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The Complete Guide to Gallery Walls

May 23, 2023
Dining area of Purcell at The Orchards by Brookfield Residential in Edmonton AB

Gallery walls have been a stylish way to showcase your favorite photos, artwork, and more in a visually cohesive and interesting display. They can be designed to suit any space or style, from minimalist and modern to eclectic and bohemian.

Starting with a blank wall can be intimidating, so we’ve compiled everything you need to know about creating a gallery wall in your home.

Gallery walls in Bayberry Plan 3 at The Groves by Brookfield Residential in Whittier CA

Are gallery walls still in style?

Some TikTok users sparked a debate when they declared that gallery walls were over. Many of us feared that our homes would now look outdated if we had incorporated this popular trend. Don’t worry! Many interior designers agree: the gallery wall is timeless.

The concept of a gallery wall has been around for centuries, dating back to the 16th century when wealthy aristocrats would adorn their walls with collections of portraits and tapestries. Over the years, designers began experimenting with creating art installations in unconventional ways, including hanging paintings and other objects in groupings on walls. This practice evolved into the modern design trend, with homeowners using a gallery wall to personalize and add character to their spaces.

Bedroom in Purcell 24 at Livingston by Brookfield Residential in Calgary

How to make a gallery wall

1. Choose a location

A gallery wall will work almost anywhere in your home – a bedroom, the stairway, common areas – you just need enough space so the collection can be a focal point. Small, playful prints are fun for the kids’ bathroom. Large, abstract art can complement the primary bedroom’s chill vibe. A photo gallery wall is perfect for your living room to showcase your favorite family moments.

2. Curate your collection

The most beautiful gallery walls are the ones that have been styled deliberately and with thought. Gather your pieces and take some time to determine what is a “must-have” to meet your gallery wall goal.

If you’re going for a more classic look, use one cohesive art selection (i.e., all black and white photographs, all abstract art, etc.). If you want to go a bit more eclectic, go bold with color, go beyond photos, mix it up!

  • Art prints: Select prints that inspire, are meaningful, or you find visually appealing. Thrift stores have a great selection of vintage art, and online shops offer creative options, such as Etsy or Minted. Take it a step further and create your art prints – kids’ art adds a whimsical personal touch, or framing a printed silk scarf from your closet adds unexpected style.
  • Mix in photographs: Family photos or photos from your favorite travels are a great way to tell your story. Find images that spark joy or bring back fond memories.
  • Layer in other materials: To add dimension, try adding items with texture, such as woven tapestry, macramé art, or a small mirror.

Hallway in Hyde Park Residence 3 at Boulevard by Brookfield Residential in Dublin CA

3. Coordinate your frames

Choosing the right frames for your gallery wall depends on the style of your space, but there aren’t any rules! If you are using various art types, use one cohesive frame to tie it all together. If you want a more eclectic look, use a variety of frames in different styles, shapes, or colors to help build dimension and visual interest.

Matted metal frames instantly elevate your kids’ artwork into gallery-worthy pieces. Natural wood frames bring in that warm touch of nature. Gallery clips make it easy to swap in new unframed artwork or pictures and mix wonderfully with your framed pieces.

4. Plan your layout

Don’t even think about picking up a hammer until you’ve planned your layout. You need to be thoughtful and have a strategy for your gallery wall to look intentional and organized. Lay out everything you want to incorporate, and try different configurations to find the one you like best.

You can use paper cutouts to represent the size and shape of each item to help you visualize the layout on the wall. It’s easy to move them around to get the balance you want. Mark where the hanging hardware is to use as a guide for placing your nails when you start hanging your frames.

The key to a striking gallery wall is balance. Start with the largest piece in the middle and add more items around it, keeping an eye on the overall balance of materials, color, and visual flow from one piece to the next. If your items vary in size and orientation, maintain balance by hanging your small and medium frames next to the larger ones, and mix in vertical frames with your horizontal ones.

