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October 27, 2021

Big Boost

Expert Arts Technicians

19 ways to plan and display artwork in any room

11 min read
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  • Have you even decorated a room if you didn’t feature a gallery wall idea? It’s the style statement to instantly transform a blank space into a wonder wall. With over 1.6million hashtags on Instagram it’s clear to see just how big a deal this feature wall idea really is.

    From hanging treasured family photos and holiday landscape masterpieces to inspirational quote artwork, a photo wall speaks to you like one other source of decoration.

    A picture wall welcomes a personal touch to any room, from popular living room ideas to more creative bathroom gallery walls the possibilities are endless. There are no rules of where you choose to hang a gallery wall, all you need is a free wall and a plan (along with a hammer and nails, but more on that later).

    Gallery wall ideas to display artwork

    ‘It’s easy to get overwhelmed when deciding what to include on a gallery wall’ says Anna Sheridan, stylist at Heal’s. ‘First, think about where it will be placed and the how it will interact with the scheme around it. If the room is already busy with bright accessories and furnishings, you may want to keep it simple, for example with two-tone graphics.’

    ‘Alternatively, for more pared-back schemes, a gallery wall can be a quick way to add colour and personality into the room.’ Let our brilliant gallery wall ideas inspiration your design…

    1. Go above and beyond with the layout

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Simon Whitmore

    This pleasing assortment of frames welcomes fun and personality to an all-white hallway space. The layout is cleverly determined to look unplanned, but to the trained eye there’s evidence of extreme precision to ensure all the different shapes and sizes work cohesively within the space. The matching frames, despite being in different sizes, bring a unity to the look – without it being sterile and symmetrical.

    ‘For larger gallery walls, using a variety of sizes will draw the eye across the arrangement’ advises Anna. ‘If this is the look you want to create, try to avoid pairing identical sizes together, such as two portrait A3 pieces, as this will make the overall design feel disjointed. Keep the larger frames central and use around 25 per cent of the total display to work in brighter colours.’

    2. Use space behind the sofa

    Living room with green walls and bold art work

    Image credit: John Lewis & Partners

    Anchor your living room gallery wall idea by placing it on the wall above the sofa – as this will naturally be the central focus for most living room layouts.

    When hanging artwork, a general rule of thumb is that the centre of the image should be at eye-level. In rooms where people are usually sitting down – such as a living room or dining rooms – eye-level will be at a seated position so artwork should be hung a little lower. Roughly one hand width above a sofa is a good way of gauging the right height.

    3. Follow the design rule of three

    Yellow and grey wall with sideboard and wall art

    Image credit: Future PLC

    A trick that stylists and designers often use when they’re putting a scheme together is the rule of three, where odd-numbered groupings look more natural and work better together than even-numbered. This can work with objects, colours, fabrics, wall art and interestingly kitchen lighting ideas. Keep the arrangement strictly symmetrical for best effect, with pictures hung horizontally three-in-a-row and spaced evenly apart.

    This living room paint idea, using both yellow and grey, has divided the room in half, giving more focus to the trio of framed prints.

    4. Make an impact in a hallway

    White hallway with picture gallery wall

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    Consider making a stylish first impression by creating a gallery wall in your hallway. ‘Narrow hallways and staircases are often left to be fairly empty, with too many accessories creating a crowded feel, so these are the perfect location for gallery walls’ suggests Anna Sheridan, stylist at Heal’s. ‘A gallery wall will add interest to the decor without any unnecessary clutter.’

    But how do you plan a layout? Ideal Home’s Editor Heather Young tells how she did it, ‘In the past, I created paper templates of the frames to stick these to the walls using blue-tack. Meaning I knew exactly where the nails or screws needed to go.’

    5. Get creative with wallpaper

    Navy dining room with framed wallpaper gallery wall idea

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Tim Young

    This quirky wallpaper idea is a great way to use pattern without wallpapering at all! Create a wall display by choosing an even number of coordinating pattern patterns to mount and frame in matching designs to create bespoke artwork that welcomes accent colours to work into the rest of the room.

    6. Fill a blank canvas

    Rustic grey kitchen with exposed brickwork and gallery wall

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Tom Meadows

    Wall art displayed in even numbers, such as a pair or in multiples of two, looks best when it’s hung in a symmetrical arrangement and part of a larger geometrical shape, such as a square or a rectangle. Use identical frames and mounts for a unified look and keep the spacing in between pictures narrow so that they appear part of a group rather than in isolation.

