Remember back in the glory days of perms? A perm done right meant you were the coolest kid in the 6th grade. Done wrong and it was a pitiful sight that brought shame and tears. Gallery walls are pretty much exactly the same.
Oh gallery walls…all the cool kids have one.
They’re all over Pinterest, and HGTV, and your dream house.
But how in the world do you arrange and hang a hodge podge collection of art without putting 57 holes in your wall?
Today I’m answering that question and showing you how to hang a gallery wall with my painless-as-possible method. Art selection and arrangement is something that I’ve done for many of my clients because it can be such a frustrating task to figure out on your own.
It can feel like putting together a puzzle while on sedatives.
After lots of mistakes (and tears and gnashing of teeth), I’ve learned a thing or two. I don’t know why I waited this long to share them. It’s time I dished all my tips, friends.
MY MINI GALLERY WALL
I moved some furniture in my living room recently and decided a little gallery wall would be a fun way to shake things up in our formal living room. I actually had a couple pieces of old art reframed and did three DIY art projects to fill in. (More on those in another post!)
Before we get any further along, I have to show you guys something that I hope makes you more confident to pick up that hammer and nails. (I know it can feel like such a commitment.)
This is the wall in my living room.
It has 27 holes in it. That is not an exaggeration; it’s an exact count.
Guess what? My wall is still standing. My home has not been condemned. This is proof that having holes in your walls is not the end of the world. Sure I could have puttied them, but that would require sanding and painting. And I just really wanted to get my art on the wall.
I am an impatient decorator when it comes to art.
So many of my sweet client are scared-literally terrified-to hang art. I found out that for many it’s because they don’t want to get the placement wrong and have holes in their walls. You guys, your wall can stand a couple extra holes. You are probably much more patient than me and would end up filling the erroneous ones anyway. (And even if you didn’t, oh well. Live a little.)
Ok, now that we hashed that out…moving on.
HOW TO HANG A GALLERY WALL
1. Start with the right supplies.
Scissors, painter’s tape, a pencil, a tape measure, and paper is all you need. I use cheap craft paper that costs about $3 a roll.
You can even use wrapping paper in a pinch.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve got some hideous leftover wrapping that you bought on Christmas Eve last year because you ran out of the cute stuff and made a frantic run to Walgreen’s to buy whatever was left. Yeah, use that stuff.
2. Use the “L” to help you plan the layout.
This is something I started doing a couple years ago. Knowing how much room on the wall you have to fill ensures that the proportions are right as you plan the layout. I see a lot of tutorials for gallery walls, but no one ever talk about this. In my books, it’s a must. Here’s how it works…
A. Measure the area on the wall that you want to fill.
B. On the floor, recreate those dimensions with one side of “L” representing the width and the other side the height.
C. Play with art within this confine on the floor, so that you know exactly how much room you have on the wall.
3. Arrange, and rearrange, and rearrange again.
This is where the puzzle aspect of gallery walls come into play…You really have to just use trial and error and get your hands on the art before you see it coming into shape. (Unless you use a template and have exactly the kind of art it calls for.)
Honestly, I had three other pieces that I had also planned to go on this gallery wall. But after using the “L”, I realized it would be really cramped.
For my set up, I knew I didn’t want to take up as much width as the sofa. I wanted to things to feel collected but still on the minimal side. (A decor oxymoron, I know.) Even though I could have filled quite a bit more wall with other pieces, I opted to keep it more simple.
My Tips for Finding a Good Arrangement:
A. Anchor the collection with larger pieces. Usually this means in the center. Sometimes having it favor one side can work too, but typically the center just works better in my experience.
B. Build in smaller pieces. Shoot for balance on either side instead of perfect symmetry.
C. Space pictures anywhere from 2.5-3.5 inches apart. (This doesn’t have to be exact.)
D. Think in pairs. For my gallery wall, I specifically chose two colorful pieces, two black and white abstract pieces, two canvases, two brown frames and two gold frames. You don’t have to go that far, but thinking in pairs makes things seem more cohesive instead of totally random.
E. Don’t rush it. Play with the set up over a day or two. Walk away if you need to. (I needed to several times.) If you get stuck, pull in another frame or two just to get an idea if more components are needed to fill the space. You can always find art to fill later if needed. Better to get the composition right and add in something later than hang an arrangement that needed more “girth” to it.
F. Take pictures. Grab your phone and take pictures of your options. Sounds trivial, but it can help you decide on a “winner”, and it’s handy when you are placing the paper templates on the wall later.
