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Goodbye, Gallery Wall—Here Are 5 Fresh Ideas for Hanging Art

These new approaches are oh-so refreshing.

February 25, 2020
Photo by One King's Lane

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There I was last fall, alone in our hallway, juggling a hammer, level, painter’s tape, and a ruler; all the tools needed to create a gallery wall. I wasn’t sure how many pieces would actually end up displayed, though. Why? Because getting each one to hang equidistant from the next in a perfect line (like all the displays I was seeing online) was tedious!

"When did displaying your art become so challenging?" I asked myself.

I guess it was when the internet decided there are only a few “right” ways to hang prints and paintings. You have the grided approach, where individual pieces are meticulously spaced out in order to create a larger square or rectangle. Then there’s the display where pieces of varying size magically fit together like a puzzle without any serious planning (What luck!), and the thematic wall, where we all tell each other, “Oh I just happened to have a bunch of pictures that matched and voila! Here they are. It was simple!”

The truth is that no matter the approach, these tried-and-true approaches take a lot of planning and time. So much so that for every pin and article dedicated to gallery walls there are an equal number of guides that aim to help you make things easier on yourself. It’s all just too much.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“But I think everything I've used to hang a picture makes it flat against the wall. How do I hang a picture on top of a picture to get that layered look without obvious nails or hooks?”
— Claudia T.

Well, it’s 2020, and I’m here to tell you that my household has officially thrown out the rulebook. This year, I’m taking our hallway display down and replacing it with one of the more laid-back (and way less time-consuming) approaches below. You should, too. Not only will you enjoy decorating a bit more (and get some time back), but any one of the styles below will instantly set your house apart from everyone else’s.

The Stair Step

One of the biggest challenges I’ve run into when creating gallery walls is finding pieces that fit nicely together. I don’t mean in terms of style or color but in regards to size. One piece being too small or too big can throw the entire proportions of the display off. With this style, all you have to do is hang your pieces in descending order by size, and you’re good to go.

Mind the Gap

One of the hardest parts about hanging artwork is making sure that the space between the frames is even. There are dozens of tricks that help make this simpler, like using painter’s tape to map out your design or placing a book between frames while hanging them to make sure your design is evenly spaced out. They all take so much time and energy, though. One alternative is to remove the gap between your art altogether. It will save you a lot of stress and instantly set your display apart from your friends’.

Frame Your Furniture

I’ve tried to center artwork on a wall before, and while it sounds super easy, I inevitably end up mis-measuring and needing to move the piece either to the left, right, up or down. Instead of spending your time being a perfectionist, why not use your works of art to frame your decor instead? This style sees artwork playing nice with accessories and furniture, filling in the gaps left by their outline. It’s super easy to do too. Simply stand back from your wall, look for any openings, and fill ‘em up.

Letting it Breathe

This style is great for staircases and large walls as it lets you fill a large space with fewer pieces. Don’t worry about keeping the pieces equal distances from one another or if they are too big or small. All you have to do is scatter them across it in an interesting way, and you’re set. This is a great alternative to the packed-to-the-gills gallery walls we’ve become accustomed to.

Take it to the Ledge

My house is (and will always be) a work in progress. I’m constantly swapping out accessories, moving furniture and switching out art. Because of this, I’ll soon be installing a picture ledge in my hallway like the one above. It’s a great option for those of us who want to change up the look of our spaces on the fly sans nails and hammers.

How do you like to hang your art? Tell us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Snow
  • Claudia T
    Claudia T
  • Garrett Fleming
    Garrett Fleming
Garrett Fleming

Written by: Garrett Fleming

Interiors Editor & Art Director


Snow March 4, 2020
You can relax Atari. Furniture and wall finish friendly Velcro dots (self-adhesive) are perfect inexpensive solutions for maintaining picture placement. (Soft fuzzy side on the wall) Especially helpful for those walls that pick up vibration from elevators, garage doors or even entry doors opening and closing.
Snow March 4, 2020
Honestly...I did type Arati
Claudia T. February 26, 2020
I love the look of the pictures wrapping around that corner. But I think everything I've used to hang a picture makes it flat against the wall. How do I hang a picture on top of a picture to get that layered look without obvious nails or hooks?
Garrett F. February 26, 2020
Hi Claudia,

I think Liz used longer nails to help it sit further from the wall and then the frames behind it fill the space so the nail doesn’t show?