Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Create a Gallery Wall

Monica L. Shulman - Gallery Walls
My workspace. All photos by me unless otherwise noted.  First column: "Love" print in gold from Made by Girl.  "The New Yorkers" printed by the Vermont Photo Place Gallery for a show last year.  "Running to and From" self-portrait (on desk).  Second column: Vogue cover and frame c/o Art.com.  "Hot Purple Lips."  Lucia last fall with an inset photo of my favorite picture of my husband, then-boyfriend, that I took when we visited Venice in 2002 just six months into our relationship.   Third column: Family portrait by Paula Lizarraga last summer.  Lucia in our bed during her first trip to East Hampton.  Paris in 1997 when I was living there, printed by me and my dad.  A gifted quote print via Etsy.  Fourth column: "Me and Myself" self-portrait on our old terrace in our first NY apartment, printed by the Vermont Photo Place Gallery for a show last year.  Portrait of Lucia last winter.  Photo of a well-worn path in 2003 on film on a trip to Barcelona (one of my personal favorite photos for so many reasons).  Prints on adjacent wall are artworks from two different artists.  Both gifts from my mother when I started law school.

A gallery wall is the perfect way to display beautiful and meaningful art and photos in your home.  We've been collecting all sorts of art and for obvious reasons we have accumulated hundreds (if not thousands) of photographs over the years.  Of course living in New York City we have limited space not only to store such lovely things but also to hang them and so I've definitely gotten creative when it comes to displaying and showcasing my/our favorite pieces.

After many failed attempts at  unleashing the interior designer in me (not to mention many damaged walls) I think I have finally nailed down (pun intended) a system that works for me every time.  After you have selected your frames and your artwork (more on that below) here are some simple steps for creating your gallery wall in pretty much any room in your home. 

Step One 
What you need

1.  Measuring tape
2.  Artist's tape (masking tape will do)
3.  Pencil and paper (to jot down measurements if you're like me and somehow manage to forget them two seconds after you've taken them)
4.  Hammer
5.  Nails (take a look at the back of the frames you've selected to see what kind will work best for you)

Step Two
Choosing Frames and artwork

This is the part where you can get as creative as you want.  I've seen a lot of beautiful walls (thank you Pinterest!) that use all different types of frames mixing modern with baroque, black with white, silver and gold, etc. and I've seen walls of all black frames, all silver, all white, etc.  For walls that are strictly photography gallery walls, I've seen people do all black and white or all color (I've done both).  I say to do whatever you want.  Easy enough, right?  It's your space and there's no need for it to be uniform.  My mother always says "if it matches in my eyes, then it works" and we used to tease her about that but it's 150% true!  I'm pretty sure that at some point my obsessive, type-A tendencies will force me to switch the two black frames and the one brown frame out.  They definitely go with the room as a whole but I'm thinking I would want to do white or something in a metal tone like the others.  We'll see. 

As for what to put where all I can say is that you have to be open to trial and error.  I'm a very visual person so after I have an idea in my head I need to execute it.  If it doesn't work, I change it and if it still doesn't work, I change it again.  I can't tell you how many times I switch prints and move paintings in my home.  It's actually a good thing that I live in a small space because I can't even imagine what I'd be doing with the extra square footage.

It's your home so do whatever fits for your life, style and aesthetic.  This wall is in the small corner of our bedroom that I use as my work space so I wanted to make it fit with what is already in the room.  I decided to mix posters with personal photographs and I think it worked out really nicely.  Everything I've chosen for this wall has a special meaning for me and inspires me.

We've been living here for about eight months and for the first three we hardly had anything up on the wall.  I always wanted our bedroom to be a zen place with minimal decorations and no television and this was definitely the case in our previous apartment where we had more room because Lucia was still a little baby and I had a separate office.  But this also works because as much as I like bare walls in the bedroom, I also love to wake up in the morning and be reminded of all the reasons why our life is so wonderful and full of love.

Step Three
Make a box on your wall.  

