Are you looking to make a gallery wall in your home? First off, welcome to 2016.
No, just kidding, gallery walls never go out of style. The whole idea of gallery walls has been around forever, they just apparently became something trendy recently? I’m not sure why gallery walls as a concept became a ‘thing’; we artists have always thought in terms of gallery walls. AM I RIGHT, creative folk?
Enough snobbery; here is ….
Exactly How to Set up an Eye-Popping Gallery Wall in Your Home
Okay, so you are going to want a set of art and objects that you actually want to look at every day, many times. This goes without saying, but it also means you don’t want to just run out and buy a bunch of random art and throw it up on your walls and call it a day.
The very best gallery walls include a mix of carefully curated pieces that come together to create a cohesive whole. It’s almost like you’ve created a big old piece of art out of smaller pieces. An art mosaic, if you will!
Don’t let this stress you out; I’m not saying you have to spend a year choosing the very best art. I’m just imploring you not to run to Target and grab 6 framed prints to fill your dining room wall.
What should be included in a gallery wall?
This is where it gets fun! Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun. Your gallery wall can be made up of anything you like. My in-laws had an entire basement wall filled with objects from their travels. It made for some fun conversations!
The sky is the limit when planning your gallery wall, and here are just a few ideas to get you thinking:
Ideas For Gallery Walls
- Objects form your travels
- Objects from travels mixed with framed photos of travels
- A small grouping of black and white framed photos
- Framed kid art mixed in with framed prints
- A mixture of colorful paintings with more subdued, monochromatic pieces
- A collection of printed and framed patterns you love
- A small collection of art by one artist
If you want to go basic, a collection of 5-7 framed pieces is an easy way to get started, and shouldn’t be too overwhelming.
Where should I hang my gallery wall?
Common areas for gallery walls are above your sofa, dining table, or a hall table, one big blank bedroom wall, or a stairway. Really any place you want to can work. I’ve seen gallery walls in bathrooms, but just be sure to not overwhelm a small bathroom. Be aware of how much humidity is going on in there before you subject any precious pieces to that.
I love gallery walls above a large, rectangular piece like a sofa or credenza to balance it all out.
How do I organize my gallery wall?
Maybe you already intuited this, but a great place to plan out your gallery wall is all over the floor. If you’re like me, you’ll leave your art on the floor for 3 days, forcing people to land-mine-step around them. It’s fun!
First decide if you want your gallery wall to be contained within an even border, or let it be free-flowing and irregular. Even if the outside of it is contained within a rectangle shape, the art pieces inside don’t need to line up like a grid; you can arrange them in any way you like.
Starting off with an irregular smattering of art will allow you to add to it over time – it ends up being a living art wall, as you swap in and out different pieces of art!
Of course, arranging your pieces will be somewhat intuitive. Look at them as you play around and take this into consideration:
Do the pieces seem balanced by size?
Meaning, don’t cluster up a whole bunch of small pieces together. Make sure the pieces are spread out throughout your gallery by size so the whole thing looks balanced.
Spread out the frame colors
Just like with size, you want to make sure the colors of frames are not all clumped together. If you are using different colors of frames, you don’t want all the white frames on one side, and darker frames on the other. (Ooh! Unless you are going for a frame-ombre-effect, which might look cool.)
Add in Extras Carefully
If you include objects or unframed pieces in your gallery wall, make sure they are incorporated evenly throughout the wall. You might be adding these in last, but you don’t want them to look like they were an afterthought.
Essentially, the easiest way to start planning your gallery wall is to gather your pieces, and place the largest pieces down first. As you are doing this, leave chunks of space to fill in with the smaller pieces.
Next, add in the smaller pieces, saving any tiny objects or artworks for last. Think of this process as a puzzle, and it will be much more fun – just slide pieces around until you have a good fit.
If you get stuck…
If you get frustrated and feel like stomping all of your art to dust, walk away for an hour (or the rest of the day). Revisit it when your brain isn’t weary. Also consider removing something if you are having trouble fitting in that particular piece.
Stephen King’s most famous piece of writing advice is to “kill your darlings”. This means sometimes you need to just axe something you are holding onto a little too tightly, and put it somewhere else instead of forcing it. Listen to your gut.
Good Idea: If you’d like, shoot me a photo of your gallery wall setup. I will post it on my Instagram feed to crowdsource a solution for you! This will be fun. Here is my email, or just tag me on Instagram at @artmakespeople
Spacing Your Art
2–4 inches between each piece of art is usually perfect for spacing. If are arranging GIANT art pieces, you will want to give the pieces more space accordingly.
You may be tempted to not take your art out too far, but floor-to-ceiling gallery walls can look really cool.
Example: This inspired stairway, which is big and open enough, and balanced by the wall in front of it, to handle floor to ceiling art all crammed together. I think the fact that it is hung with a tidy border helps.
How many frames should a gallery wall have?
If this is your first attempt at a gallery wall, do yourself a favor and cap it at 6 or 7 pieces.
Do more if you are dead set on making a bigger gallery wall; I don’t want to be the one to dash your dreams of gallery wall greatness.
However! Starting small will give you time to live with the art you’ve hung and move stuff around if you want. This is a great time to invest in many of those 3M removable art-hanging things.
Here’s an example of how even just 3 great pieces can make a gorgeous gallery wall:
Do gallery wall frames have to match?
LOL, no. Silly puddinhead. They can if you want a streamlined look, but I love how a bunch of different frames look together. This matched gallery wall looks great! And so does this mismatched gallery!
How do I actually hang my artwork?
I like to start with the piece that is the most in the center, and work out from there. You can also work up from the bottom if you are hanging your art above a sofa or other furniture.
Definitely use your level as you go. When it comes to actually hanging the pieces, I just would not use nails or screws. There is little in this world as annoying as crooked artwork, and you can be sure to lose your damn mind if you are straightening 20 pieces of artwork every day.
The easiest way to keep the pieces straight is to, again, use the sticky 3M Command strips. I’ve also used white sticky tack at the bottom of artwork to keep it straight. But this pushes the bottom of the art out from the wall. Make sure you compensate for this at the top by adding a bit of the sticky tack up there.
You can also hang a piece with 2 nails holding each piece. This can be super tricky to hang them at the same height!
A big bonus of using floor to ceiling shelves as your gallery wall – besides the fact that it looks awesome – is that you don’t have to worry about leveling all the pieces!
Are gallery walls out of style as of 2021?
No, just don’t overdo it. Unless you live in an actual gallery, I would suggest limiting the number of gallery walls you have. You don’t want to break out in panic attacks due to visual clutter.
Gallery walls have always been a ‘thing’, and they always will be, as long as people continue to decorate their homes. Don’t feel self-conscious about continuing to show people glimpses of your gallery walls on Insta in 2021. They won’t laugh at you (much).
Want a free visual guide for gallery wall ideas? Good, because I have created one for you. Sign up below for my super-inspiring email list and you will get a link to download your guide as soon as you confirm your email!