Small Victories: Getting Art off the Floor and onto the Wall

Now that our living room is painted and I have a few new tricks for creating inexpensive frames up my sleeve, I thought it was time to give a gallery wall a try.  I have always liked the look of walls filled with art, and I’ve been debating what to put above the credenza for quite a while.  To refresh your memory, here’s a picture of the space I’m talking about:

Red House West//Miller Evolution Paint

The last time I tried hanging a gallery wall – at our old house – it was an abject failure.  In retrospect I think the pictures I hung were too small and the wall too large, but whatever the reason the result wasn’t good.  This time I decided to be more scientific about my approach, so I made a round up of art walls I love then tried to dissect why.  Here are the pictures I referenced:

Looking at these images I decided I like art walls that:

1. Have a mix of sizes and shapes, and a variety of frames (not all matching)

2. Have a loose arrangement – I don’t like a perfect grid, but prefer irregular space between the pictures

3. Have a mix of media

4. Cover the whole expanse of the wall

5. Balance color – it looks more like a collection when there are common colors among the images

The first thing I did was gather my pictures together.  The art for this wall is comprised mostly of woodcuts and drawings, and is a mix of pieces I’ve had for years and a few things I’ve recently picked up at thrift stores.  I measured a space on the floor in the same dimensions as the wall and played around with the arrangement.  In trying to make a balanced composition, I considered the size and color and how much black there was in the image and frame.  I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of this step, but the picture I took is on my phone which is – most inconveniently – in my mom’s car an hour away.  I am pretty alarmed by how unmoored I feel without it.

To make things more cohesive I painted the frame of the portrait black (bottom right in the photo below) and painted the matting of the two kelp drawings with a leftover sample pot from Farrow & Ball (top right).  Once I had an arrangement I liked, Cameron and I worked together to place most of the art on the wall.  We started by hanging the largest picture in the bottom left, then worked our way up and over.  We decided to line up the outside edges of the frames but just eyeballed the spacing otherwise, so the layout wouldn’t be too rigid.  Our living room walls are plaster so we used a drill to make pilot holes for the nails, and we used a little level to make sure things were hanging straight.  There were four pictures I had trouble deciding on where to place, so I traced them onto newspaper and played around with the configuration. Once I figured out their placement, I measured where the nail needed to go for them to hang at the right height and drilled right through the paper.  This method worked great for arranging the smaller frames!

gallery wall with newspaper templates

And here’s the completed wall:

Gallery wall

The picture on the bottom left (by Alaska artist Sydney Bishop) is one of the very first pieces of art I ever bought, back in my transient days when I never lived anywhere long enough to actually hang things up.  I carried it around for ages and then my mom had it framed as a gift a few years ago–I love the style of it and the setting.  The two smaller pieces are also from Alaska, and I like them next to my  $0.99 thrift store drawing and its fabric-covered mat.

gallery wall left sideI was determined to include this art deco frame on the wall.  I liked that the shape was different from all the other frames, and it’s way too pretty to be languishing in a closet.  I don’t have art that fits it though, so I covered a piece of cardboard with black fabric and attached two ravishing airplants.  I just balanced the plants on straight pins so they’ll be easy to take down to water.  They’re looking mighty fine above the adenoidal lady portrait.


As I was taking pictures, Dean got sick of all the attention that he wasn’t getting and decided the gallery wall would be much improved by the addition of a fat fur beast.

gallery wall 2

He was right of course!  I’m liking the gallery wall, and like how the many frames on this wall are balanced by Beatrice’s looming visage on the opposite one (don’t know who Beatrice is?  You can see a picture of her in this post).  Hope you all are having a great week – come back on Friday for a round-up of costume ideas for Halloween!

10 responses on “Small Victories: Getting Art off the Floor and onto the Wall

  1. Susan

    Your new paint really works with your collected art. I always wonder how intuitive this is. Which one or ones(as in the case of the gallery) led to the other? The way in which you source other walls and analyze them as well as your detailed directions, patterns of newsprint and measuring on the grid for the whole display, really inspire new gallery arrangements in our home. Dean isn’t waiting around for his frame!

  2. y2knina

    Oh, I love!

    I am a big gallery wall fan. I have one so far in my home and I actually picked up a piece at the framer today which will give me enough to get another one put up that has been in the planning stage for quite a while. I, um, may or may not also be actively hoarding for planned third and fourth gallery walls. Don’t judge.

    I really love your choices and your arrangement. I have a photo file of gallery walls for inspiration that I refer to often. This one is definitely going to be added as Gallery Wall 22!

    Nice job, Katie!

  3. y2knina

    PS I said I would ask the framer about how to insert those prong doo-hickey things that hold the glass/mat/art/backing in the frame without inadvertently performing under the fingernail torture techniques on myself. Basically, he told me they use a few different type of guns to do it and they really aren’t meant to be applied by hand. He told me to bring by any of my DIY framing jobs and he would finish them off for me. Which is nice for me, but unfortunately I have no helpful hints to pass along. Other than: spend regularly at your framer and be nice and maybe you, too, will get a helping hand.

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