Getting the Hang of It

Display art and photos like the pros by creating a gallery wall

A blank wall, like a blank page, can be daunting. But don’t let it keep you from personalizing your home with a gallery wall designed for your collections.

“You need to ask yourself if you are looking to create a specific feeling, such as eclectic, vintage or earthy,” says Robin Reiners, an art consultant with Slate Art, which has locations in North Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and Oakland, California. “Or is it a specific style of work you have collected over time and you want to display it better?”

The space where you’re going to hang the art is also a factor. Reiners helped a client in Sun Valley, Idaho, select a number of pieces by contemporary abstract painter Melissa Herrington, and they installed a vertical gallery wall in one of the modern home’s stairwells.

Andy Warhol, How to Create a Gallery Wall, Mountain Living magazine

Gallery walls can break up the sameness of having large paintings on multiple walls. In a California residence, Reiner grouped seven vintage photographs of Andy Warhol (photo above), providing a balance to several big works that hang nearby.

Homeowners make the mistake of spreading out smaller pieces, and the items end up looking insignificant. Reiners advises assembling the pieces, looking at what they have in common, and creating displays with them.

Photographs that are framed alike can be successfully arranged in “the opposite of a grid and perfection,” according to Spencer Rank, owner of Teton Art Services in Jackson, Wyoming. He recalls helping a client create—in a walk-in closet, no less—a display of 60 family photos. They chose one larger piece as a building block, then surrounded it with medium and smaller photos.

How to Create a Gallery Wall, Mountain Living magazine

The number of pieces on a gallery wall should be dictated by the size of the wall and the effect you want to create, says Katelyn Stetler, art director of Denver-based Artifact Uprising.

In addition to framed pieces for your gallery wall, don’t be afraid to insert a special object into the group, such as a musical instrument or textile piece, Stetler says. “If it means something to you and will bring a smile to your face after a long day, use it. Your home is your space.”

The art of creating galleries
How to Create a Modern Gallery Wall, Mountain Living magazine
For a modern feel, leave no space between frames.

Thinking of installing a gallery wall? Art experts share their tips and tricks.

Assemble the works you want to include in your gallery on the floor and move them around until you like the result, advises fine art installer Spencer Rank of Teton Art Services. But don’t overthink it. “It’s great to mix and match with a certain randomness. You don’t want it to look too rote.” Center the arrangement on the wall by measuring 60-62 inches from the floor. A good rule of thumb is to have the highest part of the gallery no more than 90 inches from the floor, the lowest at 30. Rank likes to leave 2-3 inches of space between the frames.

It can take a new set of eyes to look at your artwork and come up with a gallery concept you’ll love, whether you find a friend or a hired professional to assist. “A lot of time we’re dealing with the leftovers,” Rank says. “But the sum can be greater than the parts. The images might seem disparate, but they could have a unifying color or compositional element. We can put them together and come up with something cool.”

Another useful device is painter’s tape. Use it to mark off the pieces where you think they’ll work on the wall, stand back and assess before picking up a hammer and nails. Art consultant Robin Reiners likes to arrange artworks on the floor, photograph the grouping and then analyze it as a single image. You can also take photos of the individual artworks and use a software program (like Apple’s Pages) to do a layout to on your computer, moving the pieces around until you get a grouping you like.

If you are commitment-averse and like to change your artwork frequently, gather a few pieces that can be propped against the wall, placed on a mantel or displayed on a table rather than hung. Next, graduate to a ledge that you can attach to the wall and display framed pieces on. As Katelyn Stetler of Artifact Uprising observes, “Ledges are super simple to install, and you can get a textured look that’s easy to swap out.”

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