Living Room Progress: Gallery Wall & New Side Tables

I’ve been making progress in baby steps since I initially posted my mood board and plans for our new apartment over Christmas. Nothing will motivate you more to speed up the design process like spending the holidays in a half-empty apartment! But even the few small changes have made it feel less like an empty rental, and more like a home that reflects us.

Over the holidays, I jumped the gun on this neon sign of a nude bust that I’ve had my eye on for about a year. Our Christmas decor disguised the emptiness for a few weeks, but after we took everything down in the new year, our bare walls just looked sad. There’s a before photo below to show you what I mean. Luckily the neon sign was quick to ship, and on the last day of 2018 (literally), we framed and hung it along with the other pieces I’ve been collecting over the years.

AOOS Neon Nude Bust Neon Sign
living room before photo
my living room gallery wall layout

All of the frames are IKEA Ribba and IKEA in various sizes and colors, some with and without the matting. I’ve very much enjoyed taking my time to collect art that really resonates with me rather than settling on something I “kinda liked” for the sake of filling the space. One of the artists I’m utterly obsessed with Kelly Maker, a badass digital artist and photographer from Australia. I discovered her work a few years ago and have since followed her rise to IG fame (and thousands of imitators). Honestly, my favorite part of my morning is walking into our living room, turning on the neon light in the dark, and seeing it illuminate the artwork.

my living room gallery wall progress

For a month after the gallery wall was up, I was stuck in complete design paralysis over our sofa & coffee table combination. Saving those details for another post, I was stuck between endless options: Do we want leather over fabric? Do we want to save and invest in a sectional? Why would I invest in something I don’t know will fit into our next apartment? How long will we live here?

While I love a good debate about design (ask anyone around me for more than 5 minutes), the decisions are daunting. I logically wanted to decide on our biggest purchase—the sofa—first, to anchor the space, but anything that inspired me was too expensive, too high maintenance or the wrong size.


The sold-out side table I’ve been eyeing for MONTHS came back in stock. After missing out the first time (I even mourned it in this post and considered ordering the grey ones then painting black) I didn’t even think; I added two to my Target shopping cart and did not look back.

target project 62 elgin accent side table in black

And they’re fucking fantastic.

But really.

I love them. I love them so much. They make my heart so full.

And from there, the ball kept rolling. I ordered two coffee table books to neatly stack on my precious tables, moved the Hans Wagner chair over, and WHAT. A. DIFFERENCE. it made to this corner. Art, books, and sentimental items really are the heart and soul of a home.

(And yes, I consider the flag halyard chair sentimental – an important piece of design history that sparked my obsession with all design history)!!

Here’s what that sad little corner now looks like…

gallery wall with neon sign
my gallery wall with neon sign

So, this is where our apartment is now.

I’m glad I waited until something really spoke to me before buying, instead of forcing a linear, step-by-step process. I really do believe in curating items you really love and allowing them to inspire the rest of the room from there. As I said in my apartment mood board post: plan ahead, and buy slow. I’m in no rush to “complete” our home. One, for budget reasons, and two, I know my home will always be evolving and changing. As long as the item I fall in love with fits into the initial mood board and meets the functional needs (proper scale and size) I know it will “match” with any larger future purchases!

You can find more of inspiration for our new apartment on my New Place Pinterest board here, or see my entire vision in my last post. Plus, follow along on Instagram stories for day to day progress!

And, I’m curious to know—do you have a favorite item in your home? Or do you wait until an “aha!” moment or buy everything in one day?


This is not a sponsored post. All products were purchased with my own money. Some of the products showcased use affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase (literally enough to buy a coffee)! This does not sway my opinions, and I only post about things I truly love and believe in!

My Home

March 5, 2019

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© 2023 carmen javier co. | photography by lauren miller, sammie chan, and ciara rose