Creating a gallery wall is a simple way to bring style and personality to any room — no painting or wallpapering required. All you need is a hammer, some frame hooks and a collection of your favorite art.
But arranging that collection can be intimidating when you’re confronting a blank wall. To help you make a statement — rather than a haphazard jumble — art installers, museum staffers and others with expertise in hanging art offered a few tips.
MIX IT UP “Gallery walls can be a fun way of making a very personal statement in your home,” said Karen Hernandez, manager of product development and art reproductions at the Museum of Modern Art. “To me, the most inspiring walls are those that mix a variety of artworks representing a range of media, from photographs to drawings, mixed in with personal mementos like children’s artwork or souvenirs from one’s travels.”
Lindsay Griffith, a specialist in prints and multiples at Christie’s, agreed. “Interesting juxtapositions make a gallery wall more personal,” Ms. Griffith said. “At the same time, you should look for ways to tie disparate pieces together, like through color or framing: I love a combination of black-and-white photographs with black-and-white etchings, for example.”
TAKE YOUR TIME “Don’t go online and buy a ton of pieces so you can create a gallery wall at top speed,” said Jana Bek, an interior designer in Ann Arbor, Mich., who displays art in her bedroom and powder room. “A captivating gallery wall should look and feel collected. The ensemble should be an interesting mix of genres and techniques — for instance, figures, landscapes, abstracts in the form of drawings, photography and painting. Practice patience and take joy in acquiring your finds.”
Beatrice Fischel-Bock, the chief executive and a founder of the home décor app Hutch, recently added a gallery wall to the bedroom in her Los Angeles Spanish-style bungalow using a combination of art she bought online, at garage sales and flea markets. “The art pieces range from traditional still life to edgy photography, yet they all work together to provide an elevated and collected grouping,” said Ms. Fischel-Bock, who grew up going to galleries with her mother, an artist.
FIND THE RIGHT SPACE You don’t need to live in a big loft to display lots of art. “A gallery wall is absolutely ideal for a small apartment, as it can give a room real interest, depth and a properly decorated feel without taking up any floor space — and thereby minimizing clutter,” said Luci Douglas-Pennant, who with Victoria Leslie founded Etalage, an English company specializing in antique prints, vintage oil paintings and decorative pictures for gallery walls. “If you don’t have one large wall, gallery walls can be hung around windows, around doors, above bed heads, above and around fireplaces or even around cabinets in a kitchen.”
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.”COOKING: Daily inspiration, delicious recipes and other updates from Sam Sifton and NYT Cooking.
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.”
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.
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.