The Science Behind a Gallery Wall by Sarah Vaile

There is so much more that goes into a gallery wall than simply picking out a few pieces of artwork that goes well together. Are the sizes right? Will the frames go together? Who’s going to hang it? Follow along to take a look at the steps we follow to get a seamless gallery wall. 

1. We start by taking inventory of your existing pieces.  From there, we fill in the gaps making sure we hit on a nice balance of portraits, organic art, colorful prints, black and white, antique and new, and modern art. We love adding unexpected items, like the sconce pictured below, mirrors and plates. The balance of all these elements is how you will make a new gallery wall look “collected.”  Some of our favorite sources include Chairish, Artfully Walls, Scout Design Studio and Mary Maguire Art

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2. Once you have the main pieces, it’s time to lay it out. Pottery Barn has a great free service called Icovia where you can put in dimensions to see exactly how it’ll look. First measure your wall, and then map out the sizes of the prints.  From there, we print photos of the art out to best fit the scaled drawing we made with Pottery Barn and check that the art works together. This tool can also help you figure out what size frame you need and if there’s room to add matting. 

3. Figure out the framing/matting. Our go-to source for framing is Framebridge. They make it extremely easy - all you have to do is choose your frame, mail in the piece in a box they send you, and then it’s shipped back to you framed! 

4. Now it’s time to hang the gallery wall. We highly recommend hiring a professional art hanger for this task - it can oftentimes be tedious to get it exactly right, and hiring a professional can save hours of having to move each piece an inch this way or an inch that way.   Trust us, we know from experience ;)

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The Art High-Low Game by Sarah Vaile

10 years ago at the beginning of our design career we loved the slogan "champagne room on a beer budget." we may have come a long way since then and lean more toward a wine/champagne miss these days but there is definitely some truth in that statement.

It's the high-low game baby! 

A gallery wall is the perfect place to take a shot at the high-low mix. Unique pieces by esteemed artists mix beautifully with more affordable prints from mainstream art retailers. The range in price usually lends itself to a variety of mediums too - we always strive for a mix of acrylics, framed prints, paintings on canvas, photography and even 3-dimensional art showcased in shadow boxes. 

Not to give away all of our secrets but we wanted to share some of our favorite pieces from our mainstream go-to lines!

Time to start your own gallery wall!


Art Excursions: Team SVD's Favorite Unique Museums the World Over by Sarah Vaile

Venice – The Peggy Guggenheim Collection

A fabulous femme who put her inheritance to great use championing American and European art, Peggy Guggenheim was THE trailblazing female collector of her generation. Renowned for her sense of style, Peggy’s foundation calls her a “self-described art addict who sought to distinguish herself from her business-oriented relatives and make her mark on the world through collecting and traveling in avant-garde circles.” She was a key collector of Surrealist art while married to one of its most famous progenitors, Max Ernst. She purchased an 18th-century Palazzo on Venice’s Grand Canal to showcase her collection, which, following her death, became part of her Uncle Solomon Guggenheim’s foundation in New York City. I’ve spent my life looking for sunglasses half as cool as Peggy’s signature frames – alas, to no avail. It goes to show that true originals can never be copied!  

Guggenheim with her beloved pups and iconic sunglasses!

Guggenheim with her beloved pups and iconic sunglasses!

The museum on the Grand Canal

The museum on the Grand Canal

Boston – The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

"Mrs. Jack Gardner is one of the seven wonders of Boston. There is nobody like her in any city in this country. She is a millionaire Bohemienne. She is the leader of the smart set, but she often leads where none dare follow… She imitates nobody; everything she does is novel and original." This quote from the Gardner Museum’s website sums up everything we love about this museum and the wealthy iconoclast who founded it – a woman truly after SVD’s own hearts! Inspired by a visit to Venice, she built a stunning Palazzo in the heart of Boston beginning in 1899. She filled it with the treasures she amassed during her world travels and stipulated everything remain exactly as she had hung or placed it after her death. When the museum was robbed in 1990, 13 artworks valued at over $500 million were stolen, and their empty frames still hang on the museums walls. Of course, we love a good mystery, and if you do too, check out the Boston Globe podcast about the famous Gardner heist called “Last Seen.”

The museum’s courtyard.

The museum’s courtyard.

An empty frame where a master work was cut down from the wall.

An empty frame where a master work was cut down from the wall.

Chicago - The Richard H. Driehaus Museum

Perhaps lesser known than Chicago’s two titans of the arts & culture scene -- The Art Institute and The Museum of Contemporary Art -- the Driehaus Museum “explores the art, architecture, and design of the late 19th and early 20th centuries with a focus on the Gilded Age.” Mr. Driehaus purchased Chicago’s famed Nickerson Mansion to showcase his extensive collection of decorative arts—Tiffany glass in particular. This makes it especially appealing to interior design enthusiasts – I loved an exhibit they hosted on “The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design.” 37 stunning chairs spanning the years 1810 to 2010 were on display, and it was hard to choose a favorite! The Driehaus is always worth visiting for the stunning Art Deco interiors of the building and the rare Tiffany lights in its permanent collection.

The museum’s magnificent home in the former Nickerson Mansion.

The museum’s magnificent home in the former Nickerson Mansion.

A few amazing examples from the “Art of Seating” exhibition.

A few amazing examples from the “Art of Seating” exhibition.

Art is in the eye of the beholder by Sarah Vaile

Interior Design is so much more than buying furniture.  A room is an orchestra of different elements; floor covering, fabric, hard goods, wall covering, lighting, case goods and the jewelry of it all….ART!

Art is an integral part of interior design and is often the most personal reflection of our clients style and taste.  Some like nudes, some don’t.  Some like modern art, some are more traditional.  Some see art as investment, some see it as something to cover an empty wall.  Our job to take all of this and find that ONE perfect piece that harmonizes with all the other elements in the room.  

