Creating a Gallery Wall? Don’t Start Hammering Yet

Creating a Gallery Wall? Don’t Start Hammering Yet

Just be sure to consider exposure to moisture. “The biggest mistake you can make is hanging them over a radiator or near the dishwasher,” said Ms. Griffith, the print specialist at Christie’s. “Moisture and heat are not kind to works on paper.”

CHOOSE YOUR STYLE Gallery walls tend to fall into two categories: a grid or linear arrangement and a salon, an eclectic grouping of images and objects. Think about the feeling you want to create in the room, said David Kassel, owner of ILevel, an art-placement and picture-hanging service in Manhattan. “Grids result in a clean, crisp, formal arrangement, and work nicely in a dining room to replace one larger piece,” he said. “If a more relaxed, personal style is interesting to you, consider a salon-style arrangement,” which can include a diverse range of pieces, from oil paintings to tattoo art and three-dimensional objects.

Another way to create an informal gallery wall is by using picture ledges, said Ariel Farmer, an interior designer with the online service Homepolish. “In this method, the art leans against the wall and is held in place by the shelf,” she said, noting that “because the works are not affixed to the walls, you have the flexibility to rotate pieces in and out as you wish.”

FRAMING IS KEY “Using good matting and frames can elevate the look of the work and help to create cohesion in the larger context of the wall,” Ms. Griffith said.

But avoid using the same frame for every piece of art. “The brilliance of a gallery wall is that it is a collection of unique artworks spanning genres, periods and mediums,” said Ms. Farmer of Homepolish. “The attempt to establish a common denominator by framing these individual works alike simply takes away all the magic.”


When Beatrice Fischel-Bock, a founder of the home design app Hutch, added a gallery wall to her bedroom, she combined art bought online with pieces found at flea markets and garage sales.

Dustin Walker for Hutch

She offered a simple recipe for maintaining balance and proportion with different frames and sizes. The ratio you should aim for, Ms. Farmer said, is one extra-large piece, two large pieces, two medium pieces and three small ones.

USE THE FLOOR Now that you have assembled and framed your collection, measure the wall you plan to hang it on and mark that space out on the floor with painter’s tape. Arrange your collection within the outline on the floor, moving pieces around until you find a balanced composition. “Always start in the middle, usually with the largest piece, and work out from there to keep it balanced,” said Ms. Douglas-Pennant of Etalage.

GET OUT THE TAPE MEASURE “Use uniform spacing to provide a cohesive feel if your frames and images don’t match,” said Mr. Kassel of ILevel.

A consistent measurement — two inches between frames, for example — works well for a grid installation, but for a salon wall you can be less precise. If you want a guidepost, Mr. Kassel said, try building out your collection along a common horizontal line, hanging half of the images two inches above the line and the other half two inches below, to add structure.


“Don’t go online and buy a ton of pieces at top speed,” said Jana Bek, the interior designer who created this arrangement. “Practice patience and take joy in acquiring your finds.”

Erik Melvin

HOLD THE HAMMER “These installs do have a major downside: They create a lot of holes,” said Becky Shea, an interior designer in New York. In addition to arranging your collection on the floor, she recommends mapping it out using a computer modeling program like SketchUp.

Ms. Douglas-Pennant of Etalage offered another suggestion: Before you reach for the hammer, outline all of your items on paper, cut them out and then “label them and stick the cutout paper shapes on the wall.”

To avoid a crooked installation, Mr. Kassel advised using D-rings rather than wire. But if you’re not comfortable with a level and a drill, he added, you should consider hiring a professional.

“We’ve patched the holes in many failed D.I.Y. gallery wall projects,” he said.

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