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Reframing Gallery Walls

by Magnolia
Published on September 13, 2023

Reframing Gallery Walls

Home should be a reflection of the people living in it, filled with pieces of that story scattered throughout. That’s the beauty of wall art and, specifically, a gallery wall. When done thoughtfully and intentionally, a gallery wall can become an exhibit of you and your family. It can celebrate the mix of personalities under one roof, and the experiences that have shaped you.

Now to us, gallery walls aren’t one-size-fits-all. Nor are they complex puzzles you need to get “right.” Today, we’re taking a closer look—to reframe the whole journey of selecting and arranging wall art. Let’s see it from a new perspective, one where what matters most is what brings you joy, and having fun in the process!

Artistic Living Room

The Approach

Start by thinking through the content of your gallery wall. Prints, paintings, architectural pieces, illustrations, typography, photographs...the list goes on. Take into account a myriad of mediums and styles—and don’t forget shape, size, color, and material. It can be a lot to consider, so to narrow in the approach, Jo likes to lean into one of these three ways to curate pieces for a gallery wall…

  1. All New Art: Here the display ought to feel fun and fresh—with a sense of play and creativity. You’ll want to select newer artwork, any pieces that speak to you. Overall, this is an opportunity for bolder colors, modern designs, or even specific forms of art (like typography). Jo loves using this approach for something like an office space—where an extra jolt of inspiration is always welcome.
  2. Storied Pieces: If you enjoy collecting things over time, a more storied approach may fit your home best. Here you can add in family photos, vintage finds, floral paintings, and more—evolving the look as you go. For Jo, this type of gallery wall is intended to reflect your own life history. What has shaped you in the last decade or so? Whether in a living room or bedroom, the sight can serve as a beautiful reminder of your story each day.
  3. Mixing Old + New: Lastly, there is always the option to blend the two! And like the second approach, this concept is meant to grow and change over time. There may be older pieces that always stay in place, but you can swap in new photos you’ve taken or some artwork found antiquing—anything that has inspired you lately. Embrace this mentality if you need a little extra flexibility, or aren’t sure how you want the display to turn out—the ambiguity can become part of the fun.
Floral Gallery Wall

To land on approach, ask yourself two things. How long do you want to wait to fill the wall in question? And what story do you want to tell? There isn’t one right way to create a gallery wall, but, there might be a way that serves the season you’re in best. Go with that.

Tracing Out a Gallery Wall Arrangement

The Arrangement

Close your eyes and picture a gallery wall that excites you. Think about the styles and layouts that you might be drawn to. What kind of display appears? A grid of identical frames—cohesive and symmetrical. Or is it more organic and free-form with a variety of shapes and sizes? Whatever is visually appealing to you, here are a few helpful tips to consider when practically bringing it to life…

  • Plot Your Plan: It can be helpful to visualize the layout before grabbing the nails and hammer. We suggest gathering all your frames and laying them on the floor first. If possible, stand right in front of the bare wall while doing it (so you can keep size and space in mind)—and start trying a few arrangements. If you’re okay with re-nailing a couple of times, you could even start hanging from here!
  • Trace It Out: If you like things to be precise (and avoid unnecessary holes in the wall), try first creating templates of your frames by tracing the outline of each piece with Kraft paper. Cut them out and hang them on the wall with painter’s tape. Arrange and rearrange until you love the look. Pro-tip: Use a ruler or measuring tape to keep the spacing between each piece the same.
  • Pick Focal Points: Generally, you’ll want to begin with one or two larger pieces that can serve as a focal point. Somewhere for the eye to naturally gravitate towards. For Jo, she chooses her favorite piece and builds out from there. Depending on the wall, this might be a larger item that you surround with smaller and medium-sized accents.
Modern Gallery Wall
  • Strike a Balance: Cohesiveness is key. We suggest sticking to two or three frame styles and colors for a unified look (even if your display is less structured). You can also repeat a type of artwork, like a sketch or painted landscape, so the curation doesn’t appear too random. Complement a bold color with neutral pieces, tying in hues that appear elsewhere in the room.
  • Look Beyond the Wall: We say gallery walls are not restricted to, well, walls. Adding a “gallery” of art on a shelf or ledge can add dimension to a space and keep it from feeling too flat. This also creates opportunity to layer in fresh greenery or old books among the frames.
  • Make It Yours: Remember to embrace your personality in the process! If you’re a planner, see tip #2, and let yourself take the time to figure it all out. Or you might prefer to go with the flow—that’s how Jo likes to style gallery walls. In that case, allow yourself to welcome a little more trial and error.
Simple Gallery Wall

While nailing something into the wall can feel permanent, remember your gallery can (and ought to) evolve through the years, just as you do. That’s part of their beauty. As your story continues, deepens, and grows, so do these carefully curated displays—only getting better with time.

To find new pieces for your walls, explore our full collection of framed art, mirrors, shelves, and more. Both pretty and practical, these can fill in the blanks and make the most of the space between.