How to Hang a Picture-Perfect Gallery Wall

Sure, everyone loves a great gallery wall.

But here’s where the trouble starts.

This is a great gallery wall:

Living Room by Rugo/ Raff Ltd. Architects

And here’s another one:

Living Room by Slater Interiors LLC

And a third, for comparison’s sake:

Bedroom by Incorporated

Did you spot the common characteristic?

Look again.

No?

That’s because there isn’t one.

(Sorry.)

There is no one defining element that makes a gallery wall well-executed. Some are symmetrical, with soldier-straight rows of identical frames holding similarly-themed images; others border on haphazard, with huge variations in frames, sizes, pictures or art, and layout; still others are an eclectic mix of both (but it works, somehow).

And they all work.

That’s what makes it so hard to pin down the best way to hang a gallery wall – because there is no best way!

But don’t worry – there are some one-size-fits-all tips to help you create the gallery wall that’s right for you and your home.

Here’s how:

If you prefer a grid, you’re in luck – all you need is a good measuring stick and a level. Keep the images fairly uniform for a cohesive, soothing effect – these framed pictures are from a calendar!

Living Room by OLSON LEWIS + Architects

Willing to mix it up – just a tiny bit? This is a good way to liven your wall without giving you the urge to straighten it:

Living Room by PLACE architect ltd.

It’s the less uniform arrangements that are the hardest to pull together.

  • Determine your goal and your personal style. The gallery wall is the perfect place to make a statement about yourself, your passions, your personality. This may include family photos, personal artwork, meaningful word art, or sentimental pieces. What do you want this wall to say about you?
  • Find the best place to display your gallery. Living room is the obvious choice, but you can put one anywhere that needs spicing up: the entry, stairs, hall, bedroom, kitchen, or even bathroom.
  • Call attention to your collection by hanging it on a dark, contrasting, or otherwise noticeable wall or section of the wall.
  • Think outside the frame – sculptures, knickknacks, and memorabilia can have a place on your gallery wall, too! Put up a shelf or a picture rail to add another dimension to your wall (bonus: you can overlap frames on a shelf for a more casual vibe).
  • Choose a theme to control the scope of the wall. You don’t want it to be all over the place. Pick at least one element to theme – images, color palette, frame material, shape – for a cohesive effect.
  • Rein it in. Limit your frame choices to 2-3 colors; too many colors will overwhelm the viewer.
  • But let loose! (Not too much, of course.) It’s okay if your art doesn’t fit neatly into a three-color palette. As long as the overall effect is not jarring, it will work! Diversify the colors, frames, subjects, and orientation for visual interest.
  • Anchor the wall with one large piece. That will automatically be the focal point; arrange the rest of the wall around it.
  • Work from the center (of the arrangement, not the wall) out and consider other elements of the room when working on symmetry and balance.
  • Balance is important; symmetry is not the be-all-end-all, but balance is crucial to avoid a lopsided, unfinished effect. For every large/heavy/colorful piece hung on one side of the center, hang another of similar heft (visual or physical) on the other side; same goes for smaller pieces.
  • Test it out before you hang, and play with other layouts (snap a picture of each so that you can compare properly). Lay out the arrangement on the floor; when you get it right (or almost right), mock it up on the wall with cardboard, paper, or painter’s-tape outlines.

Check these out for inspiration and to help you learn what you like:

Staircase by Folding Chair Design
Living Room by Dawna Jones Design
Bathroom by Kati Curtis Design

(Okay, so the eyes over the toilet are a little creepy, but diff’rent strokes…)

Living Room by Turner Pocock
Home Office by SFGIRLBYBAY
Living Room by Domus Nova
Bedroom by L. Weatherbee Design Studio
Photo credit: Cynthia Lynn Photography

Some general rules for hanging:

  • Allow at least 2-3 inches of space between frames to avoid a cluttered look
  • Leave at least 8 inches of space between the bottom of the lowest frame and the top of any furniture against the wall
  • Hang the focal piece(s) at eye level; most galleries hang with the center of the work at 59″ from the floor.
  • Don’t hang too high or too low; sure, it looks artsy in the magazines, but nobody ever looks at the frames that they have to strain to see.

And the most important rule of all: have fun and let your personality shine!

(And, of course, send us pictures when it’s done!)

 

 

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