7 Designers Share the Things They Always Notice in a Gallery Wall

Modern cute dining room with gallery wall.

Vivian Johnson

There are countless articles online about how to arrange a gallery wall. You can approach the project with a science-like precision, measuring angles, matching up the scale of the images, and carefully calculating exactly where the corners of frames will align to create the most aesthetically pleasing result. But, when we asked the experts what they notice in a gallery wall and how they prefer to guide their clients, the answers were a little less, well, precise. 

As designer J.P. Horton told us, it’s “more like a puzzle than a grid.” Gallery walls don’t need to stick to a rigid formula. Instead, designers often prefer to help clients create a wall that speaks to their personal interests, their history, their quirky interests, or the portrait that caught their eye at a flea market. The pieces should coexist without matching exactly. 

When it comes to DIY’ing a wall in your own home, choose a few works of art or frameable items that you absolutely love and fill in the spaces around them as you go. Just like in life, nothing is ever set in stone, and the best stories evolve over time. However, there is one rule that came up more than once with our gallery wall gurus: go wild with different types of images and art, but stick to a common color palette for a more cohesive, intentional look.

Of course, we all know rules are meant to be broken, so if you want to throw every color in the rainbow onto your gallery wall, don’t worry, we won’t tell. 

01 of 07

Making It Personal

Modern cute dining room with gallery wall.

Vivian Johnson

"I think that the most successful gallery walls showcase artwork that has been collected over time, rather than deciding you want a gallery wall and purchasing all of the art right before you install it. Successful gallery walls are personal and tell the story of the home's occupants. Ideally, the artwork included serves as a pleasant or even emotional reminder of different stages and places in our lives—something we want to recall every time we look at that piece of art.

When designing a gallery wall for a client, we always like to start with at least one item that is personal to the client and build from that. If a client doesn't have any of their own artwork to begin, we still incorporate something personal, such as sourcing art from a gallery located where our client took a memorable vacation or trip." —Laura Hur of Lorla Studios

02 of 07

An Eclectic Mix of Pieces

Eclectic living room with gallery wall.

J.P. Horton

"I think a gallery wall works best with the least amount of planning possible. Collect art that speaks to you, and it will work together because you personally chose it. Uniform framing is great for a series of prints, but otherwise, your art will be all shapes and sizes, and therefore should fit together more like a puzzle than a grid. I have found that eyeballing placements can actually be more effective than rigorously measuring it out.

I did a gallery wall last year over my living room sofa of all the art that still had not found a home in my apartment, and it somehow fit together, filling in awkward spaces with oddly shaped pieces." —J.P. Horton of J.P. Horton Interior Design LLC

03 of 07

Well-Framed Photos

large gallery wall of vintage art.

Kaitlyn Coffee

"People are often intimidated by a gallery wall because there are so many tips online. My main advice would be these five things: first, decide on a tone, either neutral or colorful. That way, the subject doesn’t matter. Second, choose three matte colors only. Third, the medium is important. Are you doing canvas paintings or paper drawings? Most canvas paintings don’t need a matte. Fourth, get a good framer. I recommend @frameshopusa. Lastly, use real art and hang it close together." —Kaitlyn Coffee

04 of 07

Transcending the Store-Bought Look

Dining room with travel inspired gallery wall.

Robyn Donaldson

"For me, the thing I look for first in a gallery wall is something that tells me about the person who created it. That could be their taste in art, their attention to detail, the little personal touches, and more. I think truly great gallery walls transcend that 'all-bought-in-one-store' aesthetic and have a bit of personality, even if that personality is 'I only like botanical drawings' or 'I dig typography.'

For example, our kitchen gallery wall is filled with travel posters—nothing particularly ground-breaking there, but I made sure the posters were of interest to us specifically. So, my hometown, my husband's work, etc. It doesn't have to be 83 different pieces of your face/family/home or pet, but a bit of art that speaks to who you are makes all the difference." —Robyn Donaldson

I think truly great gallery walls transcend that 'all-bought-in-one-store' aesthetic and have a bit of personality.

05 of 07

Drama, Height, and a Little Bit of Everything

Large gallery wall of vintage art.

Lauren Walker

"I love the drama and height a gallery wall can bring to a room, especially when the pieces are a bit moodier. I am a person who likes a little bit of everything, so the challenge for me with creating an eye-catching gallery wall is finding the right balance of eclecticism and uniformity. To me, that means mismatched vintage art, art from favorite new artists, and mismatched vintage frames. 

To bring balance to the eclectic feel, I like to stick to a color scheme for the art and the finish of the frames. I’ve found that method lets me have my “little bit of everything” in a way that’s not overwhelming to look at. Thrift stores are great places to source old prints and frames on a budget. It may take a while and you’ll probably have to dig, but the end result is completely worth the effort." —Lauren Walker

06 of 07

Avoiding a Cluttered Look

Modern industrial living room with gallery walls.

Kylie Fitts

"Gallery walls can be a great way to showcase a client's art collection in a more informal way. While there are no set rules, I typically focus on limiting one wall for galleries in a single room to avoid a cluttered look. Find common elements, like here, where most of the art is earth tone paintings in mixed frames. Stick with similar mediums, for example, all B&W photography or all paintings in similar tones. Use varied sizes, but ensure you have some larger anchor pieces appropriate to the scale of the wall.

In this Denver Loft project, we played with the full scale of the two-story height brick wall. Clients, Heimata and Charlotte Rutgers, picked up these oversized vintage doors in their travels, which were perfect for the large scale. Custom live edge wood shelves were placed to mimic the scale of the doors and provide a space to showcase objects, many of which are representative of the couple's Tahitian and Argentine roots." —Chris McGovern of McGovern Project LLC

07 of 07

Thrifted Gems

Antique art in corner of room with books.

Gisele Blaker

"I always try to incorporate thrifted, antique pieces as much as possible. The pieces I use for my gallery walls truly need to be something I fall in love with, otherwise, it won’t make the cut." —Gisele Blaker