My top tips for gallery walls

Also known as how to avoid driving yourself crazy when creating a gallery wall

Gallery walls 101

Once you have repainted the walls and the new furniture is en route, it’s time to get cracking with making the space feel more like home. And gallery walls are a great way to do that. For all you see gallery walls all over Pinterest and Instagram, you’d think they’re a piece of cake to get right. Actually, they’re not and if you get stuck in without first making a plan and making sure you have the right kit to hand, you’ll just end up with lots of lumps out of your lovely newly painted walls.

There are a few different types of gallery walls. The easiest to get your head around but the hardest to get spot on (unless you’re particularly talented with your spirit level and tape measure) is the Grid.

The Grid
This grid of 6 photos of the Yorkshire landscape near this Ilkley property is a great example of a gallery wall in a grid formation. Because the panoramic photos were so long, and the walls were such a dark colour (Farrow & Ball’s Plummett) the grid had to be spot on, and it took several goes by my ever patient handyman to get them right.  

For this type of gallery wall, you need to have pieces which are in the same frames and which are the same sizes. So at least that’s one set of decisions off the table. Next, lay them out on the floor and see what looks best. You’ll see that each row of these photos have the same spaces between them but there is  a slightly wider gap between the top and bottom rows, so that they were spaced proportionately on the wall.

So this one is pretty simple but actually takes a lot of very careful measuring to get right.

Getting trickier...

Right, so that’s the easiest gallery wall to explain and the one I find hardest to do. 

Statement grid

OK, I get that all gallery walls are intended to make a statement but this one is aimed for places like entrances where you want a grid, but maybe not the perfect grid we had above. A bit like this one that I mocked up on Canva. 
It would look great on a sideboard in a hall, with a pair of generous lamps at either end. So if you’ve got a generous hall which calls for a statement, go for it.

If you’re going for a less formal look, first get all your photos and pictures together. Make sure you have them all framed. They don’t have to be in the same frames but I wouldn’t go for too many really decorative styles- I tend to keep them pretty simple so that I can just focus on the gallery wall itself.

Going organic

My favourite is to find way to do a gallery wall is to find a central image and decide where it goes before adding the second.  This approach only really works when your gallery wall has about 5 or 6 pieces of varying size. It’s the approach I’ve taken in my office. It’s great because once I had 3 pieces of different size, I put them on the floor, decided on the space and put them up. For the first one, I found a central point and then hung the 2nd one approx 7.5cm apart, about 1/3 higher, and I went on from there. Which started the organic kind of look I was looking for and I just kept on adding to it. The frames don’t match but as they’re all either black or gold,  they work together. Now, when I want to add to the gallery, I just pick up pieces I like when I’m out and about and, keeping the same gap, add it to the wall when I get back to the office. 

Symmetrial grid gallery wall

Easy wins

There are ways to make gallery walls easier than others. Here are my ways to get an easy win (in no particular order):

  • First, chose pictures you love. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of them. Go for a mixture of posters, paintings, mirrors, photos and typography. Things that just make you happy. As I type I’m waiting for some prints for home my home office. I’ve got a photo of Freddie Mercury on the way, a Frieda Kahlo print, a quote and an ampersand. I’ve also got some of my children’s art. All of which I chose because they made me happy. Along with the bright pink paint on the walls, Mr C is reserving judgment (by which I mean he made an acerbic comment about my choices but ultimately is just leaving me to it), but I don’t really care. They make me smile, so I’m sticking with it.
  • Always lay it out on the floor first in front of the wall you want to use. You can move things about and then stand back to look at it before getting the nails out. 
  • If you’re still not sure, get some lining paper or brown paper and cut out templates the size  of your pieces and blue tack them to your wall. Don’t leave it for too long (especially on dark walls), or it will mark, but it will give you reassurance that you’re on the right lines. And it allows you to balance the different types of images. I did this for a client’s playroom- her 3 children had different creations and certificates to accommodate and this meant everyone had the same number of pieces of art and that it all balanced.
  • Make sure you have lots of nails/picture hangers to  hand. And yes, I’ve learnt this one the hard way. Basic point, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get carried away by the exciting bit and then have to come to a juddering half  and have to nip off to the DIY shop. And then inevitably get interrupted when you get back because it’s tea time or it’s time to take the children somewhere. So stock up beforehand.
  • If you don’t want to put loads of nails into your walls or if  you’re a commitment phobe, get yourself a picture ledge. IKEA does super cheap ones (under £10 even for the largest one) and you can then rearrange to your heart’s content. This is another one I’ve done at work, mainly because I wanted flexibility. Ironically I’ve not changed it in 2 years, but great to have the option and an easy way to layer pieces of different heights.
A collection of antique mirrors above a well loved Chesterfield makes for a cosy sitting room

Trickier move

Once you’ve mastered a gallery wall in your sitting room, go for the trickier spaces like the stairs. The same principles apply- choose images you love and frames which have something in common with one another. The only reason I think this is harder is because you can’t really lay things out in the same way as you do for other walls. So make life easy for yourself. Decide on the starting point and the end point. And draw a line between them (ideally do this with masking tape which you only touch lightly to the wall) and keep all the pictures in line with it.

Photography by Heidi Marfitt, Colin Poole, and Mark Harrison respectively.

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