5. Hang your items

Once you finalize your layout, start hanging your items on the wall. Begin with the largest or most central piece and work outwards. Whether using a hammer and nails or adhesive strips, make sure your material is strong enough to hold the weight of your frames. It can be intimidating when hanging that first piece, so measure twice, use a level to ensure everything is straight, and you’re ready to go!

6. Add finishing touches

The best gallery walls are constantly evolving. Often, the most successful gallery walls change and are added to over time. Make adjustments, add some finishing pieces, and swap out the artwork whenever you feel like it. The best part about a gallery wall is there isn’t a wrong way to do one, as long as it is unique to you.

Five popular gallery wall layouts

The pieces you want to incorporate into your gallery wall will likely dictate your layout. As you start to lay your items out, you’ll begin to see a natural pattern emerge. Large picture frames generally look good with a little more breathing room, while smaller items look best when grouped together.

1. Classic grid

Living room in Plum in the Octave Collection at Livingston by Brookfield Residential in Calgary AB

A grid layout is a classic gallery wall design where all the items are hung in a uniform grid pattern. This look works best with a collection of identically sized and colored frames – think matte black or a striking brass. The clean, crisp lines create a purposeful feeling rather than chaotic, so you’ll want to ensure your measurements are accurate and you have your level handy when you’re hanging your frames.

2. One long row

Primary bedroom details of Cira Plan 1 at The Landing by Brookfield Residential in Tustin CA

The one-long-row gallery wall works especially well in hallways. Similar to a grid layout, you’ll want to use identical frames in size and color for a sleek look. Use separate images or go for an eye-catching triptych (where a single photo is split across separate panels) to create a playful, artsy series.

3. Mismatched or salon-style

Living room in Residence 6 at Wilshire at Boulevard by Brookfield Residential in Dublin CA

A mismatched or salon-style layout is more eclectic and freeform, where items of varying sizes and shapes are arranged in a loose cluster. You can play with materials and images too! Pair brass frames with wood, and have classic black and white landscapes with vibrant family photos. This layout brings an entire room together by making the seemingly different complement each other.

4. Staircase

Gallery wall on a stairway in Merritt Residence 2 at Emerson Ranch by Brookfield Residential in Oakley CA

It’s easy to breathe new life and a little coziness into an often-overlooked space by placing a gallery wall in your stairway. This vertical gallery wall draws your eye upward, giving the appearance of taller ceilings. It can be a bit more challenging to execute, but the result is dramatic and eye-catching.

5. Centered

Primary bedroom in Villas at Central Park by Brookfield Residential in Denver CO

A centered layout features a larger focal item in the center of your wall, with smaller items arranged around it. This style works best when you’re incorporating a variety of sizes and shapes.

Tips for a good gallery wall

1. Make it meaningful

One of the biggest critiques of gallery walls is the overuse of impersonal items. Mass-produced art or pieces from big box stores don’t have sentimental value, which creates a gallery wall that lacks personality. Instead, choose pieces or themes that speak to you and your style. Vintage photos, maps, or botanical diagrams are just a few pieces you can include instead of photographs.

2. Find a medium to make it cohesive

Unless your home's style is eclectic and quicky, a mismatched gallery wall will look out of sorts. Find a way to combine all your pieces for a more styled look. Choose a cohesive color scheme, matching frames, or an overall theme to bring a unifying element to your wall.

3. Let your gallery wall shine

Pick a wall that’s big enough to accommodate your gallery wall, and use the entire space as a canvas. Extend it from floor to ceiling or from one end of the wall to the other. It will look scrunched up and chaotic if you try to squeeze it in on a smaller wall. Also, don’t plan a gallery wall next to something already busy. It’s too much work on your eyes to place competing visually busy things next to each other.

Gallery wall in Gardens at Lantana at Beach by Brookfield Residential in Stanton CA

Remember, a gallery wall is a chance to showcase your style and interests, so have fun with it and choose items that reflect your unique personality and taste!

Check out the Brookfield Residential blog for design advice, homebuying insights, mortgage tips, and more, including the Complete Guide to Home Murals and the Best Paint Colors for Your Kitchen. You can also explore where we build and connect with our sales team when you’re ready to learn more. We’ll be expecting you!