Making a Gallery Wall


Life is full of compromises.  You want to get more sleep but don’t have the time. So you allow yourself to nod off whenever possible; during a movie, standing in line at the grocery store, in the middle of anyone talking about their kids.  See?  You compromised.

In order to get one thing done, chances are, if your life is full, you have to deal with the fact that some other thing is NOT going to get done.  You take the kids to hockey practice knowing that means the laundry won’t get done.  You do the laundry, knowing that means the homemade meal is not going to get done. You make the homemade meal knowing that means you won’t get to sit down for 3 hours to binge watch The Mindy Project.

Life is compromise after compromise and that’s why you can’t get everything done.  That and the thought of doing certain things sends you into such an upset you develop eye warts and spectacular stomach distress.

Such is the case with The Gallery Wall.  I know you want one.  So did I.  I know you’re putting it off.  So did I.

I could say I haven’t done the gallery wall I’ve wanted to do for the past 5 years because I haven’t had time. I could say I had to take the kids to hockey practice.  But those would be boldfaced lies.  I watched 4 seasons of American Horror Story in a day and a half just last month.  I had time.  Plus my kids aren’t enrolled in hockey.  Plus I don’t have kids.

So ….

A gallery wall is one of those things that you don’t know where to start.  You don’t WANT to start.

Want to know the trick to starting a gallery wall?

Imagine someone has a gun to your  head.  Simple as that.

Then start by dragging all your art into one room and confront it.  Look at it, take it all in, then boss it around.  YOU are going to make a gallery wall.



#1.  Use photos that all have the same coloured frame.

Yes, using frames that look the same either in shape, size or colour makes the job a bit easier but it also makes for a less interesting gallery wall.



#2.  Use all black and white pictures.

Sure if black and white is your thing, go nuts, but this is definitely a rule that can be ignored.  In fact I think an entirely black and white photo wall would be pretty boring.



#3 Trace your frames onto paper and then tape the paper to the wall so you can arrange your art without having to hang it.  Once you find a configuration you like, you can hang your actual art therefore eliminating the dreaded “Wall of a thousand holes”.

This tip is worth looking at for some people. It just didn’t work for me.  I tried to use this tip but gave up on it.  The paper kept falling off the wall, I didn’t have the patience to cut out patterns of all of my art (I just wanted to get going on hanging real art) and this method doesn’t take the actual images or even the look/colour of the frame into account.  Just the size of the frame.


So if I ignored the rules, how did I do it?  How did I finally make a gallery wall?


Like so.


I dragged up every single picture that’s been sitting in my basement and around my house.  Stuff that wasn’t remarkable enough to look good all on its own, or didn’t fit the space or whatever.


If I had a recent photo of my walls before doing the gallery wall here is where I would put it.  But I do not.  Don’t ask me how I don’t but I don’t.  I do  have a photo of the left corner of the room.  Here it is.



photo by Donna Griffith for Style at Home Magazine


That picture, even though it’s many years old, gives you a sense of what the room was like before I made the gallery wall.  Mainly because it was exactly the same for many years.  In addition to adding the gallery wall I changed up a few tables, accessories and lights.

The rattan table at the end of the couch is actually a basket from Target that I was using as a log holder.  Since it was replaced by my Ikea laundry hamper hack, I put a piece of glass on it and it now acts as a table.  The reading light over it is a vintage piece I found at my local Bible/thrift store for $9.



O.K., back to picking out your art.

It’s entirely possible you don’t have this much hidden art in your basement or on walls around your house.  That’s fine.  You’ll build your gallery wall over time.

KAREN’S GALLERY WALL RULE (feel free to ignore)

Pick your statement piece  (usually the largest frame) and work out from it.  


I had a lot of big pieces so this was hard for me and it might be for you too.




I knew I wanted my Ikea purchased, Matisse line drawing print (black and white with boobs) adjacent to my antique gold frame because of the dichotomy and how well they complimented each other.  So those were the two pieces I hung first.