Monica L. Shulman - Gallery Walls

So now that you've picked out your art and frames it's time to start organizing it.  

Use artist tape to designate the area where you will hang the pieces.  I'd say that this step is optional depending on the location of your wall but I always find that it is necessary so that you can draw your eye to the space where you will be hanging your frames.  In this example it was probably not that necessary since I had a limited space that was naturally drawn by the corner where the two walls meet and  because of where we have the television set.  However, if you're planning on hanging your display on a fairly large wall but you want to limit the amount of room you take up with your frames, then this step would be especially helpful for you.

If you're having trouble trying to figure out how much space you'll need you can try adding up the measurements of all of your frames plus about two to three inches between each frame.  Using your measuring tape, mark the space on your wall and then stick the tape to help you visually.  Either way, this doesn't need to be precise since the tape (thankfully) comes on and off very easily.  I usually move the tape a few times before I settle on a space and even then, like with this wall, I go over the marker that I made. 

Step Four

Monica L. Shulman - Gallery Walls
Doesn't this look cool?  It started to feel like an abstract art project.

Remember Tetris?  I loved that game so it's no surprise to me that figuring out a layout is my favorite part of creating a gallery wall.  You have to figure out a layout that works for you and place markers on your wall using artist tape.  It sounds easy enough but it might take you a few tries to find something that works in the space you have and with the frames and artwork you have.  Once you've determined your layout, you can try laying it out on the floor to see what it will look like on the wall.  This always helps me to visualize it even more than just seeing a ton of tape and lines up on the wall.

Remember: it's just tape and you're obviously not married to the layout that you, well, lay out.  Take a look at the finished wall and you'll notice that it's a little different than the layout I initially did.  When I got to the third column I realized that I really wanted to hang the panoramic frame so I squeezed it in and made it work.  I did it by switching the order of the frames in the bottom row and adjusting the space.

You can always start with this step before buying any of your frames since most frame sizes are relatively standard or come close to standard sizes.  Once you've determined your layout you can pick up frames or add to whatever you already have at home. 

Step Five
Hang it up!

This is the easy part.  Just measure and hang.  Remember that if you make a mistake it's not the end of the world.  I have made many, many holes in otherwise pristine walls and if you're hanging a lot of pieces there's always a way to cover them up.

Finally, and this isn't really a step in the process but just a general reminder: have fun with it!  I know seeing the finished product it can be difficult to imagine that this is actually a pretty easy home project but it really is. 

What about you?  Do you have any tips for hanging pictures?  Share some links in the comments!  I'd love to see.

And, in case you missed them, check out the gallery wall that I put together in Lucia's room featured here and here and here's a small look at the wall in our kitchen.  Oh and since I'm obsessed with Pinterest, check out this board that I made for some major inspiration!

Monica L. Shulman - Gallery Walls
Making Progress
Monica L. Shulman - Gallery 
Making Progress

Monica L. Shulman - Gallery 
Making Progress

Monica L. Shulman - Gallery Walls 

Monica L. Shulman - Gallery Walls
Random facts:  The white box to the left is filled with polaroids and instax photos.  The square frame contains a favorite New Yorker cartoon that I had on my desk when I was a practicing lawyer.  That little bronze shoe and old photo are two of my most prized possessions.  The shoe was on my grandfather's bar in Argentina in my dad's childhood home and I've always loved it.  My grandmother gave it to me when he passed away.  Having it on my desk makes me feel like he's always with me.  The photo is of my aunt, grandmother, great-grandmother and me when I was just a little older than Lucia.  I've been meaning to get a new frame for it for ages but I've had it in that cheap black one for so many years (we're talking since middle school) that I almost feel too nostalgic to change it.

Monica L. Shulman - Gallery Walls
The other side of the bedroom wall with a mix of new and vintage frames.  The mirror is something that is very special to me.  I inherited it from my grandmother.   I keep an old photo of my parents, godfather and me in the frame.  And can you spy that photo of my mom when she was in her mid-twenties?  Gorgeous much?  Lucia looks exactly like her. 

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