A beach themed gallery wall of photos and embellishments

We’ve got a long winter ahead of us, folks, so maybe it’s time to put up that gallery wall you’ve been planning. What’s a gallery wall? It’s a collection of items displayed together to create a cohesive piece of art.

Here is your GET READY, GET SET and GO plan for transforming that boring hallway into a beautiful focal point.  

A gallery wall going up a stairwell that has a Christmas holiday theme

GET READY

The Wall: Hallways and staircases get a lot of gallery love, but any wall will do – consider dining rooms, the home office, a playroom, or even the powder room.

The Theme: What is the story you wish to tell? Gallery walls are perfect for family photos and vacation memories, but can also display an assortment of art, collectables or eclectic items.

The Style:  Your gallery wall might be clean and precise with straight lines and identical frames, or perhaps you will choose something more organic and free-flowing. To ensure an aesthetically pleasing result, remember to diversify, unify, and balance your items:

  • Diversify:  Select a variety of frame sizes, shapes, and colors. Mix textures like wood, metal, glass, and wicker. Include a mirror or clock or something 3-dimensional. Add a narrow shelf if the space allows.
  • Unify: Something should tie your wall together, even amongst the diversity. Examples: black and white photos, all-white frames, an overall color theme (such as black/blue/neutral) or a unified décor style (such as modern or rustic).  
  • Balance: Attaining balance is somewhat trial and error, but a combo of heavy and light, large and small, thick and thin will help. Large walls require at least some large pieces.

GET SET

Framed photos on the floor that mock up how the gallery wall will look

Prepare Items

The fun begins when your gallery wall components are gathered, prepped and ready to go.

  • Select photos and artwork. Order enlargements if needed.
  • Choose a couple special photos and convert to canvases for a unique look. (Snapfish, CanvasPop  Canvas Discount)
  • Collect an assortment of frames – look for 2:1 sales or up-cycle old frames with a fresh coat of paint.
  • Use a mat in combination with frames to showcase certain photos and reinforce your color theme.
  • Choose additional objects d’art.
  • Frame and mat photos.
  • Add wires or hooks to items if needed for hanging.
A picture of all the tools needed to set up the gallery wall: level, hammer, pencil, box of nails and picture hanging tool.

Gather Tools

Some of these supplies are optional, but they will all make your project easier and more enjoyable.

Framed photos on the floor that mock up how the gallery wall will look
A photo of a wall with painters tape to mark off where the wall will go

GO!

Design the Layout

Work out the kinks of your layout before you start pounding holes in the wall!

  • Find a large space, approximately the size of your gallery, to lay out your items (A floor, table, or bed works well).
  • Start placing items in an arrangement that suits the shape of the wall. (Check out my Pinterest Board for inspiration)
  • Place larger, heavier items near the middle of lower half of the gallery.
  • Place medium-sized items throughout.
  • Fill in with smaller items.
  • Fidget with the layout until you find a nice balance of space, color, weight, and symmetry.
  • Remember your gallery wall is a unified piece of art – resist the urge to spread items too far apart.
A photo of a gallery wall display being set up
A photo of a gallery wall display being set up

Hang the Gallery

Depending on the number of items, this can take a few hours.

  • Use painter’s tape to mark the primary vertical and horizontal lines of your layout. (If your gallery follows a staircase, the line is diagonal and follows the rail.)
  • Use newsprint to make simple cutouts in the sizes and shapes of your items. Tape them to the wall to see if you like the layout. (This step is optional.)
  • Starting in the center and working your way out, begin to hang the items.
  • Add more lines of tape or draw lines with a pencil as needed to keep the gallery balanced.
  • Some degree of symmetry works even within an organic gallery – certain items might line up along their bottoms or tops or sides.
  • Rearrange items until they look just right. Don’t worry about leaving holes – they are easy to fix with a dab of putty and a touch of paint.
A photo of an embellishment added to a framed photo in a gallery wall

Final Touches

You’re almost there!

  • Erase pencil marks.
  • Patch and paint visible holes.
  • Pull the tape.
  • Clean the frames and glass, if needed.
  • Apply Museum Putty – this is THE secret to keeping your gallery wall straight and level. Place a small dot of museum putty on the lower corner of the item, level it and press against the wall. The museum putty (completely removable) will hold the item in place. Nothing will keep your gallery wall looking sharp like a dab of museum putty!
A photo of a gallery wall display

Enjoy!

A gallery wall is quite the project, but one to be treasured for years to come. Feel free to switch it up when you’re ready for a change – swap out a photo or continue to expand it. It’s a wonderful way to tell a story – sit back and enjoy! Send me a picture of your finished gallery!

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