Do you have large, empty walls in your home? Are you trying to figure out what to do with them? How about creating a gallery wall to fill the space and bring some character and interest to your room? That’s what I decided to do in our dining room after living with a near blank wall for almost 10 years! Today I’m sharing my tips for creating gallery walls in your home and finally filling those big blank walls!
GALLERY WALL: MY TIPS FOR FILLING A BIG BLANK WALL
We’ve been in our home for almost 10 years now and while it doesn’t look like we just moved in, a lot of our walls feel unfinished. We have art and mirrors hung here and there, but as we refine and edit our style and taste, we are forever moving things around. Leaving blank walls in our wake.
Our dining room is one such room.
On the shorter wall that divides the kitchen from the dining room, I designed a gallery wall featuring silver platters. It fills the wall nicely and brings some warmth and patina to the space. But on the largest wall running parallel to it, it’s been relatively empty for the last 10 years.
I found an antique federalist mirror while thrifting at one of my favorite fleas a few years ago and put it up on the wall. We later purchased an “Akron” sign printed on canvas and displayed it proudly above and called it a day.
With nothing else around them, they felt lonely and lost on this big, blank wall. Not having a plan left us with an unfinished wall and no direction for fixing it.
Since this is one of the rooms in our home that feels the most complete, making a plan for this wall felt like low hanging fruit. A quick project that we could easily take care of that would add so much to the space.
Here’s how I finally tackled this big, blank wall and my tips for creating a gallery that fits the style of your home.
Gallery Wall Tips
- Decide on a look
- Select a theme and/or color pallet and gather items
- Use what you have around the house
- Determine frame types, sizes, and styles if needed
- Lay out pieces on the floor to help determine the design and focal point
- Use paper templates on the wall to solidify spacing and layout
- Don’t box yourself in
- Make note of what you still need
- Putty or a bit of tape keeps everything straight and in place
Decide on a look
Start by examining the style and look of your home. Do you prefer more modern and eclectic looking spaces? Then you may want an asymmetrical gallery wall of some sort. Do you like to keep things simple and classic? Maybe a classic grid gallery wall is more your taste?
If you’re unsure of the look you want, do a search in Pinterest for “gallery wall ideas”. Take note of the ones you gravitate towards and save them for reference.
Matching the style and look you are going for in your home will help to re-enforce your design scheme and create cohesion throughout all your spaces.
Select a theme and/or color pallet and gather pieces together.
Once you’ve determined your style and the look you want to create, it’s time to start pulling together the pieces you want to use.
There are many things that you can use to create a gallery wall. From art and family photos to plates and wall signs. Almost anything goes!
When selecting the pieces you want to use in your gallery wall one of my tips is to think about what the space needs. Is the room lacking color? Does it need a good dose of character and personality? Thinking this through can help you decide what you may want to include in your gallery.
Once you get an idea of what’s lacking in your space and how your wall gallery can help fill this gap, select a theme or color pallet for your collection.
For our dining room, I felt like it was missing a bit of our personality and some character. I have a real love for what I would call English wall galleries. The kind you see on shows like The Crown or Downton Abbey. I love the over the top, grand portrait displays in large, intricate, gilded frames found in chateaus and family estates. But, I also love the collected look of a good gallery wall in an English country home showcasing landscapes, dogs, and depictions of an English hunt.
I wanted to bring a mix of the two into our dining room and knew that the large blank wall would be the perfect spot to create this.
So, I had an idea of what was lacking in the space, and I had determined the theme for my gallery wall. Next, I started gathering together different pieces that I thought I could use. Portraits, seascapes, and landscapes that all fit with my overall design scheme.
Another one of my tips for creating a gallery wall and working with a large, blank space, is quantity. If you think it will work, grab it. Walls can handle a lot of art and it will take more pieces then you may think you need to feel complete.
work with what you have around the house
Another one of my tips for creating a gallery wall in your home is to work with what you have.
Chances are if you’re like me, you most likely have art stacked in a pile or tucked away in a closet waiting to be hung. And, if you buy pieces you love and are drawn too, most likely they will work together in a gallery wall.
Start by looking around your home at the pieces you already have. Most of the art on the wall in our dining room I’ve had for quite some time. They were just sitting in a spare bedroom waiting for the perfect spot or application. I gravitate towards landscapes, portraits, and seascapes so it was easy for me to pull items that would work together.
Gather them together and make note of what you have. What could be grouped together to create a gallery? Do you have enough pieces to fill the space on the wall? What still needs to be framed? What pieces might you need to add?
From there, I made note of what I still needed. Then, when I’m out thrifting these notes help keep me on track so I know what to keep an eye out for.
Determine frame types, sizes, and styles if needed
Unframed or even digital prints you print yourself off of Etsy are a great way to add affordable art to your wall gallery.
In some galleries, depending on the look you are going for and the pieces in it, it may make sense to leave all or some unframed. But, for the most part, you’re going to want to have some sort of frame for any loose pieces you have.
Keep notes with you regarding each piece needing a frame. Note the size of each piece and whether or not there is leeway to trim the piece down and to what size.
I also like to snap a photo to keep on hand for reference when I find a frame I think may work. This helps me quickly determine if the frame color or style will work well with the print in question.
