Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Gallery Wall


Ok. I’m going to tell you a designer secret that could get me in a lot of trouble, but you can’t repeat it to anyone. Seriously. They’ll take away my card or something (note to self, get a card or something). You know those really awesomely curated informal gallery walls that you lust after in all the design magazines but think, ”I could never do that in my place?”…well, they aren’t that hard to doThe secret is not to stress about it too much. The best gallery walls have a relaxed vibe about them – like the designer or homeowner just decided to hang up any old thing they had lying about – and by coincidence it looks fabulous.

There are a few general rules of thumb to help you out a little though...

         Rule Numero Uno – Relax. Eyeball it. Loosely plan the arrangement however you want to (on paper or laying things out on the floor), but don’t obsess. It is permissible to have a ruler nearby, but it’s ok not to use it. I promise. Embrace any little imperfections with the actual placement, like slightly off spacing - it adds character (and saves you a few extra holes in the wall!).


     Try to vary the size, scale, and subject of the pieces you’re hanging. There are more formal gallery arrangements that use all the same size and color of frames, but we aren’t talking about those here.  This is more of a collage look. Don’t be afraid to mix photography, children’s art, vintage pieces, and paintings together. This gives the wall a feeling of personality – your personality specifically, which is really the goal here.

fearless - via

         Another trick that adds visual texture to a good gallery wall is to add in pieces that have dimension to them. Antlers, sculpture, lighting, shelves, whatever…mix it all in and stir well.

I added in a clock, antlers, and a wall sconce (and an AC vent!) into the gallery in my bedroom - via

         I prefer to use a variety of different styles and colors of frames and mats, but sometimes it’s ok to limit your palette a little.  If that's too much chaos for ya, try using different types of frames, but all in the same color.  Or the same frame in different colors. There's no wrong answer here. 
     The last point is just a personal preference – Photography should always be matted, but artwork can look great without a mat, it just depends on the media and subject matter.  Sometimes, you don’t even need a frame at all! 
     Emily Henderson has a great little video on her blog too that makes a few other good points about color, placement and using an anchor piece that's a little larger than the other pieces on the wall. She also makes a very good point that I hadn't really thought about - gallery walls look the best when they occupy an entire area/wall as opposed to just doing a central grouping with lots of empty real estate all around it...

love the way the black and white scheme runs from the floor to the pillow to the wall,
but there is still lots of color... via

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