I am doing a major renovation and addition project to my mid-century modern home so used this as an ideal opportunity to build a showcase for my collection of Apollo artifacts.
It was important to plan for where things would go from the start of the project more than two years ago. My wife and I set aside the original entrance hall as the gallery space and our architect, builder, and the various subcontractors all prepared from the start to build the gallery to my specifications.
I was fortunate to work with Bob Segal who helped with the design concepts and sourcing the materials.
We wanted there to be flow from other parts of the house to the gallery, so we hung my Alan Bean painting in the living room next to the stairs to the gallery and built a balcony that overlooks the gallery. Even though the gallery is a separate room, the Apollo theme is unified into the home but doesn't overwhelm it.
When we renovated the gallery area, we eliminated the windows and door to the outside so the gallery would be dark. The ceiling was set with strong beams to support the LM descent engine thrust chamber. There is electricity in all the right places so I could have the spotlights, artifact lighting, lighting in the cabinet, and sound effects with no wires visible.
Here are a few features of the gallery. Many were surprisingly cost effective:
- The lunar images are from Mike at Moonpans and are printed on vinyl.
- The flooring is a terrific color gray and is sold as garage flooring at Home Depot for $1.35 per square foot.
- The image wash lighting at the top and bottom of the lunar images, spotlights in the ceiling, cabinet lights, red engine light in the LM descent engine thrust chamber, backlight for the CM star chart panel (flown on Apollo 9) and lighting around the CM window (flown on AS 201) are all centrally controlled via an integrated Lutron system. With one button, I can change "scenes". All of the switches and transformers are hidden under the stairs.
- The wonderful rail system was sourced from Octanorm and the fittings for each artifact are custom built. This modular approach allows me to swap artifacts in and out of the gallery space or to remove and hide valuable artifacts - like the Apollo 12 flown rotational control handle - if I have a large party and don't want red wine to end up on it.
- We went with black paint on the ceiling, back wall, and back door (which leads to the library). The smoke alarm housing will be swapped for black in a few weeks.
- The cabinet system is from IKEA but is highly modified. It was purchased in the kitchen cabinet department and is two cabinets on top of one another with stainless steel drawer fronts added. We enclosed the stacked cabinets in MDF board painted black and also painted the wood around the glass doors in black. The lighting in these cabinets is terrific – IKEA sourced puck lights in the top to light the artifacts on the glass shelves and individual lights in each drawer to light up stuff in them when a drawer is opened. The entire cabinet system including lighting was under a thousand dollars.
- There is a black Sonos 1 speaker hidden in the back corner, which I control with my iPhone to play NASA audio. I can cue up, say, Houston to spacecraft audio of the Apollo 11 landing.
And of course, as souvenirs for my VIP gallery visitors, on the floor in the corner I have a bunch a bunch of copies of my book Marketing the Moon which I wrote with Rich Jurek and Apollo 17 Commander Gene Cernan (who did the foreword).
The biggest challenge I foresee is resisting the temptation to add too much stuff. The gallery works great because it's got breathing room. There are interesting things to look at but it is not overwhelming. Yes, I have many more artifacts I would love to bring out, but I need to keep reminding myself not to display them all at once.