31 Jan, 2020

How To Curate A Gallery Wall

Sometimes I long for the days when you just grouped some pictures up on a wall and it wasn’t ‘a thing’, i.e. called a ‘gallery wall’. I have been obsessed with hanging a ‘mash-up’ of framed art on a single wall for as long as I can remember. And I can clearly remember who first inspired me too – Rita Konig. Many of you already know I have been a huge fan of hers for many, many years (I had a picture of her gorgeous sitting room in her tiny New York apartment stuck to my pinboard over 16 years ago…). Rita is my go-to source of inspiration for rooms, but in particular sitting/living rooms (my mother always taught us never to say ‘lounge’ – “lounges are only found in airports” apparently! Haha!). If you look at any pictures of her homes, and you’ve probably seen pictures of mine, you will definitely see the inspiration. I share her love of ‘cosy’ too – I always want my home to be beautiful (as much as it can be with two ten years olds), but above all, cosy and welcoming (I’ve always been a self-confessed homebody, even in my twenties). And this does not have to mean a compromise on design. Anyway, I digress (perhaps there’s another post in the making here?). Back to  (*grits teeth) ‘gallery walls’.
There are various different schools of thought when it comes to approaching your gallery wall. I certainly do not believe you should follow any kind of rules as such, but there are a few pointers that I find helpful, so I am going to share those with you. Obviously these are my personal preferences  – when it comes to gallery walls, everyone will have a slightly differently approach.

Sarah xx

ps: check out Brenda Sakoui (@brendas_paintings on Instagram) for the most beautiful flower paintings.

Mix It Up

The most interesting and engaging gallery walls for me are the ones with the most varied styles of pictures/art, i.e. ‘non-themed’. I like to mix portraits (painted,  not photogaphs – personally I’m not a fan of actual photographs on gallery walls) with botanical prints (I LOVE botanical prints, and they also look great grouped together on a smaller space/around a mirror/on a staircase), maps (I also love framed maps, and you can buy them really cheaply to great effect, plus they have the bonus of also evoking wonderful memories of past travels), movie  posters, typography prints, modern with old… The more varied the art, the better as far as I’m concerned. If you love it, include it. And play with the scale and proportions too – mix different sized pictures (as big as you can afford, and as small as a postcard) – it will look great.  And when you hang them (more of that later…), try to mix the different styles as much a possible – for example, hang a botanical print next to a map, above a movie poster, next to a portrait, something graphic and monochromatic next to a blousy flower print…
You get the idea.

Anything Goes!

 Anything goes! The more personal your gallery wall, the better.  Think of it as a visual extension of you/and your partner/family and your taste and experiences, and how they all mesh together. And don’t just think actual pictures either – one of the most ‘commented on’ pieces on our walls is a giant gold foil key, which was an invitation to a Mulberry fashion show that I attended (in fact, I WISH I had kept all of my old show invitations, as there were so many beautiful and uniques ones – they would make their own amazing wall by themselves…). Plates work well too – and the different mediums break up the art in a very effective way). I love Edit.58’s wire words (we have this one). I also have some Manolo Blank shoe illustrations (drawn by the man himself) that were originally Christmas cards from Manolo from when I was at Glamour (you could easily do something similar – you can buy postcards/books with his beautiful shoes drawings). We have song lyrics from a Sly & The Family Stone song; a giant (original) photograph of Twiggy on a moped from 1967, given to me by an old boyfriend a lifetime ago (there was no way I was giving that up!!); postcards from various exhibitions we’ve been to; a tiny antique map of Italy that I hunted down and gave to Tom as a gift many years ago, as Italy is so special to him… So our walls are a very true reflection of us, and our interests/passions – fashion, music, art, maps, flowers, travel, insects (Tom bought me some antique framed butterflies not long after we met, and I treasure them. I also often hear the kids showing their friends and informing them that “they’re REAL you know!!”).

Where To Find Your Pictures?

You can find things to frame and include on your wall literally anywhere! And you do not need to spend a lot of money to get beautiful results either. Car boots sales, second hand shops, museum shops (they always sell prints, but don’t overlook the humble postcard – once they’re framed, they look great, particularly mixed with larger prints), even pictures in books (now I hate the idea of tearing a page out of book, but there was one particular photograph that I was obsessed with, and couldn’t find anywhere, so I just took it to my framers, and they carefully removed it from my book (you really can’t even tell); or magazines. If you love it, and are drawn to it, stash it and frame it (onto the framing shortly…). Also, if you do find things that are already framed, don’t let the frame put you off – you can easily re-frame. Equally, if you find a frame you love, but you hate the picture in it, if it’s not expensive, buy it, and use to frame a picture you do love.

