Setting up a gallery wall is hardly a science, but the creativity and customizability of the process doesn't mean that there aren't a few rules that can help make building your own arrangement a little bit easier. Jen Bekman, the founder of 20x200, an online collection of curated fine art and photographry sold at affordable prices, offers up some of her key tips for creating a successful gallery wall that not only looks good to the eye, but tells a story in the process.
Plot It Out on the Floor Beforehand
To save yourself the trouble of hanging up frame after frame on your wall only to discover once you're done that you're not crazy about the layout, Bekman recommends arranging everything on the floor first to get an idea of how you want to hang everything up. "When you lay it on the floor first, you can try a few different things before committing to putting it up on the wall. Then, when you find what you like, you can just put your cell phone over it and take a snapshot of it." This picture, Bekman says, then becomes your guide for recreating the look on your actual wall.
Try to Maintain a Connecting Thread Between Pieces
Bekman is a huge fan of eclecticism when it comes to gallery walls, and feels that an arrangement of pieces that mixes and matches things like photography, paintings, and typography can be one of the most visually enticing. That being said, she does recommend finding some common factor amongst your pieces to give your gallery wall a sense of cohesion. So for example, if you're a fan of the eclectic, like Bekman, and prefer to opt out of a full-on color scheme for your wall, an option is to try to at least have one color that makes an appearance in most of your pieces. "I might find a group of images that all have yellow in them," offers Bekman as an example. "You just really want to create patterns and find something unifying."
Make It Look Natural, But Not Messy
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to gallery walls – especially one that's eclectic, like Bekman prefers – is managing to achieve a look that seems all at once effortless but also somewhat put together. "You don’t want it to look like a dorm room," Bekman says about mixing and matching colors, media, and frames. "What the wall should do is strike a balance between looking organic and eclectic, but also intentional and coherent. You want to avoid having it look like a hodgepodge." This can come back to the idea of finding a unifying factor between pieces, or of using other methods, like similar frames or presentation.
Make It Personal
A gallery wall is about making a space look intriguing, yes, but Bekman notes that it's also just about living with art, and making selections for your wall according to the kind of art and pieces that you'd be happy or excited to live with. "I want stuff that’s going to make me happy, and trigger me emotionally or evoke a happy memory," says Bekman about how her attitude informs her decisions about what makes the cut for her wall. For this reason, Bekman is all about incorporating personal items into a gallery wall, like a postcard from a favorite trip or a ticket from a fun concert. "Everything is okay to put in a frame and put on a wall if it’s meaningful to you. You should always feel good about mixing stuff up like that."
Know That It's an Ongoing Process
Flexibility is key when it comes to gallery walls, because even though you may reach a point where you're entirely content with where your arrangement stands (err, hangs), you want to keep the option to add to or swap out pieces from the gallery over time. “Gallery walls are more flexible than any other hanging arrangement because you can just continue to add to it," says Bekman. "I think one of the advantages is that it can be something that evolves and changes over time. It’s kind of like a work of progress.”