I’ve been a long time lover of the gallery wall. It suits my more-is-more approach to decorating. This style of throwing up as many pictures and paintings to make a real feature in a room works for me on so many levels. Art has always held a special place in my home, and in the interiors that I design. The colour palettes, shapes, scenes and stories that they tell add richness and make a space feel unique. A gallery wall is an opportunity to tell your own story, whether it’s a collection of paintings, sketches, family photos or a jumble of all the above. But I’m all too aware that some people get totally wound up around how to hang one single picture, so how on earth do you start with a collection of pictures!
Gallery walls are tricky because there’s no real “right” answer! I can help you with some guidelines but it’s a very heartfelt process, beginning with slowly collecting pieces that you love, that resonate with you, from the framed photo of your wedding through to the piece you picked up at the car boot sale. It may seem like a minefield but all of those pieces have something valuable to teach us about our homes or lives; they’ll just need some careful planning before installation so that everything works well together while also making sure each individual item has its moment on display.
The colourful home of Amara @thepajaamahub
The focal point in the room
It’s important to not only consider how you’ll hang the pieces but also what area in your home will host them as well! Above a sofa is perfect for displaying a collection of small framed prints or photos because their height won’t obstruct any seating arrangements underneath, like this fabulous gallery wall pictured above in the home of Instagrammer @thepajaamahub. Here, a collection of prints, sketches, graphic typography and portraits all jostle together delightfully. It helps that all the frames are predominately black. Matching your frame colour is a great way to bring coherence to a very disparate collection. I don’t know what Amara’s plans are for her feature wall, but I love how she has created an asymmetrical triangular shape with this collection, but she could also keep going and ultimately fill the whole wall! One of the benefits of gallery walls is that they can grow with you.
The home of Sophie Robinson photographed by Alun Callender
Take it to the floor
Larger scale paintings are harder to arrange in the average-sized home but can work if you take an entire wall, hanging art from floor to ceiling. I think it can look cool to have some other items, like lamps or side tables breaking in front of the display. In my living room, I don’t have any sofas pushed up against the wall which has allowed me to take the largest wall and fill it with artwork. I prefer to start in the middle of the hanging area, and hang either the largest piece or my favourite piece in the centre, or just off centre, first. This becomes the focal point for the gallery wall, and then you can add pieces around. When hanging art pieces that are different sizes you don’t have to be beholden to everything being equally spaced or symmetrical- in fact, it is impossible, so embrace the organic shapes you can create. As a rule, keep frames closer together rather than further apart- with gaps around 5-10cm apart.
You can also create gallery walls in some unexpected places! I just love how designer @mph_art_interiors has created a gallery wall in the corner of her living room. And the other thing to take note of here is the background colour. Gallery walls LOVE dark painted walls. Here, the gold frames really pop against the dark navy as do the rich deep orange tones of some of the paintings. So yes, by all means, hang art that makes your heart sing, but don’t overlook how good it will look set against your room scheme as a whole. When mixing lots of different types of artwork, I do try and look for a thread- be it matching frames, a similar colour palette throughout or a similar style of art- can all help make the collection more pleasing when they sit next to one another.
You can arrange your artwork to accommodate a favourite piece of furniture. Image by Desenio
While embracing the asymmetrical nature of a gallery wall, it looks super cool to arrange it around pieces of furniture or architecture. I’ve seen gallery walls arranged around doorways, over the headboard, flowing around the corner, or framing a piece of furniture, like this image above. Creating this organic sense of flow is why gallery walls look splendid in hallways and landings, and the collections flows up the stairs and wraps around the first floor. These are the easiest gallery walls to hang in my view as you rarely stand back and scrutinise them. landings and stairwells are the best places to put all the sentimental pictures that perhaps don’t ‘work’ in other more curated spaces.
At home with Pearl Lowe in her fabulous deVol kitchen and the perfectly placed gallery wall.
How to hang it
Once you have collected the pieces that are going to make up your gallery wall, and chosen the wall to hang them on, then the question is, where do you put the first nail! My approach is to arrange the pictures on the floor first, take a snap of it on my phone and start with the hero piece, in the middle, or just off, hung at eye level. Then add the other pieces around it, keeping the gaps tight (between 5-10cm). Another approach is to cut out parcel paper or lining paper that is the same shape as your artwork. Place it on the wall (using masking tape) to plan how you want the finished display to look. Then you can start hammering in the nails, with the confidence that the art will be hung in the exact right place.
A few favourite pictures can create a pleasing thoughtful styling moment. Image by Annie Sloan
For the more timid, or indeed those of you who rent, there is a fabulous invention called Command strips, and I’ve used these in loads of projects and found them to be really successful. They essentially stick to the wall, are strong enough to hang some really substantial pieces, and then can be easily removed, leaving your wall undamaged. I’ve hung a heavy mirror in the hallway with one, and 5 years later it’s still going strong! Not only does it mean you don’t damage the wall but if your gallery wall needs a reshuffle at any point, it’s quick and painless to do so.
@manwithahammer lovingly restoring his forever home – he certainly has an eye for details!
Keep it orderly
For those who prefer a more ordered and considered arrangement, you can keep your gallery wall looking more symmetrical by choosing a collection of prints, the same size, same frame and the art usually comes from the same collection or by the same artist. For this type of arrangement, a tape measure and spirit level are king! A handy tip is to pop a small ball of blue tack in each top corner to stop your pictures going on the wonk!
Frame and contain a gallery wall by painting a simple coloured square behind like in the home of @frenchforpineapple
Finally, take your gallery wall up a notch by painting a block of stronger colour behind it. I love this cool midcentury modern dining room in the home of French for pineapple. The punchy pink really helps make the art collection stand out and makes a collection of smaller framed prints look like one impressive piece. Super clever!
I hope this short tutorial has encouraged you to take the plunge and start collecting your own masterpieces or indeed think about hanging the art you already own in a new way. You don’t need to invest a huge amount of money, just collect slowly over time. Don’t be afraid to mix flea market finds, a framed doodle, or a fine piece of art- they can all jostle together joyfully.
To help get you started I’ve rounded up some of my favourite places online to shop.