Mera’s House: Four Lessons From a Second Attempt at a TV Gallery Wall

The room that we call the Adult Lounge is definitely one of my favorites in our house.  This is the room that we retreat to after Opal is in bed to watch our favorite shows (Homeland Season 4 is SO good.  I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just say don’t be put off by Seasons 2 & 3, or Brody and his liver lips.).  When I first shared this room on the blog, the gallery wall behind the TV sparked major controversy (which in RHW terms means one or two people commented that they weren’t sold).  Here is what is looked like then:

Red House West || TV Gallery Wall

The idea behind this arrangement was that if the TV overlapped the artwork, it would make the TV seem less important, like it gathers dust in a closet until the Winter Olympics roll around every four years.  A few readers commented that it actually did the reverse; to them the artwork seemed diminished, or even eclipsed, by the all-important boob-tube.

What made me decide to change it in the end was the imbalance of space above and below the table.  The table is the Strut table by Blu Dot, and I love it for its crazy color and simple modern shape.  But the open space below the table top, delicately bisected by the struts, was a mismatch with the too-tight artwork arrangement.

I decided to re-hang the gallery wall using the same pieces, with a few additions and subtractions from things I already had.  The goal was to create more breathing room between the frames, while still giving the eye plenty to look at.  I think it looks a lot better:

Red House West || TV Gallery Wall

Here are four tips I learned along the way for creating a successful TV gallery wall:

1. Include Plenty of Black

Until the innovators out there start making TV screens that are not dark as midnight, TV gallery walls will need lots of black.  To even slightly distract the eye from the black abyss, you need artwork with similarly heavy visual weight in the mix.  I think mine would look better and be more effective with a few more black or dark pieces, or if the dark pieces didn’t have white mats.

Red House West || TV Gallery Wall

2.  Let The Frames Breathe

In the old arrangement the frames were nearly touching, which I think in some contexts can look relaxed and interesting.  But when you’re creating a gallery wall around a TV, you’re trying to give the eye other places to rest, and the eye doesn’t know where to stop if there’s no space between the artwork (the word gestalt popped into my head when I was thinking about this, but even though I’ve googled it several times I still can’t decide whether the old arrangement had too much or too little).  All of which is to say that even with a loosely composed arrangement like this around a TV, you want at least two or three inches between frames.

Red House West || TV Gallery Wall

3.  Use Art Similar in Shape and Size to the TV

In the old arrangement I had one huge painting (by Carol Crump Bryner, which is now on the wall to the right), and lots of bitty pieces.  The effect was that the arrangement wasn’t just unbalanced top to bottom, it was also much weightier on the right than on the left (made worse by the bushy rubber tree below the painting).  In the new arrangement I tried to use more large-scale pieces, but none so huge that they make the smaller ones seem like unimportant filler.   I used art I already had on this wall, but in the future I’ll keep an eye out for horizontally oriented rectangular pieces, similar in shape to the TV.

That's the look I get when I'm taking blog pictures instead of helping carry in groceries from Costco.

That’s the look I get when I’m taking blog pictures instead of carrying in groceries from Costco.

4.  Use Art With Meaning

A lot of meaningless drivel pours out of the TV — I’ve been known to sit down to an episode or two or five of America’s Next Top Model.  In the grips of a vacuous binge, glancing over at artwork with personal meaning pulls me from the shameful mire and restores me to myself.  For me there’s no better reality check in the midst of a vapid reality show than the reproachful gaze of my dearly beloved, and sadly departed, dog Megan:

Red House West || TV Gallery Wall

Red House West || TV Gallery Wall

Megan wore this sweet tag that Katie gave her for years and if I close my eyes I can still hear the jingle of it on her collar.

So, there you have it, my four tips for a successful TV gallery wall.  Any other advice to add to the list?  Thanks!

17 responses on “Mera’s House: Four Lessons From a Second Attempt at a TV Gallery Wall

  1. pippin

    I do like the changes you made. One can see the artwork better. It doesn’t seem so cluttered. However, the lamp to the left of the TV seems a bit too much. Unless you have it there because you need the light. I am smitten with Megan’s portrait, as I have a sweet border collie too that is the center of our family. Who was the artist of the Megan’s portrait? Thanks for the encouragement to watch season 2&3 of Homeland.

    1. Mera Post author

      The portrait of Megan is by George Gee, who owns a coffee shop here in Anchorage. He does a different drawing on a dry-erase board each day to announce the daily specials, and then photocopies and frames them. On my birthday years ago Chester asked him to do this portrait for me. It’s a treasure!

  2. Laura (PA Pict)

    Definitely a massive improvement. I’ve arranged many Gary walls but never one needing to accommodate a TV or other technology. I think you did a great job of problem-solving that and I agree with your guidelines.

    Moving to a new house meant using our art collection in a new arrangement to work with the new space. I ended up with black, white, gold and light wood frames all needing to fit on one wall in some sort of harmony. What I did was arrange it so that there was a connection between adjacent pieces and, as such, the pieces on the wall move from one frame colour to the next but it somehow works because there is a visual cohesion between neighboring artworks if not the overall gallery.

  3. Geni Taylor

    I had two other ideas.
    One: why not get a favorite art piece and have it transferred to a piece of fabric, making a sort of like case for the tv when you aren’t watching it. No more big black screen.
    Two: back the legs of the table with a cool wall paper or fabric. Not the exact size do the legs disappear, but to reduce the white space.
    Just a thought. Don’t know how well the would work in actuality. 🙂

  4. Susan Glassow

    I like your second grouping better. The first was too crowded. I like your sharing the
    “theory” of how and why groupings work and don’t work with the tv. And, Megan, she is much more present as well!

  5. Nina

    Huckle buckle beanstalk – I see the throw!

    This looks SO MUCH better. Great job and great advice.

    Geni beat me to it: I was going to suggest you DIY a cover for the TV. Didn’t you make a box to cover a thermostat? So if not Geni’s idea of fabric, maybe something like that. But I think it looks great right now, as is.

  6. Claudia

    Definitely looks better, like you can breathe now! And not like you covered up your art with a TV. I’ve considered making a cover for my TV- my mom had one for when guests came over, so they’d talk to each other, not ask what was on. But for myself, I don’t entertain much yet, and I watch a lot of TV, plus my husband is into video games- I’d be constantly messing with that cover, haha!

  7. erin marie

    i like all of the elements of this room! the dog portrait is my favorite. what a treasure! i want mr. george gee to make me one too! for my birthday orchestrated by my husband too! ha! the bird art, the camel planter. so many moments to enjoy in this room, each one special. i am a sucker for details especially when each one is authentic and unique. i have always wanted a hanging chair too. great room! love the update. 🙂

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