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DIY: Gallery Walls

I'm a sucker for a good gallery wall - they are a great way to make a statement in any room, and display an eclectic array of your favorite wall art in one place. In both our old apartment in Cobble Hill, and our new home in Gramercy, our gallery wall is one of the main focal points of our living room. It took me years to get it just right over the couch in Cobble Hill, and as soon as it was perfect, of course, it was time to move.

My gallery wall is composed of several black and white pieces that I've collected over the years: the record sleeve of my Thriller Album, a photo of my dad from high school mid pole-vault, the oversized postcard of Picasso's version of Las Meninas which I got on my first non-Turkey trip to Europe, and other precious but fairly worthless pieces... I have these in several black and silver gallery frames. While in Cobble Hill these were to fill the long space above the couch, in Gramercy, I wanted these to fill up an empty wall as a main focal point. So the entire arrangement had to be different, a more compact square/rectangle shape.

Almost every major design blog has tips and tricks for making a successful gallery wall. Below are some practical tips and style ideas from Houzz Magazine to make your gallery wall stand out. You can see more pictures and read their full article here. I wish I could say I follow these tips -- especially the measure twice, cut/drill once advice, but I don't. For me, I selected all of my black and white "artwork" and kept the frame styles in the similar pattern. To decide on the design, I laid out the whole thing on the floor in the living room, and then, it's really a matter of swapping pieces and changing the order until the whole piece looks cohesive and pleasant, and not like a mish-mash.

Once I got settled on a layout, I marked off the outer border for the arrangement with painters tape, and hung the artwork within the space, measuring where the hanging parts needed to be relative to the taped off outer edges. I can't say that I never had to nail a second time (or third), but the method worked reasonably well.

For those of you interested in the less haphazard way, the experts recommend:

1. Determine your style.

Love lithographs? Fancy foxes? A gallery wall is your opportunity to style your home to reflect your passions and interests. Galleries can be tied together by theme, frame color, style or image palette. Tip: In a busy room with lots of patterns and textures, the key is to stick to a single hue, perhaps adding small splashes of color into the mix.

2. Keep it personal.

It’s your home, so use art and personal effects to make your gallery wall stand out. We love it when clients combine art they’ve purchased with family photos, sculptures, artifacts and children’s drawings. Tip: Looking for fun ways to expand your gallery or add one more work to your theme? Consider using old calendars, movie posters or inexpensive illustrations.

3. Start with the largest item first.

Balance and symmetry are key to creating a gallery wall that works. Start with the largest piece and use it as the focal point. Work from the center out. We recommend spacing artwork at least 1¼ inches (3 centimeters) apart to make each piece stand out on its own. Try to keep the overall pattern balanced against other furniture or centered in a room. Tip: Before you break out the hammer, lay the art out on the floor and cut newspaper to the size of each piece. Using masking tape, position the paper on the wall as you would the art, then try a few different arrangements until you’re happy with the effect.

4. Choose the right frames.

If you’re working with a collection of artwork across themes, using frames of a similar design or style is one way to tie the collection to your home’s style. Tip: Reclaimed frames and made-to-order frames without glass can be an inexpensive way to make your art stand out.

5. Think shelf life.

Using shelves is another way to create a gallery wall that can easily be updated without the need to rehang. If you don’t have a built-in ledge or shelf, you can buy thin shelving made for art display quite inexpensively, then paint it to suit your design. Tip: Most gallery wall shelving displays are no more than two shelves in height. This creates an open look and allows enough space to accommodate larger works.

6. Hang with precision.

There’s nothing more frustrating than hanging your art only to realize it’s at the wrong height. Most galleries hang works with the center of the piece 59 inches (150 centimeters) from the floor, so it sits at average eye level. Use a level and pencil to mark the holes before you drill. Double check each measurement to ensure you have the right height and balance.

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