I got obsessed with the idea of having a gallery wall about a year ago and didn’t know where to start, so of course I checked out blogs and videos on the fun, creative process of displaying art gallery style. However, when I’d completed my art collection, I realized there were a few tips I could’ve used along the way that I hadn’t seen in my research phase. While my gallery wall is still a work in progress, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far.
Take Furniture into Account
Like I said, I started collecting art for my gallery wall about a year ago, and at that time I didn’t have a television in my room, though I’d already selected the wall opposite my headboard for my gallery. By the time I had enough art to hang up, I realized my TV could be a huge eyesore to my display. I fixed that by working black into my gallery wall to tie in with the TV, and when I’m not using my screen for entertainment, I have a reel of photos or nature scenes that play on the screen that add to the overall art aesthetic.
To sum it up, if you have furniture that’s next to, above, under or near your gallery wall, think of creative ways to make that piece a part of your display either by coordinating colors like I did, or adding surface pieces (lamps, candles, crystals, and sculptures) that tie into the whole display.
Find Art You Like, Worry About Coordinating Later
This is one tip that almost tripped me up when shopping. I kept trying to focus on a theme, a color story and complimentary pieces so much, that I forgot the most important rule of a gallery wall: to display pieces that spark joy.
Rather than focusing on whatever theme or colors you want, start a folder or a virtual collection of art that’s just stuff you love to look at, and let the theme emerge. The pieces that belong together will stand out, and it’ll be easier to decide what to buy.
As a creative I know the importance of authenticity and valuing work and I would never stand behind someone stealing a design. With that said, art can be expensive! If there are minimalist pieces you like that you can’t afford, use that as inspiration to create something totally your own. You can recreate printed works of art on canvas, with embroidery, or even mediums as simple as watercolor and drawings on sketch paper.
I found a set of prints online (more about where I shopped for art later) and I loved the quote but didn’t like the font. I went to Michael’s and for around $7 dollars I was able to buy (2) 12”x12” canvases where I created the art I liked in a more whimsical print (aka my own handwriting) – with a sharpie, no less! For less than $10 dollars I now have a set of one of a kind statement pieces.
Don’t Spend It All in One Place
This phrase reminds me of how I’d blow my allowance back when I thought $40 dollars was winning the lottery. In this case, it’s a reminder to take your time when shopping and to shop in different places for a more balanced and diverse collection.
I started my search for art in regular places – the home section of Target, Ikea, and other big box stores where I could peruse IRL. I quickly realized most mainstream art I found wasn’t my style, and I expanded my search online. When I found a few pieces I’d like from the same artist, I’d buy them all, but after going through my initial collection everything looked the same; not in a cohesive way, but a repetitive, uninspired way. I went in search of more art and this is when I gave up on a committed theme/color pattern and started looking for pieces I just truly liked. Over time, it was easier to shop for filler pieces based on what I had already. I could be more decisive with yes’s and no’s because I had an idea of what I already owned and how that would make sense with newer additions.
Here are some of the places I found my favorite pieces:
- Etsy | Great resource for highly specific pieces, handmade art and unique designs. I purchased a set of (3) “aged” tarot card inspired prints that I think really give my gallery a grounded, rustic element. I believe I also found my palm reading hand on Etsy at a different time from a different seller. When my “taboo” theme started to emerge, I wanted a black and white piece that spoke to category without being too repetitive (I have a lot of other art I would consider taboo that didn’t make it onto my wall).
- Society 6 | I can’t recommend them enough. The selection of art on their site is massive. You can follow specific artists and styles and find complimentary pieces very easy – and most designs are offered as prints, on canvas, and fabric depending on what you’re looking for. There’s also usually some kind of sale going on. I purchased my “hugging” piece, my lady with the sun and moon, and my astrology hand from here.
- Markets | If you are the kind of person that enjoys outdoor/occasional markets, those places can be a gold mine for art. I picked up a small painting with a mat at an artists’ market in New Orleans, but I’ve also seen great pieces at my local fleas.
Not Just Paper
I may or may not have seen this tip when doing gallery wall research, but now that I’ve actually started on my wall, I can so see the importance of it. Rather than focusing on framed art, look for pieces that are art in different mediums.
As I was laying out my gallery (on my bed, lol) I found that something was missing, and I later realized it was texture. A gallery wall of all framed art can be a bit flat – especially true for me since I haven’t even framed my art yet! Expand your gallery with décor that isn’t just on paper. In my case, I have a clock, a mirror and a dreamcatcher adding to the wall, not to mention everything on my TV stand.
Here are some ways and suggestions to diversify your display:
- Clothing | I think of clothing as wearable art. You can hang or frame a tee shirt, hang a hat or even vintage jewelry like a statement necklace. Repurpose an old worn out pair of jeans by framing the back pocket + brand label, or you can frame scraps of fabric as a textured element that ties in your color story.
- Collectibles | The items you collect can say just as much about you as the art you choose to buy or even the clothes you wear. I collect books, crystals/rocks, candles…actually, let’s just say I collect a lot of things. You can add books or crystals to your gallery with those invisible shelves, or simply frame the cover of your favorite book. You can also thrift books and use the hardcovers as art (if you aren’t particularly interested in what’s inside). Other collectibles might include buttons, pins, records, cards, dolls…choose whatever floats your boat and adds to your theme.
- Metallics | For me, items with metallic finishes are one of the most important factors to creating luxurious feeling spaces. From rustic finishes like iron and hammered or antiqued brass, to shiny and smooth elements like mirrors and copper, these items create a visual touch as viewers can imagine how the finishes feel. They also pick up and reflect the light, add dimension and weight to ground your gallery for a balanced and cohesive blend.
(Hopefully) you’re now ready to start decorating! I’m closing with a few honorable mention tips that are commonly found online, but good to remember:
- Consider where your gallery wall will be viewed from, taking into consideration eye level (a gallery over a desk or table can go up and out, while a gallery on an empty wall might span the floor to the ceiling).
- The longer or wider your wall, the more you should play with length and width in pieces. A floor to ceiling gallery for example will benefit from a couple of taller items that fill in and ground the space, whereas a lot of small pieces could end up looking cluttered.
- It is easier to build off of 1 or 2 “anchor” pieces that most accurately reflect the colors and aesthetic you are going for, then add from there.
- Remember the rule of 3’s. In this case, it’s actually 2 different rules. First, art is commonly spaced 3” to 6” inches apart for the best “viewing pleasure.” Secondly, build in collections of 3 to achieve the most balance.
- Don’t forget lighting! A gallery wall next to or across from a window is ideal, but if you have a gallery in an enclosed space, be sure to add lamps or mirrors to bring in more brightness.
- Finally, there are really no rules. If you like it and if it looks good to you, even if the colors don’t match or there’s no texture or things are too close/far away from each other, that’s your prerogative! Your biggest concern should be creating a display that you enjoy. If you can do that, all the rules go out the window.