There are very few home features I love more than a gallery wall.
Especially one that makes a statement, tells a story, and combines personalities.
Over the past few years I've spent a lot of time researching the best ways to structure a gallery wall and unfortunately nothing really stuck out to me. So I made my own rules... or guidelines.
1. Make a plan
This is sometimes the hardest part. You need to realize that a gallery wall is a collection of decor, items, and memories. It takes time to build a collection and lay it out.
Be patient with the process. It will be worth it!
My first gallery wall took me six months from the time I started to choose items to the time it was actually hung on my wall. You'll also want to lay it out on the floor and figure out where you want to put things. This takes time too since you may end up adding and replacing pieces along the way.
2. Keep it budget friendly
Raise your hand if you're on a budget!
*raises both hands*
For our design I shopped sales, got frames on clearance, and utilized what we already had around our house. My first gallery wall I did in my apartment two years ago cost about $150 total. The one in our house now was probably about $200 and is about double the size of my first one.
I am a bargain shopper but also repurposed a lot of items! Why waste good stuff, am I right?
This photo sketch of Yogi is a perfect example! I got this 5x7 frame on clearance at Michael's for only $3.50. Talk about a good deal! (I ended up buying all in stock because I liked it so much!)
The sketch was done with an app on my phone called Sketch Guru. All I did was upload a cute photo of Yogi and used the app to turn the photo into a sketch! It saved in high quality so it was super easy to upload on Target Photo and print it to the store! It was $1.79 for a 5x7 print done at the store. It's even cheaper... only $0.50... if you choose to ship it to your house!
3. Choose items with meaning
I think the most important part of a gallery wall is to love every piece you choose.
Ask yourself "why do I want to include this?" for every item you consider. If you can easily answer, then add it to the pile. We used this method for photos, custom home decor, and family keepsakes.
One of the items Drew really wanted to include was his great grandfather's piccolo.
We talked about several different ways to display this 100 year old instrument, while keeping it safe. We decided on a black shadowbox. The photo to the left is his great-grandfather and his band. He is photographed on the far right, holding the same piccolo. We love that the photo is there to support the instrument. People always ask questions about it and we're thrilled to share the story!
(The frame and the shadowbox were from Michael's - and were on sale!)
Some additional items we chose which were important to us include other family mementos, framed postcards, last name initials, and coordinates of special locations (explained in #4).
4. Add custom items
In our not-so-spare time, we also make custom wooden signs. The majority of our work is dedicated to locations and coordinates, hence the name of the company, Coordinated. This also means a lot of our gallery wall features our custom signs, which we made to reflect us and our story.
At the very top are the coordinates to Drew's childhood home.
Beneath it is the layout of Long Island, painted on a piece of reclaimed wood from our house.
The small sign features the coordinates of Greenville, NC, where we met and currently live.
The 27858 is our mailing Zip Code.
The bottom coordinates are for my hometown of Murrysville, PA.
5. Mix old with new
As you can tell, most of the photos on our gallery wall are black and white. We each chose our top three favorite vintage family photos and the frames we wanted them in.
Then, we mixed in some newer, color photos.
I think it creates a nice balance of color, which leads me to guideline #6...
6. Utilize color
Our entire home is accented in teal.
While we stuck to neutral cream and gray tones throughout the house, we wanted a pop of color. From our shutters and planters outside to our custom bar and pillows inside - teal spoke to us.
We also chose to highlight this color on our gallery wall.
We did this with frames and other items we found like a distressed clock, door knob, and arrow. If you choose a main color it's easy to incorporate other colors as well through artwork like the small painting in the black frame. It has a stroke of teal along with black and orange. I think it helps brighten up the area and actually matches other frames and the tones in our color photos.
7. Have fun with texture
Adding different textures was a little more challenging for me.
I'll explain my method for this in three parts:
I had this light up "S" on my gallery wall at my apartment. I just LOVE the marquee sign look so I wanted to incorporate it on this wall too... but I wasn't quite sure how it would look since Drew and I accented our house in gold and brass. Well, I liked this "S" so much that I said I didn't care and hung it anyway! I'm so glad I did. I think the look of mixed metals totally works for a gallery wall!
We also added cast iron items. I bought two really cool trivets at a yard sale years ago. I repurposed them from kitchen decor to gallery wall decor. We found several vintage skeleton key plates at Construction Junction in Pittsburgh. (Super cool place if you're in that area!) These, along with hanging hooks and large keys in iron tones, make great filler pieces.
Mirrors and glass features are also great ways to add texture to your walls. Don't be afraid to mix-and-match and use what you already have! I bought a three pack of mirrors at Kirkland's years ago but didn't have a place for them in our new house. So, I used two of them on this gallery wall and I'm planning to use the third on a gallery wall in progress upstairs! You can also add glass by adding an old glass knob or choose a frame which has extra features in it like glass cuts or mirrored pieces.
One of the easiest ways to add texture is, of course, through the frames you are already including. I love the frame above with the sepia photo of my beautiful grandma. The distressed frame is about two inches thick on each side and was such a different look from the rest of our frames. If you have the option to buy the same frame design in different sizes, that will help balance your wall too. I have several frames in 4x6 and 5x7 and others in 5x7 and 8x10. You'd never notice looking at the wall right away, but the similar designs help it flow together and look complete from a distance.
I'm not an interior designer but I think it's important to remember there are no rules when putting together your gallery wall. It's not supposed to be perfect. Heck, I don't even measure when hanging - I just guesstimate! As long as YOU like it and it's a reflection of YOU then you've succeeded!
(Views, opinions, products and designs are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.)
College professor with a side of property investor, furniture builder, creator, and home renovator.
News anchor with a side of home designer, organizer, DIYer, and furniture refinisher.