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How to Create a Gallery Wall Like You Know What You’re Doing

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My wall is all about the good vibes (and lots of pink)!
My wall is all about the good vibes (and lots of pink)!

Building a gallery wall is an excellent home design project. Achievable for anyone—regardless of design acumen or handiness (I am a good example!)—a gallery wall turns art into art. You can take art and photos that you love on their own, and transform them into something that stands out as a collection.

There’s really no wrong way to build a gallery wall. Tailor it to your own taste and to the vibe of your particular space. You can make yours sleek and minimal by using all of the same frames and spacing them evenly. On the opposite end of spectrum, you can mix and match frames (colors and materials), and space them in an intentionally haphazard way for a funkier look. Then there’s an entire range in the middle: Choose all white and black frames, maybe, or choose all gold frames in a variety of sizes.

My blank canvas of wall looking as intimidating as possible.
My blank canvas of wall looking as intimidating as possible.

There are a few useful tips I’ve gleaned through trial and error to help you succeed at building a gallery wall of your own. The most important bit of advice is to have a vision before you begin. It’s best to have a firm plan to lay out before starting.

Pick a Style

First, decide on your style. My style for this gallery wall was eclectic and colorful. We have a very minimal, white, uncluttered house—small and right on the water in a sleepy little beach town—so I wanted a pop of interest and color to brighten up our bedroom. Consider your own space and what would work best.

My first apartment (with my sister) was a sprawling pre-war space with old, polished floorboards and lots of character. We decided to install a huge gallery wall of family photos, but we went with all white wooden frames of different sizes—this helped to create a simple look that balanced out the busyness of the rest of the space. To help you think through your style, break it down into two components:

1. Color: Do you want your frames to all match? Consider the colors of your art and photography. Choose complementary hues and tones. If you have a lot of color in your art, it’s nice to go with less mixing of frame color and material.

2. Scale: You can mix and match the sizes of frames, which creates a nice look to the wall and helps to fill the space. I like this method when you have a variety of art and photography. If you’re hanging all similar items (20 black-and-white photos, for example), consider using all uniformly-sized frames and spacing them evenly.

Geometric Wood Frames

Geometric Wood Frames

From $30
Self-Adhesive Wallpaper, Hojas Cubanas

Self-Adhesive Wallpaper, Hojas Cubanas

$125

Planning

Once you have decided on a style and framed all of your pieces, you’re ready to begin. If you’re planning on evenly spacing all of your art, you simply need to measure out where to hang, and go at it. If you want the look of uneven spacing like my gallery wall, you have two options for laying out the wall. One is for very organized, methodical people and the other is for…people who are less so!

1. Plan Ahead: If you want to be extra cautious about how the art will look, you can cut out pieces of paper and tape them up to figure out the layout you like. I like to use brown construction paper for this. Cut out pieces that correspond with the size of each of your frames, then tape them to your wall. You can move them around until you like the spacing between each. This is a useful method as you can simply nail through the paper and pull it off after, which allows for more precision in hanging.

2. Freestyle: I’ve done the more methodical approach before, but this time I decided to live on the edge and freestyle my gallery wall. To do this, I placed all of my frames on the floor and arranged them in roughly the layout I wanted. Then I started hanging the first frame, and spaced each subsequent frame in relation to the ones next to it. This is slightly riskier, but the silver lining is you get a more organic arrangement of frames, which I like the look of.

Installation Tips

Start at one corner and take the plunge to build "at random."
Start at one corner and take the plunge to build "at random."

Make sure you test out your wall before starting to build. Check that it’s strong enough to hold heavier art, if you have heavy pieces. To do this, use a stud finder to check where the studs are in your wall: That’s where you want to nail or otherwise affix your frames.

Try and choose frames that are similar in thickness, so that none stick out from the side view.

If your wall or surface has some unusual features, like moldings or paneling (as mine does), that's okay! Just decide whether you want to use those features as borders, or whether you want to just ignore them and treat the wall as one big blank canvas. I decided to just frame over the paneling, rather than using it to break up the wall visually into sections.

Mixing colors and shapes to create the final effect!
Mixing colors and shapes to create the final effect!

Art Tips

Wondering where to get art for your gallery wall? There are so many wonderful options online for affordable art. Personally, I love using a mix of sentimental and non-sentimental art. In my staircase, I have a gallery wall of all family photos. In this gallery wall in my bedroom, I chose all pieces of art that I found online or in shops that caught my eye or otherwise gave me good feelings. My favorite places to source art online is 20x200, Etsy, and Society6.

Another great tip (thanks to Joanna Goddard for showing me the light!) is to find really beautiful wallpaper or wrapping paper and frame squares of it. This is such a clever and affordable way to create a big, colorful statement within a frame.

Whatever you go with, remember a gallery wall can be a living installation. Change it over time! Swap out pieces and photos with the seasons! With so many elements, it’s easy to refresh it bit by bit to reflect your current taste.

Where to Buy Gallery-Level Art (Without Going Broke)
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Where to Buy Gallery-Level Art (Without Going Broke)

Have you ever done a gallery wall before? Let us know about your own experiences below.

Tags: Interior Design, Tips & Techniques