4. Trace your artwork on the craft paper.
I like shortcuts. (Remember my patience thing?) Lay the pieces back to back and trace, so you have to cut less. Tiny tip, but it helps shave some time off.
5. Label the paper templates.
This may sounds silly, but if you have several pieces similar in size, things can get mixed up. It helps.
*The fact that my backside is on full display in this pic is mortifying, but I decided to leave it in to show you my “tape bracelet trick”… Anything for learning, friends.
6. Tape up the paper templates.
This step is where you focus on 1. Right placement on the wall and 2. Spacing in between pictures. Grab a tape measure for this step, and also refer back to your phone pics if needed.
7. Measure the hanging distance.
Start at the hanging device (wire, holes, or bracket) and measure to the top of the frame.
8. Mark your nail spot.
Measure the distance on the template and mark where the nail should go. Be sure to center it on the template as well.
9. Hang art and secure.
I used nails and then secured a couple wobbly frames with Command velcro strips.
I’m too nervous to use these as the primary hanging method. I’m sure they work just fine, but something in me just feels better knowing a nail has the brunt of the weight. In my opinion, the velcro strips are best to keep pictures from hanging crooked every time a door slams.
BONUS POINTS: Use a level to make sure each frame is on the up and up.
MORE ART HELP COMING SOON
This month I’m going to be focusing on all things art in my posts and Decor Chats to my email friends.
In the next couple weeks, I’m going to delve deeper into finding the right pieces and frames to mix together for your next gallery wall. Then I’ll share some of my favorite DIY art ideas that even a kindergartener could do, including three ideas from this collection.
IT FEELS GOOD TO HANG ART
Even though it’s on the petite side, this little gallery wall was just want the space needed. I was able to use a vintage find that I love (that little blue floral number) as well as a piece Stu and I picked in Quebec on our last trip before becoming a family of three. It was done by a local artist of a specific spot in the city where we spent a day. Every time I see it, I’m reminded of such a special time in our lives when we were expecting a baby.
Art only for aesthetic purposes can feel hollow in a home…always start with something meaningful and layer in the rest.
SHOW ME YOUR ART
So I’m curious how many of you have a gallery wall in your home..Or have you been thinking about one? (Maybe even saving art up for one you have schemed in your mind?)
Do you have a gallery wall or even one piece of art that you just love?
Hit me up on Instagram with the hashtag #decorfixart and I’ll check it out:)
*Photo of me taken by Meg White.
*”Be True” print by Lindsay Letters.
*All other art is vintage or my own work. (DIY post coming soon!)
Carol @ CAD INTERIORS says
Great tips, especially the “bracelet” tip! 🙂 Never thought of that! Love how you showed the “L” too. So true about people’s hesitance to hang stuff freely on walls for fear of the dreaded holes. I’ve been recommending picture ledges on some e-designs because the “collected” gallery wall is so overwhelming to many. Now I will point them here for tips! In my own home, I’m much less methodical…it goes more like me eyeball-ing while the hubby asks “here?”, “here?”,..ha!
Thanks, Carol!! I felt the bracelet tip was worth the cost of bearing my behind. Thanks so much for sending people my way! (That is one of the reasons I finally wrote this post after trying to helps so many coaching clients through the process that I use with local clients. Oh and there’s still a lot of eyeballing things in my house at times too.) I’ll have a follow up post on curating pieces next week!
Emily Reynolds says
Great post! I love your tips and helpful pictures. I have definitely attempted a wall like this a couple of times only to abort the mission and be left with lots of holes because it didn’t really look good lol. I am looking forward to your upcoming posts about choosing art that works well together!
Thanks, Emily!! It’s funny because art is my thing, but I can’t choose accessories to save my life (which is probably second nature to you.)
Emily Reynolds says
Ha, I guess we each have our thing 🙂 Happy to have come across your blog and I look forward to reading more!
Brian Oliver says
Great tips, this is one of the more thorough wall gallery how-to posts I’ve seen!
You’re so right when you say people are terrified to hang art. That’s why we’ve built an app to help you layout your wall gallery, and show you exactly where to put the nail!
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With Walleries you can accurately hang a wall gallery without doing any math!
It’s pretty SWEET!
Find out more at WALLERIES.COM
Jennifer Smith says
This can be really difficult as you have to pick the right pictures and know how to arrange them. Thanks for the tips.
Thanks Jennifer! (Check back later this week for a follow up post with more tips;)