try it. It was stunning. After some humble mumbled apologies, I bought some spray paint with a primer and seal coat in one (20 minutes, remember?) in a gorgeous muted gold colour and waited for a sunny day with no bugs. Two coats (and cans) later and I couldn’t believe how amazing it looked. This was a total win.
Furniture feature, check.

Things were starting to look about 1000% better, but I still needed to figure out how to fill the rest of the space in a way that was attractive, but not cluttered, balanced, but not old-fashioned, and could work around those annoying light fixtures.

I took a few days to reflect on some spaces that I loved, and I remembered the wall at the Vic Café in Picton. Sonya, the owner, had created a combination of wall-hung plates and circular geometric designs that had a gorgeous effect.

3. I’d found my inspiration: a gallery design around the mirror and fixtures using various sizes, shapes and designs of wall-mounted plates. I went for a blue and white base palette and got to work. I already owned a set of vintage country-club-meets-fishing-lodge style plates (bought a decade ago for no purpose other than to gather dust in a cupboard until they resurfaced in the move.) The other pieces came from random places (a keepsake from Italy, a collectable from the family archives, etc.) and came together, bit by bit.

First I took quick photos of each of the plates, then shot them beside another plate for size reference. I measured the biggest one against the mirror and figured I was in a good place to estimate the rest. Cropping the photos and placing into a background of the bench and mirror, I resized everything to approximate scale and shifted until I was happy and everything was composed and balanced.

Then I printed out the final pic and stood with my husband, drill in hand, directing him plate by plate. In reality, I realized that “approximate scale” isn’t the best way to do things – the sizes were noticeably off. The plates were quite a bit smaller and some shifting was required. The design seemed to require an extra plate to maintain the composition, but I wasn’t sure. Again, real life is harder for me.

After some juggling, I decided to live with it for a few weeks to feel it out.

Do you guys like it? What would you change? I love to get feedback. After all, it’s not just compliments that make me happy, collaboration is what helps me grow—and ultimately, become much better at what I do!

From the green belts of Midtown Toronto to the endless pastures and lakes of Prince Edward County, fashion magazine editor Lonelle Selbo, lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes all things mommy—from cool toys to DIY home décor, pretty things to hip places, where-to-eat to how-to-grow, and mom style to toddler chic. Every month, she’ll bring a little County to Midtown Mommies.


About Catherine Tyrrell

Busy mother to a spirited toddler, and an attentive & active baby (that's very eager to keep up with her older sister!), with a passion to help other mamas navigate this crazy journey that is parenting.

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