How to Hang a Gallery Wall

Unfortunately, 2014 is the year of neglecting this blog a bit… sorry guys!  While I sort of checked out after posting the upholstered headboard tutorial, and the grout makeover, here’s the Readers Digest version of what’s been going on in our world…
We spent the weekend down in Santa Barbara, braving the stormy weather and looking at potential wedding venues.  All I’ll say is we are REALLY excited about what we saw, and it’s all feeling so real now.  Very VERY exciting for us…
In other news, I started hanging art in our bedroom.  The beginnings of a gallery wall are starting to take shape…

I had been holding off on hanging things up, wanting to get the walls repainted first, but I’ve amended that plan.  I just don’t feel like it’s realistic to paint every room at once. It’s a HUGE time commitment (which I don’t have right now), and a lot of work, so this room won’t be getting painted in the next few months (at least!)

Regardless of new paint, I didn’t want to put off adding some character to this space.  In our last apartment, our bedroom got neglected for a long time, but with our pretty bed, and that gorgeous blue dresser I made last year, this room deserves to shine!

Luckily, the bedroom walls actually aren’t in terrible shape (compared with the dining room, living room and hallways) so these will likely be the last to get painted.  I invested in a huge package of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers… those things are certainly magical.  I was able to get almost all the black scuffs off the walls, so it’s already looking a million times better.

After a little minor scrubbing, I grabbed the boxes where I’d packed all our picture frames and art (there are about 5 boxes FULL) and just started eyeballing and hanging.

After hanging a few gallery walls in the past, I have a few helpful tips.

Do not map it out exactly – I’ve found that it’s unlikely that you’re going to stick with the original plan once frames start going up on the wall (remember this post when I attempted my first gallery wall??).  Instead, decide how high you want the art to go (how close to the ceiling, and how far our on the wall) and hold up the frames to get a feel for how much space they will take up.  Simply holding a few of the large “anchor” frames up will give you a good idea of space.

I also like to start with the largest prints first – I call these the “anchor” pieces, because they are naturally where the eye goes on a gallery wall, and their placement affects the placement of everything else.  In this case, I started with the largest “New York” frame, and built next to it.
Once the first frame is hung, decide how far apart you want the other frames to be. The larger the frame, the wider the space between frames… the smaller the frames, the smaller the space between them.  If it’s a small cluster of small frames, 1-2″ should be fine, but if its a large wall with lots of larger frames, I’d go with 3-4″ between.  You’ll see what looks right.
Another thing I’m learning as I hang these frames – since this is going to end up being a largeish gallery wall built around our TV, it’s been easier to start by hanging an “inner layer” of frames around the TV, and finish the gallery wall out with the “outer layer” so you’re building from the center.
No idea what I’m talking about?
Here’s a little diagram to help you envision what I mean…
Once you get the larger, main frames in place, finish the wall out with smaller filler frames where it feels a bit sparse
If you look at the progress I’ve made, the gallery wall is looking a bit triangular… this is because I just started the inner layer, and haven’t done any filling out.  Based on the frames I have, this is how I see the rest of the gallery wall playing out…
The dark frames in the above photo illustrate my “anchor” pieces, and the light blue are the filler that will come later.
Of course this diagram is subject to change, but it will most likely look pretty close to this based on the scale of the wall, and the size and number of frames I’m working with.
A few other tips – if you’re mixing frames (sizes, frames, colors) try to find balance there too – I’m trying to have an even mix of dark frames with gold and white.  There will probably only be two white frames, with the emphasis on gold and black.
Same rule applies for size – don’t pile up all the large frames on one side or in one area.  It will end up feeling super unbalanced.
Along the same lines, vary the frame direction as well – hang some as a portrait, and some as landscape, and I like to have a few square frames mixed in for good measure.
I also want to point out – don’t wait until every frame is filled with art you want to display – I’ve hung frames up that still had the stock photo in them, or framed prints I wasn’t in love with anymore.  Waiting to fill the frames holds the project up, and once the frames have found their home, it’s pretty easy to decide what kinds of prints, photographs, or paintings will look good next to one another – abstract next to a photograph… bright colors near a muted piece… you get the idea.  Let the frames’ size and shape and color determine where they are hung – not the actual art.  Art can be changed.
And finally… don’t be afraid to make a few holes in the wall.  Keep putty, a putty knife and a small sample pot of paint nearby if you think you’ll really mess things up, but so far, I’ve been tapping nails in, hanging the picture, standing back to see it all together, and if it doesn’t look right, moving it around a bit.  Overall, the frames will cover any holes you make, so its small tweaks here and there.  Don’t be afraid to mess up a few times.  It’s just sheet-rock!
As a bad blogger, I forgot to take a “before” picture, so the other half of the empty wall will have to do.
As you can see, its a very bare wall… tall ceilings (11-12′ tall) so the TV was very alone and awkward there.  I think the gallery wall will help fill things in, without crowding the room, and the TV won’t stick out like a sore thumb quite so much.

So that’s that – after messing up a few gallery walls, and learning the ropes, I hope these tips help you attack that big blank wall that’s staring you in the face at home!

More updates, and better photos are coming your way soon once I finish this up!  In the meantime, feel free to message me if you have more specific questions!

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