Then I hopped over to the righthand side of the window and hung the anchoring piece for that side.  The blue period Picasso print in the gold frame  ( It’s kind of just propped in the gold frame right now but I hope to have it actually framed in the next decade or so.    Give or take a hockey practice or two.)

Technically (and if I were to follow the rules) this piece should either be centred on the wall or immediately to the right of the curtain panel.  But if I did that then my favourite piece of art in the whole room would be partially blocked most of the time.  So I broke the rule and hung it where you’d see it the best.  See?  The rules don’t always work for everyone and if you can think of a good reason to break one, I highly recommend you do so. You’ll thank me for it later.  Unless you’re Jewish and you’re eyeing a bacon double cheeseburger.  In that case, you’re on your own.


At this point I had my 3 major pieces hung and it was time to get the rest of them up.  I laid the remaining art on the floor of the living room according to size and/or colour.

Then I matched up frames to fit the spaces available.  By just laying everything on the floor side by side I could basically see how they’d fit together on the wall.  What you’re doing is making an art jigsaw puzzle really.

It may seem all willy nilly when you look at this sort of gallery wall, but if you really look at it you’ll notice something holding everything together. If you look at my wall below you’ll notice that the top of all the frames line up straight.  O.K. the gold frame is a little slanty but that’s just where a  wombat landed on it before I took the picture.  I was also able to make them line up on the bottom of their frames, but this isn’t necessary.  It was just luck.


You can also see that all the pictures have a similar sized space in between them.  This helps calm the riot of art down a bit.  It makes it easier to look at.


KAREN’S GALLERY WALL RULE (try not to ignore)

#2.  If you want this sort of classic, collected over time, gallery wall feel, use a mix of paintings, prints, drawings and photos.




The point is you just have to sit down and do it.  Making a gallery wall is one of those things that’s way more intimidating to think about than to actually do. Once I got rolling it was way easier than I imagined it was going to be.  Like, way easier.  For one thing I kind of imagined it was going to be like drowning puppies or showing your boobs to your neighbours.  An absolute nightmare.

But it wasn’t.

To recap:

1.  Pull out all the art in your house and put it on the floor in one room.

2.  Hang the biggest, most dynamic piece first then just start working out from there.

3.  Working with similar shaped or coloured frames is easier but won’t have quite as much impact.

4.  Lay pieces out on the floor and move them around seeing which ones will fit best together.

4.  Mix prints, photos, drawings and paintings.

5.  Tame the wall a bit by making sure some of the edges line up or there’s a relatively equal space between the hangings.


But really my most important piece of advice is just start the stupid project.  Just start it.  If you can bring yourself to do that you’ll have done the hardest part.  And understand you’ll have to make a compromise.  So the day the gallery wall gets done, shovelling up the dog crap from the yard might not get done.

Gallery wall’s not lookin’ so bad anymore is it?



  1. Stephanie says:

    When I did my gallery wall up my staircase, I stuck construction paper on the wall, cut the shape out of it where I wanted pictures to fit (including how far down to the stairs I wanted to go and how far up the wall), taped the pieces together, took it off the wall carefully, placed in on the floor in my living room and started playing with the design. Once I had it, I traced around the pictures, took a picture with my phone to remember where things went, drew a dot on each traced shape where the nail needed to be for each picture (took 5 minutes of measuring for that), re-taped the construction paper to the wall, drove the nails in where my little dots were, and not once got it wrong. Brought out the phone to remember what went where – 1 hour later – done (and we’re talking about 20 pieces of family pictures, art work and do-dads).

  2. Dana says:

    Way too funny, I had been wrestling with this same gallery task at my house for a few years. I kept accumulating coordinating pieces and then I received one if those same monogram name art pieces you have as a Christmas gift, it forced me to pull it all together and I’m so glad I did, it’s my fav wall in our house! I used that piece as my start and built it out on the floor, hung it as I went and adjusted a little at the end.

