5 Tips for Creating a Picture-Perfect Gallery Wall
You don't have to be an art collector to hang a gorgeous gallery wall.
Rule number one: Don’t overthink it.
You can hang practically anything in a gallery wall. Here at DIY and HGTV we’ve seen it all – paintings, photographs, antlers, clocks, mirrors, plates, even shoes. So it’s no surprise that interior designer Michel Smith Boyd’s unique gallery walls caught the eye of our editors.
Michel Boyd's studio is its own work of art. Sculptures and art displayed in a mix of eclectic frames fill the space above his kitchen cabinets.
From metal artists to printmakers to mixologists, we’ve been curating (get it?!) Atlanta’s best creatives. Michel invited us into Smith Boyd Interiors, his home and studio, to install a gallery wall from start to finish.
“I am obsessed with galleries, just because I like layers,” says Michel. “As many pieces as I can get in a room at one time harmoniously, I do it.”
The moment I stepped into Michel Boyd's Atlanta studio I remember whispering, "The other editors are going to LOVE your space." They did!
Michel’s design style reflects this “layers of luxury” concept. Different textures, finishes and hues – and a lot of them – invite you to look around and perhaps even touch while his arrangements still feel like a cohesive design.
“As opposed to just having one piece,” he continues, “why not have multiple pieces that tell different stories about the homeowner?” Before our demo, Michel had just returned from installing over 50 pieces of art for a client.
So make it your own, and grab your family photographs, that autographed concert poster, your kids’ grade-school art and anything else you’ve got lying around and start hanging.
Hit the Thrift Shop
This gallery grouping was made by searching local flea markets and vintage stores for a mix of colorful and neutral pieces ranging in shape, size and subject matter. After spacing them out on the floor, the collection was hung on the wall with a consistent amount of space left between each piece.
Once you have your vision for a gallery wall, get organized.
Take it from me – I’ve spent over a year talking about making a gallery wall and only 30 minutes actually attempting to create one. (Even now, while writing this, what is supposed to be two gallery walls flanking my bedroom window is only half-finished, and one corner of my bedroom has been taken over by stacks of photos waiting to be framed.)
The good news is, you only need a few basic items:
- measuring tape
- painter’s tape
- hammer and nails
- picture hangers
Here's a trick from Michel to keep picture frames flush with the wall: Attach felt furniture pads to the back of the frame. They're inexpensive and easily removable.
In most cases you’ll also want a ladder or stepstool. The nails and picture hardware you’ll need will depend on your chosen pieces. Some frames and canvases come with hardware already attached. For others you may have to install the hardware yourself. For heavier items (oversized art, shelves, planters or a television) you’ll also want to use a stud-finder, a drill, plus anchors and/or screws to prevent heavy items from falling and doing damage to your walls.
Add felt furniture pads to your shopping list, too. Pro tip: Michel attaches small stacks of them to the back of frames and paintings so they don't lean forward.
Michel’s movements with a tape measure are flawless. In fact, I didn’t even realize he was making such fluid movements until I was at home, struggling to work the tape measure and hold up a painting at the same time. Take it slow to avoid frustration and damage to your wall.
The next step is to decide on a design. You can draw it out on paper or lay out the pieces on the floor. Drawing is great if you’re looking for structure – think hanging square photographs in a perfect grid. The latter option is more organic, allowing for quick swaps without having to erase or start over. If you go this route, pick a focal point: choose an item to be the “star” of your gallery wall, then build around it.
When the design is set, measure, measure, measure. Michel uses painter’s tape to measure the top line “because it’s much more forgiving. We can rip it off at the end.” When measuring out your top line, stand back and decide how much negative space you want from the ceiling and from the floor. Don’t forget to account for any furniture.
Next, measure the actual art. You’ll also need to account for any hardware; so, the picture frame may be 24 inches x 28 inches, but you also need to know the distance between the top of the frame and the picture hanger. Remember to account for slack if you’re using wire picture hangers or if you’re hanging items like tapestries or macramé. If you're a green thumb and want to include a vertical garden in your gallery wall, don't forget to factor in plant growth that may block another piece in your display.
Now you're ready to hang. If you’ve followed these steps, you’ll quickly realize this is the easy part.
Watch the video below to see the full installation and get more tips from Michel: