How to Decorate a Wood Slat Wall (Reader Question)

Katie recently emailed me some photos of her new entryway and asked me for some advice. While she loves the view when you first enter the front door...
...she's struggling with the wood slat wall on the right, affectionately known by her family as "the slab." It's a huge (~10' long) wooden partition that divides the foyer from the living room.
Katie writes: Some people have suggested we rip it out to "open up" the space. But we really like it. Also, the space is open enough, with high ceilings and lots of space. We've also had some suggestions to paint it. But we really like the wood and don't want to alter it that way.
Katie plans on using this antique dresser (below) to eventually serve as her "landing pad" near the front door for keys, shoes, etc.

Here's a view of the back of the slab (looking from the living room into the foyer):
Okay, first of all, that entryway is HUGE! So grand! Which opens up so many possibilities but also challenges. While I could probably spend the rest of my life (quite happily, I might add) designing and redesigning this entire space, I'm going to stick with the slab.

Here are some similarly-slatted spaces:
This dark-stained one is kept completely bare (as in, no bench), and thin horizontal strips emphasize the entire space's contemporary lines.

This one uses lighter wood, with slightly wider spacing between the slats for an overall lighter feel.

 Katie, I feel like your space currently is pretty heavy on natural elements. It's beautiful - the stone floor, the wood ceiling, yes, even the wood slab. But I would love to see it brought to life with a little bit o' modern, color, pattern, shizam!
If it were me, I'd probably remove the entry "bench." It feels a little heavy in an already visually weighty space, and since you don't want it to potentially become a dumping ground (which, frankly, would probably happen in a busy family), then I'd get it out of there.

You asked me about my thought on hanging mirrors or a gallery wall on the slab (haha! lovely name, btw). I think if you go that route, you have to go with the purpose of making an obvious visual statement. For example, if you use mirrors, choose something unique about the mirrors - say, only hang ones that are rounded (circular, oval) or something. Or if you want to go with a gallery wall, maybe choose art with lots of white space or with content that reflects vertical lines to kind of play up the lines of the wood slats. Does that make sense? Basically, I'd keep things very very simple so that the wood slats become part of the overall wall vignette.
Honestly, though, if it were my space, my goal would be to have the slab serve as a kind of interesting backdrop to a small sitting area. Seating is not only welcoming in an entryway; it's also functional for doing stuff like putting on shoes or waiting for kids to grab coats before heading out. (I would love my entryway to be bigger than the 3 inches that it is, so I could fit some kind of seating in there. You're a lucky girl!)'s the problem. I dreamed up two scenarios, and I can't decide which I like better. Heh.
1: Mid-century Modern. Ish. The idea here is to go warm in color, but not boring. Everything is kept fairly neutral with the exception of one stand-out chair, like fire red or cobalt or something that you love that gels with the rest of your house.

1: Throw pillow for the vapor chair - Thomas Paul "botany" (less than $15/yd).

2: "Invisible" chair - To be honest, I have a major crush on the Louis vapor chair and have for some time now. Of course, the Phillipe Stark original is perfection, but at over $400 apiece, I confess I'm finding myself content with a knockoff, like this one for $150.

3: Small side table - tucked between the two chairs, this one is from etsy, vintage brass side table ($65). I happen to adore it. I'm sure you could find something similar; think round and small and metallic.
4: Rug - this recycled number is inexpensive ($45) but has a great neutral graphic print. I like how it somehow merges the feel of the wood slat wall and the stone floor.
5: Accent chair - this mango retro armless chair ($300) from Target is not a budget item, but it can serve as an example. Look for something chunky and modern. You can scour Craigslist or KSL or thrift stores to find something in a shape you love, then reupholster in a bold solid.
6: Sheepskin throw - you can't beat $10 for the Ikea Tjen, and I feel like it does break up the red on the chair a bit. In a good way. (Or go with the Rens or Flokati; I can't remember which one would be best as a throw...because I live a bajillion miles from Ikea and haven't made my annual trek there this year.)
7: Sunburst mirror - this Martha Stewart one from Home Depot for just $35 is a steal. I love the spindly, um, bursts? Rays? Whatever. I'd hang this one pretty low, maybe about 12"-18" above the back of the chair, a little off-center from everything (I'm envisioning something in the lower-left corner of the upper-right quadrant of the slab, not centered over the red chair).
 Okay, so that's one idea. Here's the second one, a little bit bolder, a little more dramatic. 
 2: Modern Eclectic. The idea here is to go so far away from the natural neutrality of your existing entry that the seating area looks perfectly at home. Which makes no sense...but it kind of does.

1: Large abstract art - I'd love to see something big and bold, unabashedly bright, hanging on the slab. A chunky gold frame would be even more awesome here (to help one adjust, visually, from the warm wooden slats to the bright artwork itself), but depending on the size of your artwork, that could be pricey.
2: Light side table - I love a mirrored console table ($440) here to reflect light and, frankly, just to sit there and be pretty. For a budget-friendly option, you could paint out a regular side table in Rustoleum's Aluminum oil-based paint (found pre-mixed at Home Depot). Though not reflective, it has a great metallic sheen to it.
3: Throw pillow - this tropical leaf fabric is a cheerful nod to nature and organic-icity (wow, try saying that ten times fast) (or even once).
4: Rug - this black and white chevron area rug (about $70) or a similar striped one is dynamic and vibrant and a classic foundation for the whole vignette.
5: Chair - check Craigslist or thrift stores for anything that blurs the line between traditional and contemporary. Like this beautiful antique (1880s!) carved armchair on your local Craigslist...
6: ...Reupholstered in something a little modern and unexpected, like this watercolor-print floral.
(I know, antiques purists everywhere hate me right now for suggesting a redo of a genuine antique. These are just examples, though...Katie doesn't have to find a genuine authentically antique piece. She can just find something with similar lines, if she wants. K. History is preserved.) For fun, I'd maybe paint out the wood an unexpected pale lemon yellow.
 7: Lamp - this crystal cubed one (on sale for $80) is cool, although now that I'm looking at it all together, I might go with something a little more simple, like a teardrop table lamp.

Katie, I can't tell you how fun this was for me, but even more than that, I hope these mood boards of mind springboard some ideas for you personally. Tweak them, make them your own, and enjoy the creative process of personalizing a new space. (And I'd love love love to see a few photos of your completed entry. Sincerely.)

Happy decorating!

Anyone else? Email me: brittneynsmart [at] yahoo [dot] com
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  1. Awesome!!!

    Als. I am so impressed you found pictures of slatted partitions. I (obviously haven't been able to find any. at all). Thank you for going into such detail, Now I've got to go mull this over. You've opened up so many possibilities!! thank you so much Brit. really.

    1. You're welcome...but I'm allsofasudden feeling shy, like you maybe had something tooooootally different in mind. Dah well. Another perspective is never a bad thing; sometimes just a picture can spark an idea, even if you end up in a completely different direction. Good luck, Katie. And, I'm serious, I really want to see how you awesome-ize your entry eventually. Fo' shiz.

  2. No, it was totally helpful.
    (Although it probably would've been more helpful for you to see it in real life - it's just hard to capture and describe a la internets.)
    But yes - I finally have a bit of a plan. I just really appreciate you taking the time to go all decor-analytical on the space. love it. When it's all done (in a million years), if you are still blogging here...I will send along "after" pictures. :)

    thanks again!!

  3. I love both of your suggestions. But I really wanted to comment on the generosity of spirit in not just giving some vague suggestions, but taking the time, effort, energy and most of all, your incredible talent to put all of this together. I'm fairly new to this entire blog thing and what I've come to love is the kindness I see. Yes, I love decorating, creating and repurposeing (my fav). So, of course I love the ideas and creativity. But, it is the kindness that brings me the warmest joy.

  4. Joann, sweetest comment ever. Seriously. Thank you! You have a wonderful perspective...I often forget about the "kindness" of blogging. It seems like there are so many other things to focus on. Thank you for bringing me back to the core of it all. :)


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