Wondering how to pull off a mixed media gallery wall? We’ve got a 5-step plan for creating walls that wow.

First things first. Can a group of disparate pieces really work together on one wall? Yes, but there’s an art and science to decorating a wall with items in different textures, sizes, colors, and styles. These walls don’t just magically come together. It takes planning to make a gallery wall look effortless.

1. Where do I start? Do I even have enough art to make this work?

Start with what you’ve got. Shop your home for anything that can lay relatively flat against a wall. Next, get those creative juices flowing. Framed pieces are the obvious choice but consider tableware, mirrors, vintage board games, family photos, your great-grandmother’s gloves, you name it. And if you can’t find much at home, start shopping for new and unexpected pieces that speak to you.

2. What wall should I choose?

Search for a space that really needs some visual punch. The wall that just seems a little sad and empty. That room that doesn’t quite feel complete. You know the one. Remember to pick a space that will work with the sizes and quantity of artwork you want to hang.

Pro Tip:
Be sure to consider what furniture is in front of your wall, too. You may want to center your grouping on a sofa, or have your layout start 6 inches above a console.

3. I’ve pulled together some great pieces. What now?

Take a look at what you’ve got and find a thread that ties everything together. A sublime color palette, an ode to zebras, the 1950s, or even just a grouping of pieces you really love can be a successful gallery wall. With your thread in place, it’s time to start sorting and editing. Put your items down on the floor and move them around to figure out what works well together. When you find an arrangement you like, snap a pic with your phone and rearrange again. After a few tries, go back through your pics and see what you like best and re-create that grouping. While many people go straight to creating kraft paper templates to tape to the wall, the advantage of arranging on the floor first is previewing how the colors and textures interact.

Pro Tip:
If you’ve got space, use painters tape or yarn on the floor to box out the actual width and height of the wall space you’ve chosen. Divide your box equally (horizontally, vertically or both) and use this center line as a starting point for arranging all the pieces around the line. Work outward and keep your spacing between pieces as consistent as possible.

4. Is it time to get out the hammer and nails?

Almost. Use this templating technique to make sure that your layout is just what you want. Simply trace the outline of each frame or shape you plan to hang on a large roll of wrapping or craft paper. Cut out the shapes and start taping them to your wall with painters tape in a layout that duplicates the arrangement you liked best on the floor. Referring to the pic on your phone is a lifesaver here. If there is any furniture that goes up against the wall, make sure it is in place so you can see how the artwork interacts with it. Step back, make your adjustments (this might take a few tries), and when you are happy with what you’ve got, it’s on to hanging.

Pro Tip:
A level and tape measure are mandatory because details matter on a gallery wall. Use your level to keep everything parallel and keep your spacing as consistent as possible. Two inches between the widest part of each item on the horizontal axis is a good starting point.

5. How do I actually hang all this stuff?

Leave your taped templates on the wall and start hanging right on top of them. Measure down the back of each artwork to the picture hook to see where the nail should go. Then measure this same amount down on your paper template and center it to get the exact nail placement. When the art is all up, remove the templates underneath. And if you aren’t handy with a nail and hammer, leave this last step to the pros. You’ve done all the design legwork and a handyman or professional picture hanger can quickly get everything up for you.

Pro Tip:
There are many different ways to hang things and numerous picture hanging paraphernalia on the market. Consider the type of wall you’re hanging on (plaster? drywall?) and the weight of each item you want to hang. Some items may require you to add a piece of hardware or wire to keep them attached to the wall. Do some online research or chat with your local hardware store if you’ve got questions.

Leave a comment