Tate Online Shop
V&A Shop
Barbican Shop

How To Hang Them?

Some people will tell you to first buy all your art, then meticulously plan out  and precisely measure where to hang everything. But this then involves a long wait before you get to see and enjoy your collection. So I say, gather a few pieces – say three of four – then start hanging! Sure, it’s lovely to see the finished result in one, big ‘ta-da’ moment, but you know what’s even nicer? Watching your gallery wall grow and evolve over time. Years even. And don’t forget, you can move things around as you add more and more. We have now run out of wall space downstairs, so I’ve started on the stairs (we already have two large pictures on the opposite wall on the stairs – one is a Funny Girl movie poster, and the other is a Tracey Emin (one of absolute favourites of hers (which, strangely, we already had a tiny version of, hanging in our bedroom) – a drawing of a bird with the words ‘you inspire me with your determination and I love you’ handwritten underneath. It was commissioned for the Paralympic Games in 2012), picked up (already framed in a lovely wooden frame!!) in my local charity shop when I was dropping some bags off).  I literally could not believe my luck! So always keep your eyes peeled (I know, I hate that expression too. Sorry).

Where To Hang Them?

Anywhere and everywhere!! We actually have a lot of windows in our open-plan downstairs, so there’s not as much wall space as I’d like for all my pictures  (don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the windows!). Hence the reason I have now started on the stairs!
If you’re  starting from scratch, I’m guessing you have a blank wall/large wall space that you’re looking to fill? If this is the case, try and start with one large picture (could be a poster or a map if you’re on a tight budget?), and then perhaps two or three smaller pictures? But you could just start with the one large one if that’s all you have for now and want to get going. Just don’t hang it in the centre of your wall/space.
Have a look at the examples above.  What you want to avoid is it looking too perfect and symmetrical. Mix up the sizes of your pictures/art, and personally I don’t like ‘uniform’ edges to a gallery wall, i.e. you don’t need to align the edges of your pictures (you will see that Rita abides by this ‘rule’ too,  which is probably where I got it from). Once you’ve hung your first picture, hang your next one approx halfway down the edge of the first one. And so on and so on. But remember, it shouldn’t look perfect, and you can always re-arrange (I have done this many times with certain pictures that just didn’t feel right where they were). Nothing is set in stone, least of all a gallery wall!
Another thing I learnt from Rita (I attended one of her workshops once, which I have to say was fantastic, and I would highly recommend, although they are expensive), is about hanging height. Go higher and lower with your picture hanging, not just eye level. If you have a clean/blank/free wall with no furniture in front of if, you can go almost to the ground, and to great effect too. If you have a large mirror on your mantlepiece, hang smaller picture all the way around it – it looks fab! Also around door frames. So don’t be afraid to go right up the ceiling (it might feel wrong, but honesty, it looks so good!).
When it comes to rooms, yes, you’ve guessed it, anything goes!! So don’t just focus on your sitting room (although it’s obviously a great place to start), think of the downstairs loo (if you have one), the kitchen, bathrooms… Trust me, once you start, you won’t be able to stop!


Now this is where things can get expensive. But they don’t have to if you’re a little bit savy, and patient. Framers are generally going to be pretty expensive. When we first moved to out current house, I would take one or two pictures at a time to be re-framed (as most of the art we had then was just framed in cheap frames) to an amazing framers in West London (recommended by a friend who worked at a picture picture hire company for films/shoots). They are not the speediest (which is fine – I wouldn’t rather wait longer and pay less), but they are just brilliant. I would highly recommend checking them out if you’re in London. Their prices are really reasonable.
Alternatively, there a plenty of ‘off the peg’ frames that you can buy from places such as Habitat, Ikea, and H&M. Just make sure you check your dimensions before buying.
Also, when it comes to frames and framing, again (sorry!!) anything goes. Honestly. The more your frames, the most interesting your gallery wall. So mix and match different woods and widths, with gold or silver, minimal and ornate…

All Good Things…

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are the best gallery walls (even with unlimited funds!). Be patient, and enjoy your wall grow and evolve. It’s hugely rewarding too.