Gallery walls are such a fun way to add some personality to our homes. But hanging them can be so daunting. I’ve hung what feels like a gazillion gallery walls and I’ve learned a few things – some the hard way. And even though it’s not the easiest or quickest home decor project, it really is something that anyone can do. You need a few tools, some pretty, meaningful art and photos – and a lot of patience.
We recently painted our walls Benjamin Moore London Fog. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know it’s my new favorite paint color. It’s such a nice, light neutral gray. It has a warm tint but not too much so it’s pretty versatile. It’s amazing what a little paint can do.
I wanted to hang a new gallery wall in our foyer but I was a little hesitant to put nail holes in our pristine walls. After a little procrastinating, I did it and I’m really happy with how it came out. There are two types of gallery walls, symmetrical and random. I prefer the random style, and I find these easier to hang. Getting things to line up perfectly symmetrical can be frustrating, but both styles can add such personality and beauty to your home. And they don’t have to be expensive.
I’ll try to sum up what I do when I hang a random or non-symmetrical gallery wall. I’m not always good about explaining why I do what I do. So here’s my two cents on what works for me:
1. First, I start by clearing a space directly below or close by the wall where the art will be hung. I lay out all the pieces on the floor and arrange them how I’d like them to look on the wall. This is not an exact science, but it’s a good way to see how the shapes and colors relate to each other.
This is where you move things around, change up frames and even add or replace pieces.
side note: I loved the matted photo of our puppy, but the cream color matte looked dingy next to all the bright white pieces. I attached a piece of patterned scrapbook paper onto the matte and it looked so much better. I kept the photo, added a little color, and I didn’t spend any money.
2. When you’re deciding what to include, items that are meaningful to you. Even things you have around your home already – children’s artwork, a beautiful postcard, a ticket stub, metal hooks, letters/numbers, chalkboards and of course, artwork and photos. Also when selecting items, think of similar elements they share – shapes, colors, subject matter – these are all things that can make your collection feel cohesive. Typographic art is a huge trend right now with quotes, signs, initials, and even song verses as art. This is a great way to add inexpensive, personal art to your gallery wall. You can make your own typography art on your computer – or by hand. Click here for my post on transferring type onto wood and click here for a DIY custom date art idea.
3. Start laying out your pieces. Pick your main focal piece – often your largest piece – and place it in the center. Since my gallery walls are not symmetrical, having the focal piece placed in the middle gives the collection some sense of order. Then start building off of that focal piece. Sometimes you might not have one large piece to put in the center. If that’s the case, look at what you want your focal piece to be (ie. family photo, wedding photo, initial, mirror) and place that piece in the middle, forcing it to be the focal piece. My focal piece is my hand painted song verse. Click here to see that DIY post. This is the largest piece but it also sort of sums up my wall.
4. Your gallery wall needs to have visual balance. This means that the visual weight of the artwork should be similar but it doesn’t have to be symmetrical. Visual weight is a measure of the amount of attention an element receives as you look at it. Three-dimensional objects are weighed physically. But two-dimensional objects, such as artwork, attract attention. The more an element attracts the eye, the greater its visual weight. Get it? So when hanging a gallery wall, consider how the visual weight is balanced. This isn’t an exact science. You can rely on good-ole instincts. Some things that can effect visual balance:
- Shape: If you have a circle piece on the right side of your wall, balance it with a circle or non-rectangular shaped piece on the other side. I added the eucalyptus wreath as another circular shape to balance the starburst mirror.
- Subject matter: I included a lot of typographic art on my wall. My personalized wood sign balances with the G on the other side. The odd shape of the metal number 5 balances with the starburst mirror and smaller G onto right.
- Colors and finishes: You can stick with all the same color or metal finishes for your frames or you can create a more dynamic, random collection. For a random look, spread out and balance your colors and finishes too. Too many black frames together would have been too visually heavy for my wall. And I kept the typography a dark gray to be a little less harsh than true black.
5. When you’re ready to hang your pieces, you’ll need the following tools: nails, hammer, tape measure, and a pencil. Start with the middle piece and work outwards. I like to finish hanging the pieces on one side and then got to the next. I keep my pieces within a few inches of each other so they relate better. I also like to hang some pieces so they’re centered with each other – but not ALL of them. For example, the two white frames are lined up exactly under the mirror and the puppy photo above it. But the GRECO sign and 2 photos next to it are not exactly even. I actually moved the GRECO sign because it looked too symmetrical when I had it lined up evenly. There’s no real rule to how things should line up. It’s all a matter of preference and space. It helps to have a helper with you so they can hold up each piece and confirm how it looks. Mark the center spot of each piece on the wall with a pencil, then measure how far down the hook is and mark that on the wall. I confirm my measurements again and then hammer the nail in.
side note: I’ve seen people cut out the shapes of their art onto paper and place these shapes on the wall as placeholders for the art. I tried this method and it was a little too time consuming for me. Plus it didn’t help me to see how colors and finishes related to each other.
6. I don’t think a gallery wall is complete unless you have to make at least one mistake, I mean change. The wall should work as a cohesive unit with all the pieces balancing and your eye moving around the wall easily. After I hung all my pieces – which looked great on the floor, I added the FAMILY watercolor artwork to the bottom right. It just needed a little something there to balance and this fit perfectly. I also changed out the thicker back frame on our small family photo. I went with a neutral matte and silver frame. This is a good example of changing up a visually heavy piece with a lighter one.
7. Once you are happy with all your wall, I recommend adding a small amount of Scotch Adhesive Putty to the back of all the pieces so that stay in place. This is the best invention ever. It doesn’t stain the walls, comes off easily and really holds artwork in place.
What do you think? Do you have any gallery walls in your home? I hope these tips are helpful. Keep them in mind but ultimately do what looks good to you. That’s what our homes should be about. Have a wonderful weekend!