    Introducing a gallery wall as a kitchen wall decor idea offers an easy and affordable way to style your space.

    7. Create a point of focus

    wallpaper idea above picture rail with gallery wall on white wall

    Image credit: Future Publishing Plc/ Simon Whitmore

    A random assortment of pictures and frames can work well together, but it’s always a good idea to have some sort of unifying theme, shape or colour to link them. Start by positioning the most prominent piece centrally and at eye level and then work outward with smaller pieces.

    8. Frame foliage for effect

    gallery wall idea with real plants

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Simon Whitmore

    Who says gallery wall ideas are only for artwork and photos? This quirk house plant idea shows how to demonstrate further personality when choosing a theme for a wall display. An even number of framed cactus illustrations are interspersed with metal display cubes, each displaying a different potted cactus plants to bring the wall to life – quite literally.

    9. Mix and match

    white living room with fireplace place and colourful rug and wall art and blue sofa

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Dominic Blackmore

    Try a more relaxed arrangement and group artwork and other favourite things together on a shelf or mantelpiece rather than hung up on a wall – this allows you to change the display more easily and you can add to it with newer finds as and when. Start by propping your largest pictures against the wall first, layering tall items behind short ones to create an interesting backdrop and filling in gaps here and there with smaller ornaments and postcards.

    A photo wall is a great way to add a splash of changeable colour to a white living room idea, as this example brilliantly demonstrates.

    10. Seek a simple layout for smaller spaces

    living room picture wall and white sofa with colourful cushions

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Simon Whitmore

    With any gallery wall ideal it’s important to make sure your wall has enough space to create your desired photo wall, to avoid overwhelming the space – especially in a small room living room or small bedroom .

    ‘A neat grid layout is well suited for more compact spaces and can read as one larger piece of artwork’ explains Anna Sheridan, stylist at Heal’s. ‘In this instance, each individual piece should be uniformed across size, medium and theme.’

    11. Add interest to bathroom walls

    grey bathroom with gallery wall of prints and mirror above storage shelves

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Paul Craig

    A gallery wall idea isn’t just for living rooms and bedrooms, a bathroom can be the ideal space to welcome a more personal touch. Whether it’s family photos or a curated gallery wall with mirrors and artwork, a plain bathroom wall is crying out for decoration.

    ‘Using different mediums is a great way to add interest to a gallery wall and can demonstrate an eye for detail’ advises Anna Sheridan at Heal’s. ‘As long as there is an overall sense of cohesion, play around and experiment with different pieces. Mixing materials brings depth, and incorporating reflective accessories and mirrors can break up larger layouts with the illusion of added space.’

    12. Curate a nature display

    green living room gallery wall with art prints and wall-mounted flowers

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Simon Whitmore

    Pretty-up an empty wall surface with an asymmetrical arrangement. This is a great solution when you have a group of prints or wallhangings that are different but share complimentary colours or themes. Stagger the frames to create interest and energy.

    This example incorporates a quirky wall-mounted vase – perfect for fresh or faux flowers, depending in you commitment to changing the display.

    13. Make it match for a sophisticated approach

    Pictures in gold frames against blue painted wall above wooden chest of drawers in bedroom

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    Make a style statement with a matching scheme, to set a decorating guideline for the rest of the room to follow. ‘Matching frames can offer a clean overall look, where the focus lies more on the art itself, and creates more structure’ advises Anna Sheridan. ‘However, a mix of materials, textures and colours on a frame builds more character and variety – particularly for larger layouts.’

    14. Allow freedom by arranging on a picture ledge

    White living room with picture ledges with framed prints above white sofa

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Tim Young

    A picture ledge allows you to change things up more freely, as opposed to a mounted gallery wall with holes in the wall. If you have an assortment of artwork and family photographs that you want to display together, try a staggered arrangement displayed on a narrow picture shelf.

    This works well if you have lots of pictures in different shapes and sizes – just keep to similar frames, colours or mounts. Start with the largest frames first, working down to the smallest, overlapping as you go to fill in any gaps. It’s the ideal solution for a rented flat, meaning less holes in the walls but no less visual impact.

    15. Coordinate colours

    picture wall display in bedroom on picture ledge

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Mel Yates

    Use a gallery wall display to enhance the wider room by coordinating a colour scheme. In this monochrome bedroom colour scheme idea the picture ledges matches the accent colour on the bedlinen, while the matching black frames and monotone artwork tie in with the accessories and create a style statement.