The right art can make a space sing and the wrong art can fall flat so we often spend a lot of time sifting through thousands of pieces on line and in person to track down the right one.  Unfortunately you cant always find the right piece when you need it.

In fact, most of the time we find a piece when we least expect it. Which was the case with the art for our 2016 Lake Forest Showhouse project. Time was running out, we had fully designed the “Teenage Boys Bedroom”, and we were floundering trying to find the right piece of art to go over the desk.  We were set on finding a piece that would emote the “rocker teenage angst” vibe we were going for but were having no luck.

Then, one day we walked into one of our favorite Chicago interior design stores “Rider For Life” and voila, there it was, a killer piece by Butch Anthony!  The juxtaposition of the traditional portrait reimagined with hand stitching was just what our room needed.

In the end it was the most talked about element in the room, but also the last piece to fall into place!  Bottom line, NEVER GIVE UP.  -Hayley

Introducing the Design Collective by Sarah Vaile

At face value, interior design seems pretty straightforward. Really, how tricky can it be to find a pretty sofa on Pinterest, google it and click order? Oh my friends, how much time do you have…

There are so many complex layers to a discerning and unique design. Design that will last the test of time. Design that you won’t have to start over every ten years as the tastes shift. We hope to share just a glimpse into the world of design through our new blog 😉

Meet the blogging team... Hayley - The Huntress. To create a design that’s never been done requires a vast hunt into the world of textiles and furnishings. As much as we love our best friend’s drapery and pillow fabric, we are all about introducing new and unseen patterns. Hayley will take you on the hunt around the vast sea of furnishings, textiles, lighting, tile and design lines galore.

Lindsay - The Culturista. As much as we all revel that good interior design is timeless, there are most definitely current elements to every interior. A relevant designer must stay attuned to all things fashion, travel and the arts. Lindsay will share the goings on in the design world as they relate to interiors. 

Melissa - The Money (Wo)Man. Let’s be honest ….as much as we all love a phenomenal home, most of us have a budget - some bigger than others - but a budget nonetheless. The key to successful design is finding the appropriate mix of high and low. Melissa helps to make designs actually come to life by talking about the mix.

Kara - The Implementer. Back to that myth about finding something on Pinterest, googling it and clicking order…

Leaving last but hopefully not least, Sarah. The Guru. Someone has to tie it all together. A successful design is about all the collective items working in symphony. Mixing natural elements with modern textures. Cool and warm tones. Antique and modern. After sourcing hot, its the edit that ultimately lands the design. 
We can’t wait for you to follow along our weekly posts as we divulge the latest and greatest of the design world!

10 Milestone Moments over 10 Years by Sarah Vaile

#10: The Big Dogs


The fun thing is that when you start your business young enough, you really grow up your clients. In ten years, we have gone from one-bedroom apartments to starter homes to the big dogs. 

Dare it to say…I think we are on the verge of entering a new level of design. 

It is humbling how much you thought you knew until you realize that you have learned that much more…

From Kentucky fieldstone and chippendale railings to groin ceilings and rooms encased head to toe in millwork to fireplace code and exterior landscaping in Aspen, I am humbled almost daily by how much knowledge we continue to accrue in our field of work. 

I’d like to say we have mastered the art of building a beautiful home but let’s be honest…in ten years I’ll probably say “I can’t believe I thought I knew so much then.”  

Stay with us!!  



10 Milestone Moments over 10 Years by Sarah Vaile

#9: The Lake Forest Showhouse

April, 2015: Lake Forest, IL

We all have dreams. Ours has long been to be a part of the Lake Forest Showhouse. To us, it is the pinnacle of Chicago design - where the who’s who of Chicago designers get to showcase their work. 

I still remember exactly where I was sitting (at a nail salon in Richmond…don’t ask) when I received the invitation asking us to participate. Our naivety still makes me smile... I read the paperless post as a declaration that we were in. Little did I know at the time but it was actually just an invite to try out. Among hundreds of other designers. For 26 total rooms. 

Well thank the dear lord, we somehow miraculously secured a spot.

And then the challenge began. We had exactly 90 days to roll out a room, which anyone who has designed a home knows is not exactly the roomiest timeline. (Pun intended). We had a space to design, paint, wallpaper, carpet, electrify, furnish, accessorize…And we were responsible for supplying all pieces. Which anyone who has designed a home knows….can get expensive. Very quickly.

Which meant calls to our most loyal product suppliers with the aim of securing donated goods. And then there was the labor.

All while 25 other designers attempt to renovate their neighboring rooms ten feet from our team of laborers. It’s a bit of a madhouse for those few months.

We somehow managed to pull it together in time for the April kick off. Which especially felt like quite a feat with my first baby arriving two weeks before the showhouse opened.


We were now looking at seven thousand people passing through our space. And national shelter mags to photograph it.

It was most definitely a right of passage. We were now among the Chicago greats.

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10 Milestone Moments over 10 Years by Sarah Vaile

#8: Ones to Watch 

October, 2014: The Merchandise Mart, Chicago

We were busy. Very busy.

We cranked out projects, the team continued to grow. The business grew at such a pace over the years of 2011 to 2014 that we landed on the Inc 500 list for fastest growing private companies. That was a welcome surprise. 


Yet there is nothing like being recognized by your peers. 

Then one day, we got the call. The showrooms in the Merchandise Mart - from Holly Hunt to Schumacher to Lee Jofa to Baker - had voted us the Ones to Watch. The epicenter of interior design in the midwest had recognized us - out of thousands of designers who used the Mart - as a design firm going somewhere. That was a pinch me moment. 

When the ones who interface with you everyday think you're a star on the rise, it means something.