How we curate a gallery wall

Top: Zoe Karssen at Zalando (old). Jeans: Gap (old). Photographs: Eva K Salvi

The thing about gallery walls, for me, is that there doesn’t necessarily have to be any die hard ‘rules’. Yes, it’s a good idea to hang the pictures straight (although with period properties and wonky walls, this is often a difficult feat, too!) but apart from that, I’d say follow your own individual style.

You’ll probably read loads of sites that say ‘lay it out first’ and match the frames but I honestly think you kind of lose all sense of innate style when you plan too much. Some of the best houses I have been in have been overtaken with prints and art and ‘stuff’ on the walls and my favourites are always when it doesn’t feel ‘too’ organised.

Why have I written this post again?!

Well, mainly because I get asked a lot but also because I wanted to put a post out there that wasn’t so prescriptive, and to let people know it’s okay to ‘build as you go’, I don’t know many people who have twenty prints all loved and framed ready to go onto a wall in the exact sizes to fit the space.

Here a few tips that we like to take on board when planning walls filled with things we love:

It doesn’t all have to match, or be crazy expensive

I talk about this a bit more in depth in my Affordable Art post (you can read it here) but I don’t actually love it when a gallery wall is too matchy matchy. The concept of buying everything to go together, or by genre or period is quite alien to me. To make a house a home, I love mixing and layering prints – one might be a print I bought online, another painted by a friend or picked up in a secondhand store. Let the fact that you love it, or that it has a special meaning to you, be the thread holding it all together (metaphorically speaking, of course).

The same goes for frames, I try and pick frames to suit the prints, not to suit my gallery wall – some are gold, some are red, black, some have mounts. Some I like more than others, sure! But once it’s all put together it just kind of goes. I recommend Habitat for frames (I particularly like the oak ‘Trieste’) or Easyframe for online affordable made to measure versions and a great range of mounts.

It’s okay to ‘Build as you Go’

I don’t think any of the walls in our house were ‘created’ in a day, to be honest the wall in our living room came together by pure accident as we simply needed to hang some prints up when we moved in to stop them from taking up precious floor space. The ‘Harder They Come’ print in fact covers a hole in the wall when an intercom phone used to be! We chop and change pictures in there constantly too (generally with similar size images so the nails/holes aren’t shown).

Our hallway is still to be completed, we’ve hung all our favourite pictures from the house now and we have a space left at the end which allows us to think a bit more strategically about the space. We now purposefully look for images that might fill the space we have left – which I think is easier than trying to cram too many prints into a space all at once.

This print might be the final piece in the hallway, bought via Letz Copenhagen

Rope someone in to help

Don’t attempt this on your own, unless you’re really stubborn. To see how pictures look on your wall, it helps to have a helping hand to see if the picture looks right in the space, doesn’t reflect too much light, doesn’t look weird, isn’t wonky etc etc. I never tend to plan and we just pull out our favourite images and hold them up, step back occasionally, see if it needs a hint of another colour, or perhaps a different size print, then go back in.

I would also suggest not attempting to throw it together in an hour, you need time to separate yourself from it and putting a time restraint on it will just add to the pressure.

We use nails to hang prints, or sometimes screws with screw plugs for heavier frames (we have rather old, crumbling walls), and have heard that Command Strips are great for hanging pictures when you’re not allow to drill through any walls – just make sure you look into purchasing the right ones for the picture frame weight!

Size matters

And by this I mean that it doesn’t really. Anything goes, in fact I love little smaller framed pieces to break up the pace a bit – and don’t forget landscape pictures. In an Instagram heavy world our eyes are drawn to portrait (I don’t remember the last time I took a landscape photo!) but a great gallery wall thrives on different ratios and aspects.

Think about spacing

You don’t have to measure your spaces out but it’s good to be aware of dead space – I don’t like our walls to be ‘too’ symmetrical but I do like to think about colours together – I tend to space out the black frames as it can leave the wall feeling a bit heavy if they’re all in one area. I also bear this in mind when framing my prints, and if I’ve bought a few black frames recently I’ll try and think of an alternative – dark grey for instance can make a real difference to lifting the tones.

Try something different

I recently added a mirror to our living room wall, again mainly because there was a nail left over when I moved a print to the hallway but now I kind of love it. It doesn’t all have to be pictures you hang, I love what Jacqueline from Tiny & The House has done using box frames and a vase with dried flowers:

See the tour of Jacqueline’s home here

Here’s another idea, the image taken by Charlotte Jacklin using Vinyl Wall record shelves…and the beauty of this is that you can change them around whenever.

Follow Charlotte on Instagram here

The use of coloured mounts is really effective in Medina from Grillo Design’s home:

You can read the Grillo Designs home tour here

You don’t have to have a huge plain wall 

It can be a thin alcove, it can be a bright painted wall, it can have full-on wallpaper. Just because a lot of what you see is on a plain white wall (in my house) doesn’t mean this is the perfect canvas. I love prints on dark walls and in small spaces – especially in a tiny space like a downstairs cloakroom toilet. At the moment we are tackling the larger rooms in the house but I’ll be honest, it’s going to take us a long time to fill these high hall ceilings! Maybe come back to us in a few years and we might have an update…

I hope that hasn’t left you more clueless than when you started! I honestly believe there is no right or wrong when it comes to hanging artwork, I love clutter and filled walls but it’s not for everyone and the main thing to take away is that Art is supposed to be enjoyed, so don’t overthink it.

6 Comments

  1. Command hooks and strips are great although there’s a But. I had several pictures up that lasted months – maybe over a year and then one or two fell off the wall. One in the middle of the night which nearly gave me a heart attack. Perhaps renew them periodically.

  2. Literally just planning where to put the nails in the wall. I am definitely going to be building as I go, starting a picture as a time. My theory is if you love all the pictures or things they will all come together in the end

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!