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Gallery Walls for Art - Why and How

Bedroom wall with empty frames
Don't look at the bed - look at me!

What are Gallery Walls?

Black study wall with white picture frames and chair
Bold tones - can the art match it?

Gallery walls are an idea for wall decoration which has been around for a long time. Yet it grew much more popular on online art sites in the last couple of years.

What are they good for?

As with all design, gallery walls can serve different aesthetics, in their picture content as well as their arrangement style.

They can express :-

Diversity (or "maximalism" at the extreme) and contain a wide variety of styles and subjects;

Wall with diverse pictures and frames loosely arranged
If your work is too monotonous...look up!

Grey wall with black-and-white photographs
Consistent colours and frames, diverse subjects

or they can express harmony and unity by keeping a consistent style and / or format.

Bedroom wall with symmetrical set of abstract pictures
One design cut up, makes a pattern

You can think of the arrangement and the picture content separately, or together, like the elements of a picture. These two aspects can express different things, or the same, depending on how strong you want the effect to be.

Picture Content

Is the content of your collection the most important thing about it?

For example: you might be wanting to gather together a set of photos of a particular person, group, place, or time in your life.

Eight photos from a wedding on a wall
A formal occasion, a formal layout

Or: you've found a set of artworks which follow a theme, and the collection is there to make a pattern of that theme, to express it at a larger scale. The visual effect of the art is what you're wanting to add to the wall, and the frames are mainly there to hold them in place.

Bedroom wall with six abstract pictures symmetrically arranged
Is it one picture, or six?

Den wall with 9 similar pictures in identical frames
Repeated frames make you notice differences

In these situations, you might want to use a consistent set of framing styles, so as not to distract from what the pictures are doing. (Although for, say, a set of family photos, the diversity might really suit a whimsical set of different frames - depending on your family!).

Aesthetics of Arrangement

A neat, regular, consistent grid of picture frames, expresses order, stability and reason.

A spread of differently-shaped and sized frames, with different styles (thickness, material, colour), is a way of showing that you are more interested in the content of the pictures, or the overall shape, rather than what the arrangement does for the room.

Practical Considerations

The arrangement might be mostly decided by your room! You can sometimes arrange around existing decor and furnishings:

3 pictures arranged on a wall around shelves and ornaments
Gallery is integrated with the whole wall

Can I have it both ways?

Of course, you don't have to accept either of these extremes. You can easily combine them to different extents. Such as:-

  • Eclectic frames organized in a tidy grid

  • Standard frames but arranged a bit organically

Eclectic Gallery Walls

A diverse, eclectic set of pictures, in a wide range of sizes and formats, conveys a message of richness, adventure, freedom of expression, and imagination. It can create some humanity and warmth in what may be a relatively cool, bare space.

7 differently-framed, different pictures above a desk
Whoever works here, wants to escape!

Unifying, Harmonizing Gallery Walls

Although the aesthetics of a wall are very important, I think that the gallery wall arrangement also serves a different purpose: that of joining up a theme, such as for a person or a group, or a time and place,

11 black-and-white wedding photos
People live here, as well as art

... or a mood:

6 animal photos in a grid on a pink wall
Repetition can be fun!

How can you make Gallery Walls?

Well, that's a fair bit to think about.

So I've written a separate post about how to make gallery walls.

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