Creating the Perfect Gallery Wall: How to Curate and Display Art in Your Home

A gallery wall is a perfect addition to any home, regardless of taste, space and budget.

It’s proven that art makes us happy and improves our wellbeing. Research conducted by Semir Zeki found that the beauty we perceive from art activates the pleasure and reward system in our brains, as the amount of dopamine activity increases when we respond to art we like.

For this reason, creating a gallery wall is not just a means to better the look and feel of the environment in a home, but also to boost the moods of onlookers.

For art collectors, a gallery wall is a way of showcasing prints, paintings and wall mounted sculptures they’ve collected over the years. For interior designers, it’s a foolproof way to completely transform a plain wall, and create a focal point in the room.

In order to optimise the space you have, before you reach for the frames and nails, have an idea about the effect you want to create. By planning your design first, you can ensure that it will be aesthetically pleasing, incorporating the elements you want to include in a purposeful manner, as opposed to it appearing mismatched or arbitrary.

Think about how the art will fit with the design of your space

The amount of space you have in your home will impact the size of the pieces you buy. If you have high ceilings and large walls, small pieces can get lost, so opt for hanging large paintings.

It’s not a necessity, however, to have a large amount of space in order to create a gallery wall; you can fit paintings around just about any feature even with very little wall space.

Consider how you can create interest by contrasting the style of the artwork with the architectural design of the house. For example, displaying contemporary works, minimalist paintings or pop art in a Georgian building will create a modern twist and liven up the home.

Find the right spot to display your artwork

You don’t have to rearrange your room to make space for a gallery wall. It’s possible to make a striking and effective arrangement around the features and furniture already there.

A foyer, hallway or staircase

Source: lisadawsonstyling.com

First impressions are everything and if the entrance to your home is filled with incredible art, your guests will be pleasantly surprised as soon as they walk through the front door.

In the home of British decorator Lisa Dawson (image above), the main staircase has been turned into an impressive gallery wall featuring a varied selection of prints and photos with mixed styles and frames.

If you decide to design a gallery wall up a staircase, remember to maintain the same amount of spacing between the floor and the bottom of the artworks all the way up the stairs. Measure it to make it look consistent.

A large wall

Source: marthastewart.com

This is the classic placement for a gallery wall—somewhere with a large amount of wall space and natural light. A mix of frames and sizes in this design makes each unique artwork stand out. Think about choosing a frame to suit the painting, rather than to fit in with the artworks it will be placed next to.

Display art around shelving

Source: thediyplaybook.com

You don’t have to damage your walls with nails to display art. If you have some shelves up, artworks can look wonderful lined along ledges like in the image above.

Above a piece of furniture, around a doorway or mantle piece

Source: architecturaldigest.com

A doorway or large piece of furniture isn’t necessarily an obstacle to a gallery wall; hang paintings around your room’s architectural features—it’s an unusual idea that will add curiosity to your room.

Tie the colours in to your room’s style

Play with colour to harmonise or contrast with some of the colour themes you’ve already chosen in the furniture or accessories in your room.

Notice the design of your room, how would you describe it? This can help you to decide on the kind of art to curate and display.

Design 1: Neutral colours

Source: carinaromano.com

Artworks with a neutral palette will look good alongside any colour scheme you already have in your home.

If your wall is a bright colour, you could tone it down a little by placing neutral coloured artwork on it.

Looking to buy some artwork with neutral tones? Fernando Velazquez creates the appearance of space and light through his oil paintings, which often have a mix of muted tones and warm colours. Catherine Pickop uses natural mineral pigment and coffee residue in her beautifully rhythmic works.

Design 2: A vivid mix

Source: damasketdentelle.com

Brighten up a blank wall with a mix of colour. Choose vibrant artworks to create a feature wall in your room that will catch people’s attention. Select artworks that feature similar colours to soft furnishings or accessories in your room.

Benito Salmerón uses brilliant luminous colours in his works that remind you of summer holidays, while Khattin Valery’s expressionist oil paintings burst with colour and emotion. Look at this art collection for a sprinkling of light and colour.

To limit the colours you use, you could stick to either a warm or cool colour palette. These artworks all use a warm, autumnal palette.

Limit yourself to only using one colour, like in this botanical green styled gallery wall.

Design 3: Black and white

Source: decordots.com

Black and white artwork with a subtle splash of colour adds light and dark contrasts to the midtone values of the wall and floor.

For some black and white art inspiration, check out Dylan Eakin’s photorealistic charcoal drawings and Richard Shipley’s spray paint abstract pieces.

Design 4: Choose a theme

Source: craftberrybush.com

Think of a theme to create a particular atmosphere in your space. You could go for a modern coastal style and choose artworks of the sea, with driftwood frames. Check out this collection of maritime artworks to inspire you.

