Tips for Organizing Gallery Walls

Gallery walls are wonderful. They fill spaces without the big bucks of giant artwork. They share photos, memories, and special meanings, while adding an eclectic element to the decor. But how do you make them look just right? How do you keep them from looking jumbled, chaotic, or awkward?

Obviously, there are a million ways to hang a gallery wall, which is why they are so versatile and popular. First, you can buy a collection of matching frames and hang them in a geometric pattern (assuming you have money, time, patience, and a level). But my gallery walls usually consist of a collection of artwork and photographs that may or may not be alike. In creating gallery walls (I’ll be using three, specifically, that I created for my parents’ home in this tutorial), I’ve found that at least one unifying factor can turn chaos into creativity.

Tip #1: Use no more than 2 or 3 colors (or finishes) on your frames.

In this gallery wall (which I shared first here and which runs down a long hallway between two doors), we used more than 30 frames collected over time. None of them matched, and I liked it that way. But too much variety, and it would never look cohesive. So we spray painted anything not wood or silver white. The result remains assorted without being overwhelming.

Tip #2: Use decorative molding to create a giant frame around the gallery wall.

This is perfect for a collection with lots of items and very little size consistency. Though this wall was mostly 8×10’s, they were not all that size. And with different sizes, colors, shapes, etc. a unifying factor was needed. The frame grounds the collection beautifully. It also allows for pictures to be added one at a time without throwing off the balance of the entire look. As long as all the frames remain within the molding frame, the wall remains “finished” looking.

Tip #3:  Use a variety of shapes in your collection but make sure the corners create a distinct rectangle.

This nook houses my parents’ piano (the one I learned to play on and the one my children are using now… love things with memories!). In creating this gallery wall, I didn’t want to fight the very rectangular architectural space, but I didn’t want the grouping to appear too geometric or flat. So I combined shapes but used squared-off frames for the corners.

I would also point out that though I used almost matching ones on the top, I purposefully used mismatched ones on the bottom. You don’t want the collection to feel too square or the variety of shapes inside will look off-balanced.

Tip #4: When creating an especially “random” grouping, maintain some form of order like columns or rows.

I first shared this especially eclectic gallery wall here. The beauty of this wall is in the textures and colors that coordinate despite the very diverse collection of materials. The variety not only lends itself well to a “random” gallery wall, but almost necessitates it as there are really no matched pieces. While designing this grouping, though, I discovered that some sort of order was always the most aesthetically appealing. (Note: please forgive the iphone photo below! It was the best angle for this analysis.)

In this case, I used a sort of column approach. Even though each column aligns differently, there is something subconsciously appealing about a touch of order. I tried several other variations, and only the ones with a kind of structure to them (even if it is not readily noticeable to the casual observer) were especially attractive.

I hope this helps! Do you have any other tips for designing eclectic gallery walls? I’d love to hear.

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