    16. Make it abstract

    Home office picture wall idea with Washi tape

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Dominic Blackmore

    For a gallery wall that feels unfussy and more creative for more a cork board with a loosely curated displays of photos, postcards and keepsakes. Add to the artistic flair by securing the pictures with colourful pins or strips of decorative Washi tape. the beauty of Washi tape means you can use this idea for a plain painted wall, securing the photos in place without damaging the walls. Ideal for a teenagers bedroom idea.

    17. Stagger the alignment to create interest

    open-plan living room with wall lights over mustard velvet sofa

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Nick Smith

    Use your gallery wall alignment to draw the eye in. Even if you choose to hang the frames in even numbers you can still create interest by choosing an alternative layout, with a synchronised bottom line, but using different sized frames and an uneven layout. This fine example is a smart wall to draw the eye into the room, allowing the view beyond to take focus at the opposite end. The layout balancing the room and it’s surroundings.

    18. Create a focal point

    If a room doesn’t have a natural focal point, a piece of artwork will work a treat. Take a bold approach in a small space and go for an over-sized image. ‘The contrast will create an installation-like feel, particularly with a contemporary or abstract piece,’ says Philippa Prinsloo, Home Design Manager, John Lewis & Partners.

    19. Hang freely for an alternative perspective

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Polly Eltes

    To keep walls free of raw plugs and nails try an alternative method of hanging a gallery wall, like this example with frames suspended from a peg rail. This idea is ideal if you’re looking for ways to decorate a rented home.

    How do you layout a photo gallery wall?

    Planning is key when it comes to creating the perfect layout for a photo gallery wall. Before making any holes in the wall, plan a layout that you’re happy with. Heal’s stylist Anna Sheridan shares her top tips to planning with precision, ‘The easiest way is to lie each piece out on the floor and try different configurations to see how the different art works together.’

    ‘You can also cut pieces of tracing parchment or old wrapping paper to match the size of each frame, or use masking tape to create an outline, and use these as templates on the wall to move around and visualise which configuration works best.
    If you’re looking for art online and still haven’t decided which pieces you want to use, create a digital moodboard on your computer to include existing furniture in the room, as this will help to visualise what will work within the scheme.’

    ‘There is no single guide that works for every room, especially when you’re designing a bespoke layout of frames, so it’s okay to judge the arrangement by eye and adjust it to suit your individual scheme. However, as a rule of thumb, aim to have the centre of the gallery at eye level height – around 57” from the floor.’

    What are the do’s and don’ts of a gallery wall?

    ‘Common mistakes are not planning the layout before hanging frames; using clashing colours; not having enough size variation and inconsistent spacing between prints’ says Anna Sheridan at Heal’s. ‘Try to avoid hanging a gallery amongst existing artwork, or on the same wall as a TV or window, as this can distract from the display and make it look disjointed.’

    ‘When deciding the type of look you want to create, Pinterest is a great place to start – with hundreds of examples to find inspiration from, you can collect the colours, patterns and layouts that you love the most.’

    ‘However, it’s best to stick to one overall theme to maintain a cohesive and considered look. Even if you want to mix photography with abstract art, drawings and typography, try to keep at least one element the same throughout – whether it’s a common colour palette, a collection of family photographs or your favourite travel destinations.’

    Living room with navy blue feature wall and picture gallery

    Image credit: Douglas Gibb

    How to hang a gallery wall

    ‘Once you’re happy with the layout, hold each piece against the wall and make a small mark where the top of the frame should lie’ advises Anna. ‘Measure the frame from the top to the point at which it will hang, and mark this distance on the wall so you know where to put the nail.’

    You’ll require a hammer, spirit level, measuring tape, picture hooks, and picture hanging wire or cord. If your gallery includes any heavy-weighted frames, mirrors etc it’s best to use raw plugs and screws to avoid any items falling off the walls – this has happened to me and it’s terrifying when it crashes to the floor and glass smashes everywhere!

    ‘Aim to keep the distance between each piece the same, with a space of around 3 inches.’ advises Anna. ‘If the frames are too far apart, the final look can feel disjointed; too close together and it will appear over-crowded. The great thing about gallery walls, is that they can continue to grow over time, so it’s best to start with a layout that you love and leave room in case you want to add further pieces later.’

    The brilliant thing about any gallery wall idea, layout or framing style, no matter if you copycat from a recent source of inspiration your gallery wall will be 100 per cent bespoke – because the prints and photographs are totally unique to you.

    Happy ‘gallery wall’ creating!

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