I have been planning a photo gallery wall in my dining room since before we actually purchased our home. I didn’t have any idea what colors I wanted the walls (other than “not orange”), or where the furniture was going to live, but I most definitely knew a photo display was happening above my DIY buffet.
I had planned to have this project complete before Dorothy’s birthday party. How hard could it be, right? Hang some photos, throw in some decor, and BAM. Done.
Turns out it’s not exactly easy.
I tried different frame layouts on the floor for two hours before I gave up and recruited help. Pinterest actually failed me, however my (art major) husband had it down in five minutes. Not kidding. Something about the Golden Ratio or something…
Now that I’ve emerged on the other side, today I’m sharing my top five tips for creating your own gallery wall. As in, the things I wish Pinterest would have told me but conveniently left out. You’re welcome.
1 | Plan
Before you do anything, decide on the look you want for your gallery wall. I went with a hodgepodge of old white, black and metallic frames that I had floating around the house, however you may prefer a more streamlined look with all black or all white frames. Maybe you want only black and white photos, or only frames that have mattes – whatever the case, make your decision BEFORE you get started. Changing your mind halfway through is way, way frustrating.
The same advice goes for adding in decor items. Have these pieces picked out in advance so that you know what shapes you need to work with in your layout.
2 | Layout
Don’t even THINK about hanging ANYTHING on the wall before you lay the whole concept out on the floor… about 30 times. Measure the area on the wall that you want your gallery to cover, and then tape off the same space on the floor. You may be able to use a pre-made layout idea to get the look you want, or you may have to play with it for a few days. In my case, I had to enlist my resident designer. Don’t do anything until you get the look you want.
In the same vein, be sure to consider what photos will actually go in the frames. You may not want two color photos next to each other. Or you may not have a ton of vertical photos to fill vertical frames. Or you may end up with a wall full of photos only taken by one photographer (see: Ardent Owl Photography).
Once you achieve your desired layout, take a photo. You will want a reference.
3 | Buy these
Getting the design correct on the floor is one thing, but transferring that to the wall using a hammer and nails is another. Insert 3M Command Picture Hanging Strips.
Seriously, these might be my best idea yet. They hold up to 12 lbs. (for my crazy heavy Disney frame), and the Velcro gave me a little wiggle room when my version of level was… not exactly level. Plus, I’m not worried about tearing up my newly painted wall (and when I want to change it, it will be much easier). Bonus.
*I wish 3M was paying me to sing their praises, but sadly they’re not.
4 | Speaking of level…
Hanging the first row is the hardest. I promise it gets better (same for like, marriage, childbirth and parenting). Since my layout called for the bottom of the first row to all match up, I used my level like crazy… at first.
Once the first row was established, and deemed level, I was able to pretty easily eyeball the rest. I used my photo for reference, and
double triple checked it before making the photo “permanent.” My organic design was more forgiving, but even a structured layout will get 100x easier once the first perfect row is set.
5 | Admire the beauty
Ta-da! Success. Give yourself a pat on the back. You freaking earned it.