For our dining room wall, I have 3 pieces that still need frames. When searching for ones that will fit the print and the style of the gallery, I’ll keep in mind what frames are currently in the mix. Using gold, brown tones, or black will help to keep everything cohesive.
Don’t forget matting as an option for your pieces. This will give you some leeway when looking for frames as well. You can make a smaller piece of art work in a larger frame by adding a matte or two.
Determine your layout – set a focal point
Now that you know the style you prefer for your wall gallery, and you have gathered together and framed any pieces needing to be framed, it’s time to start laying it all out!
Another one of my tips for creating a gallery wall is to use the floor. When deciding on how to arrange a gallery wall, if I have the space, I like to lay out the pieces on the ground. This helps me get an idea of what looks good next to what and which pieces work best next to each other. I can see which piece I want to be my focal or starting point and work out from there.
I’m such a visual person and I’ve found this is the quickest and easiest way for me to narrow down the design. I can move them around and try different layouts without making a mess of the walls.
I noted above that it’s always good to have more options than you may think you need and this is another reason why. Not only can the wall handle more art than you think, but as you start to map out a design, you may find that a piece just doesn’t work. Or it works but needs something next to it.
Sometimes I’ll grab pieces I have on hand just to test out the size even though they may not work in the design. I can easily see what I may need to add to my list to hunt for.
Use paper templates on the wall to solidify spacing and layout
This next tip is not one I always do when creating a gallery wall but I HIGHLY recommend. It will save you a lot of time and extra work fixing holes in your walls. Even if you followed the above step and laid out the pieces on the floor.
I’ve found that laying out my wall gallery on the floor gets me 90% of the way there. Translating the design to the wall via paper templates of each piece helps ensure that what I designed on the floor, translates well to the wall.
When designing our gallery wall in the dining room I skipped this step. When I moved everything up onto the wall I quickly found out that there was a decent amount of space between the bottom pieces of the gallery and the chair rail. Enough that it looked empty and needed filling.
On the floor, I could easily tell how I was doing scale-wise across the length of the wall, but the amount of space from ceiling to chair rail wasn’t as easy to see. Had I followed my own suggestion and mapped out the design with paper templates on the wall, I would have seen this.
Another reason why this is an important step not to be missed is for spacing and alignment of pieces. By creating a paper template of each piece you can see where you need to fine-tune the spacing and where you want them to overlap or align.
BRB while I go fix the extra holes in my wall!
Don’t box yourself in
When laying out your gallery wall, try not to box yourself in. This may seem like a no brainer but trust me on this.
You may think you know what piece you want to be the focal point or you might have certain pieces you think need to be next to each other. But, I’m here to tell you, don’t! Fight it!
Take a picture of the layout if you’re afraid to move it and then try something new. You never know what may work until you get out of your head and move those pieces around.
For our dining room wall, I was hell-bent on using our federalist mirror that I loved so much in the mix. I didn’t want to have to move it or find another spot for it and patch the hole. But, I finally let go of the idea and tried something new. It instantly felt better and more aligned with the vision I had in my head.
So, when something isn’t working, mix things up! I also found that posting a million pictures of my indecisiveness on Instagram stories works too! Getting fresh eyes on your design helps you to see things you can’t see, being so close to the design.
Good friends reached out and gave me their opinions helping me to see possibilities I couldn’t! That’s what friends are for right?!
Make note of what you still need
If you’re working on a big gallery wall, chances are you’re going to find gaps with your layout that need to be filled and that’s ok!
In one of my tips above for creating a gallery wall, I mention that you should grab more art or items for your design than you think you may need. Even if it’s just for size and scale. This comes in handy when you find yourself short a piece or 3!
While you’re working through the design, it’s helpful to have something on hand as a place holder. You can quickly and easily test out the size and number of pieces that you think you will need to fill the gap.
In my original layout with the federalist mirror, I had a spot that I could see needed two small pieces. I had two 9×11 inch gold frames on hand that when put in place, were a perfect fit.
While I love the art in the frames it doesn’t necessarily fit with the design scheme of my gallery. I made a note to look for pieces around this size that could work instead. If I get frustrated or impatient, I can always purchase digital art that I know will work and use it in the frames instead.
Use a bit of putty to hold things straight
My final tip for creating gallery walls is to have a pit of putty or tape on hand for keeping everything straight.
You worked so hard to get everything perfectly level and aligned the way you want it. Now, add a bit of putty or tape to the back of one of the corners of each piece that needs it to keep it there. Something like this reusable museum putty should do the trick.
This will help ensure all your hard work stays perfectly aligned. Even as people walk by or move within the space.
Nothing is final
There you have it! My tips for creating gallery walls that match your style and bring character and interest to the big blank walls in your home!
My bonus tip for you is to remember your gallery wall isn’t final. I think this can be the biggest hurdle to getting started and putting pieces up on a wall. The idea that it has to be perfect the first time around or that you have to have everything on hand before you start.
This isn’t true. You can start small and build your gallery as you find pieces you love. The point is to JUST GET STARTED. Dig those pieces out that you’ve been holding on to. Start filling the space and adding your personality and style to your rooms.
Trust me. It will make a HUGE difference and bring so much character, charm, and interest to your home!
Do you have a gallery wall in your home?