Gallery walls are all the rage right now. Actually, they’ve always been used in the decorating world but people are finally starting to see just how fantastic they can be. If you’ve wanted to know how to make the perfect gallery wall for your house, I have some excellent tips for you.
1. Make your gallery wall a reflection of you.
Whether it’s photographs or art prints or mixed media collages, make sure the items on your wall speak to you. Sure a bunch of black and white photos of Chinese temples look really striking but do you love Chinese temples? Or have any connection to them? A gallery wall is a statement and people will be drawn to it. They’ll spend time looking at it and getting to know you better by the things you hang up. Just because an item is really popular (I’m looking at you, gold arrows and feathers) doesn’t mean you have to like it too.
2. Amass your collection slowly.
This isn’t the kind of project where you run to Home Goods, throw a bunch of things in your cart and call it good. You’ll end up with a collection of items that are trendy and not much more. Which means you’ll be itching to replace your stuff quickly since you weren’t in love with it to start with. I realize this is a horrible suggestion. You want a gallery wall and you want it NOW! Slow your impatient self down and take your time. If you really have a bee in your bonnet, get on etsy and ebay and look for items there. You can do your entire wall with things you find online but it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. My gallery wall took about six months once I had a picture in my head of what I wanted.
3. Have a theme.
Not everything has to follow your theme but it’s nice to have some continuity. It can either be by subject matter or by the general feel of an item. I love birds and nests and beehives (no duh, right? That’s the name of this blog.) So most of the items fit into that category. Even the quilt square I bought (what? You thought I quilted that myself? Nope! I bought it on etsy.) is a pattern called “Flying Geese”. Obviously this won’t apply to all your items, nor should it. You don’t want to look like some crazed collector (“whoa, she’s reeeeealy into Americana”). It’s just nice to have several pieces tie the whole scene together. I’m loving this quilt-themed gallery wall by designer Camille Roskelly:
4. Shop your house.
Sometimes you can find the perfect things to hang on your wall that you already have. I change my mind about decorating regularly and have a stash of items that are still in good condition but they’re not quite working at present. Or maybe you have something on another wall in your house that would work perfectly in your gallery. Nearly all of the plates on my wall were in a box in my garage. They were originally meant for a mosaic project that I never quite got around to. Instead of keeping them for a project that might never happen, I used them on my gallery wall and couldn’t be happier! The nice thing about items you already have is that they’re free and you already know you like them. Double yay!
5. Mix up textures.
While a huge collection of framed prints or photographs can be stunning, I like to mix things up: textiles, prints, plates, you name it. I love the 3-D feel of objects as well as prints. Using different media makes things feel fresh and unique. My favorite piece is this bird artwork. It’s actually bits of fabric sewn on to watercolor paper.
6. Think outside the box.
Whether it’s plates or needlework or an old broom, there are so many things that can make a gallery wall fantastic and interesting. The key is to remember that a gallery wall isn’t seen as individual pieces, it’s about the wall as a whole. It’s about the feeling and energy that the wall invokes. While hanging a paper fan by itself on a wall might look a little odd, hanging one in an arrangement on a gallery wall looks cool and intriguing. Antique fairs and estate sales are fantastic places to find strange odds and ends. Don’t set out with the idea “I must find a framed item”; look at everything with the idea, “does this catch my eye? Is the shape interesting? Will it feel right with my other pieces?” You’ll be surprised what you can come up with.
7. Lay everything out before you hang it up.
This seems like a big pain and completely unnecessary but you have no idea how much work it is to arrange things into a pleasing placement. You might need to do some moving and fine tuning once you’ve hung everything up, but 90% of the design work will be done on the floor. Take a picture of it with your phone so you can remember how everything was arranged. You think you’ll remember but you won’t.
8. It’s all about spacing and balance.
Gallery walls are not like hanging pictures normally. More is more and everything needs to be hung closer together than you traditionally would. If you put all your items close together and things don’t look right, ask yourself if you have enough items for your wall. You may end up needed more stuff. Or you may end up with too much stuff. It’s important to remember that your items need to be balanced. If you have mostly dark pieces and you want to include a couple of bright things, spread them throughout the arrangement. If you’d like to add plates (always a great idea because they can be really cheap and they don’t need frames), put smaller groupings of them in different spots. The variation of items is what keeps the eye moving and interested.
9. Make tracings of the shapes of your artwork before you hang them up.
I know you’re rolling your eyes thinking this is overkill. Go buy a roll of plain brown shipping paper at the dollar store and trace the outline of objects onto it. Cut them out and place them under some heavy books overnight so they’ll lay flat. Then tape them up the next day in the spots you want them to be. You’ll really get a feel for how everything will work together. Stand back and analyze everything. There is nothing worse than hanging all your objects only to find the entire arrangement was a foot too low. Tracing and cutting everything takes maybe half an hour. It’s really, really worth it!
10. Don’t be afraid to change your mind.
You might love a picture, hang it up and just have something about it bother you once it’s on the wall. I found a piece of vintage needlework on ebay that I absolutely fell in love with. I framed it (framing a round piece of needlework is a pain, let me tell you). When I laid everything out on my floor I thought it looked great. But once I got it hung up it just didn’t work. I ended up putting it in my closet to await it’s purpose somewhere else (see #4). If you hang everything up and there’s a niggling feeling that something is just not working, try changing it. It’s only a few nail holes.
Gallery walls can be so much fun to create and to look at. I hope you’ve found some inspiration and know-how to create the perfect collection for your space.