- Photo by Mark Roskams
- Lee Ledbetter and John Pecorino designed the gallery wall of this Riverbend residence.
Photographs, sentimental objects and art brighten up a home with memories. A gallery wall (a grouping of varied photos and art) can be a creative way to let your story shine.
One great thing about gallery walls is their versatility: old family photos can sit right next to art or any decorative object in eye-catching arrangements. There are very few rules for creating gallery walls.
"You don't want anything to be real symmetrical," says Shauna Leftwich of Ashley Hall Interiors. "You don't want little soldiers standing in a row."
Most designers avoid straight, strict lines. Some use straight outer edges, but vary patterns within the composition, never aligning framed objects completely. The emphasis should be more on the pictures than the layout. A cohesive grouping puts focus on the balance and harmony of the pieces, without letting any one piece stand out.
"The beauty of this is that you don't have a focal point," says Lee Ledbetter of Lee Ledbetter & Associates. "You try to do it ... so that your eyes don't rest on one point, but keep moving."
To maintain this balance, spread out the similar pieces. For example, don't group large or color photos together if the rest of the images are small or black and white.
- Photo by Jocelyn Durston Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons
- Art need not be perfectly aligned for a pleasing arrangement.
Ledbetter keeps the eye moving by consciously arranging pieces in an organic design. Photos with more sky in them can be closer to the top of the grouping, while images with water or ground are placed toward the bottom. Any photos with someone looking to the right should be placed on the left and vice versa.
"You start getting a kind of conversation, if you will, among the pieces," Ledbetter says.
The gallery wall's parameters depend on the wall where it hangs. Ledbetter notes that a wall without much furniture allows you to place the photos a lot closer to the floor and ceiling. If there is furniture, don't set the art too close to the pieces, but don't feel confined by the furniture, either.
"I kind of like [galleries] on common walls," Leftwich says. "Like, on walls that are in a hall or walls that are on a stairwell ... so you can see the subject a little closer than if you put them behind a lamp table or behind a sofa."
As Collin Marquis and Stacey Wohlgemuth from Framin' Place note, wall design is subjective. However, the designers agreed that custom framing can add balance and continuity to a gallery wall. "[If] it's custom made for the art, it'll look better," Marquis says. "The final product will be better."
"We try to make the design complementary but understated so that it doesn't steal the show," Marquis says. "What's being framed is the show."
Marquis and Wohlgemuth also suggest organizing elements by theme.
- Gallery Wall Tips
Stairwells and hallways offer unobstructed views of gallery walls.
Use a mix of photos, art and sentimental items.
Group pieces that are different from each other (for example, don't hang two larger or black-and-white pieces next to each other).
Consider a unifying theme, such as all-black frames.
Hang images with cloud or sky elements toward the top and earthy elements toward the bottom.
Keep the outer edges of the arrangement straight, but avoid straight alignments within the grouping.
"I think it's more interesting to have a theme," Wohlgemuth says. "Keep a theme like all-black frames, but do them all differently."
Each person will arrange and rearrange a grouping of art, photographs and memorabilia to find the story he or she wants to tell.
"It boils down to balance," Ledbetter says. "Balance the color, scale of the pieces and the kind of conversation the pieces are having, both thematically and compositionally."