Select artwork to display

After thinking about the space you have available and how you could use the colour of the artwork to complement your room, you then need to choose the art you want to display. This may be curated from an existing collection you have. If you don’t have a collection yet, start buying art based on your tastes and what you think would look good in your home.

If you’re just starting to form a collection and feel a little daunted at the prospect of having to spend a lot of money, buying art doesn’t have to break the bank. See this collection of original artworks under €500. You can also buy prints of originals, or find artwork for sale in antiques markets which are usually inexpensive. Metal prints are also a great option, as they are affordable and offer a wide variety of subjects to choose from.

Don’t just select artworks to display at random, a gallery wall looks a lot better when you can tell that the owner feels a personal attachment to the artwork, as if it tells a story about themselves. Take joy in collecting pieces for your gallery wall. A display comprised of artworks that feel sentimental can bring positive energy into your home.

Arrange an assortment of artworks

If you want to stray from the ‘eclectic’ look—which can for the most part look effective, but can also sometimes look a little random and lacking in purpose—you can create the appearance of order in your gallery wall by maintaining one cohesive element across the disparate display of art. This one matching element acts to tie the pieces together, creating harmony.

Source: contemporist.com

The cohesive element could be that all artworks contain similar subject matter (i.e. images of landscapes), they could all have been created in the same medium (i.e. oil paintings), they could all have a similar colour scheme, be the same size or be framed in the same way.

For example, you could display watercolours, prints, illustrations and travel photos alongside one another if they are mounted and framed using the same wood or metal, like in the photo on the right.

To mix it up, place abstract works with a lack of recognisable subject matter alongside works that have distinct subject matter to create harmonious arrangements. You can also display art from different eras to create interesting juxtapositions and design fusions.

Consider pairing sculpture with two dimensional artworks for an immersive effect. Look at the work by Ana Sidi-Yacoub who creates reflective metallic pieces, by adding a wall mounted sculpture like this, you can play with light to create space and texture on an otherwise two dimensional wall.

Plan your layout

Get creative and make your own layout, or look at the templates below for inspiration. Some of these layouts will take more planning and time to execute than others.

Grid

Source: nest.com

Keep it clean, ordered and neat with a grid layout. For this layout to work, the artworks need to be the same size.

Box

Source: Pinterest

Fitting art together in a box shape is like a game of tetris—it may take some retro gaming skills to execute successfully. It’s similar to the grid layout, but the artworks aren’t the same size, so you have to slot them together to make a box formation.

Eclectic

Source: Pinterest

Irregular sizing and different shapes of artwork paired with irregular spacing between each piece will give you a beautifully eclectic arrangement.

Organic

Source: roomfifty.com

Here the artworks have been intuitively lined and spaced to create an organic layout. They’re not scattered all over the place, but each piece has a similar amount of space surrounding it, this creates a relaxed but not completely disordered feel.

Now for some DIY

You’ve got everything you need to create the gallery wall, so next comes the DIY bit.

It’s a good idea to first create a mock-up of the gallery wall, so you get a feel for the placement and spacing of the artworks before you commit to attaching anything to plaster.

Onto a sheet of paper draw around your paintings, then cut around the shapes you’ve drawn. With some masking tape, stick the paper outlines to the wall in the places you think you want them to go. Label each paper outline so they don’t get mixed up. It’s a good idea to keep a uniform distance between each painting, so they don’t look crammed together or unevenly spaced.

This part of the process can be intuitive, you may spend a bit of time adjusting the placement and feeling it out. Or you could try and arrange the paintings to fit with one of the templates listed above.

If you’re worried about damaging the walls with nails, use picture hanging adhesive strips (Command Strips) to stick the paintings to the walls. This way you can remove and rearrange the art mess free, as the sticky strips won’t leave residue when you peel them off.

Ready to start hanging your gallery wall?

These gallery wall templates serve as a great starting point when thinking about creating a well planned art display, however by changing a few elements and being innovative with the layout, you can give a wall your own unique twist. 

For example, you could mount a picture hanging rail on the wall and have your paintings hanging from the top. Or you could even layer your paintings to create a three dimensional look, like so:

Source: nickandalicia.com

No design is off limits; if you feel like it, get weird, get creative and make people double take at the sight of your wall. The most important thing is that the art you showcase says something about you.

Remember that you can change or add to the display over time as you collect more art. You may find that if you get a taste for collecting and displaying art, the small cluster of paintings that start in one contained area slowly grow and spread around the house, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling, infusing each room with personality.

You can see how interior designer Michelle Gage has tastefully satiated her gallery wall obsession by looking at the pictures of her Philadelphia home renovation:

Source:  kylebornphotography.com

You can fit a painting wherever there is blank wall showing, so the only limit you have is your wall space!


Article written by Emily Rummings.

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