  3. Mindy says:

    I want a giant mixed one on the wall my bed is on. Have for years. All my “art” is under my bed. Waiting. I do have an enormous one behind my couch. All black frames. All black and white photos of somebody’s kids. Oh, that’s right, they’re mine. I have another over my fake fireplace and I’ve started one in the master bath that I see any time I pee and LOVE. So REALLY, I’m not quite sure what’s taking so long in the bedroom. Maybe the fact that I think it would look better with white walls. Like yours. And yours looks awesome. So yeah, clearly I need to paint. Crap.

  4. Barbie says:

    I JUST did one of these FINALLY after wanting to for so long. It wasn’t easy. I DO have a million holes in my wall…(but that has never bothered me EVER) LOL However it does bother my husband….no worries theres always spackle! Came out pretty good….but I do need to change some of the photos in the pictures. Some of them hold pictures of people that I don’t like anymore! LOL OH….it’s not an ART gallery wall….but a people gallery wall. :)

  5. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Great job maybe I will be brave and start mine..also..I want those have my

  6. Love this post Karen! A gallery wall can seem so daunting, and who has the patience to cut out paper stand-ins and do everything by the book? Not I! I’d go at it exactly like you have, and look at the fabulous results :) Nice job and thanks for the inspiration and permission to break the rules.

  7. TucsonPatty says:

    Within the last year (6months?) I finally, finally got my “Plate Wall” up. It is probably out of style now, but,oh well, I love it anyway. I did the cutting out the shapes thing and (and then used up all of my binge watching time forever by using colored pencils to approximate the plate color and design, very roughly!) then stuck the paper on the wall and marked where the nail needed to go, as the hanger was in a different spot on each plate. It was a pretty big pain in my a** and I have since added to it, simply by the seat of my pants. It wraps around an inside corner and heads on over to the wall clock that has been there for almost twenty years and looks awesome. I wish I had just done it like that in the first place – it wouldn’t have taken over my life for days and days. I love your wall, it is a thing of beauty! Thanks, as always, for your inspiration!

  8. Liz says:

    You should. I think I find your blog so addictive because you are such a DOER! and I am not-er. You motivate me big time.

  9. CZ says:

    Could I PLEASE hire you to come to my house & kick-my-butt into gear??? I’ve been thinking about this project (and many of the 100 or so more that you have completed), for YEARS! For 15+ years to be exact! My ex-husband hated the idea of a gallery wall, so being the good little wife that I was, I never did one – even though I LOVED the idea of it! But when I got my own place 15 years ago, I promised myself I would do it. And there they sit; cold & lonely in the corner of the basement. Until next weekend (it would be this weekend, but I’ve got a rare opportunity to go away with my sister). By the grace of God, and your boot kicking my butt, I WILL have my gallery wall(s) by February 1st!

  10. Safetydog says:

    Finally made a gallery wall a few years ago. The gun to my head was an impending graduation party. The collection includes the most recent annual school photos, a family portrait, a rope covered letter M, and a cross-stitch sampler done by a great-great-aunt. Love it.

    We did our “get rid of 50 things” a few months ago, after a house flood. Our daughter insisted we continue by going through our closets and dresser drawers.

  11. Donna says:

    Did my gallery wall a few months ago. The gun to my head was my neighbor. Wish I could embed a picture, it turned out great. Used my black and white pics, with black frames, and a silver clock.

    My big story this week is your “Get rid of 50 things”. I have stuck to that for 2 weeks now. All the closets in my house, my attic, and today I finished my garage storage room. I have donated twice to the homeless shelter, twice to Dress for Success, given away to friends, and thrown away so much stuff I had to sneak some in my neighbor’s trash can. Feels good to get rid of all that excess stuff I’ve been hauling around or storing for way too long. Good way to start the year!

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