A gallery wall can look good no matter what you space is like. Work with what you’ve got—a patch of wall, a mix of pieces—and easily pull off a polished look. Whatever your “hang-up” might be, there’s an approach that will work for you.
1. You don’t have “real art”
Some of the best gallery walls showcase priceless objects you wouldn’t ever find in a gallery: your grandmother’s embroidered handkerchiefs, a flea market find, the key to your first house framed in a shadow box, a ticket stub, photo booth captures. This cool composition by interior designer Claire Zinnecker includes a camera, a spoon and even an empty frame.
Literally everything qualifies as art. Even if you have only three pieces, you can start a gallery wall. Hang the largest piece first, placing it off-centre, and build around it.
2. You have no space
Staircase walls are often overlooked, but they’re clever, unexpected spots to hang collections. This enthralling floor-to-ceiling display by Rebekah Higgs may seem freewheeling, but there’s a method behind it. Higgs, the host and producer of the web series DIY Mom, created templates of the frames by tracing them on kraft paper. She taped the templates to the wall so she could tweak the layout. Once satisfied, she measured the backs of the frames for nail placement, hammered through the kraft paper, removed the paper and replaced it with artwork.
Putty on the bottom pieces helps secure them to the wall so they won’t get knocked askew.
3. You crave order
Are you someone who organizes their Tupperware drawer? Then you’ll appreciate a grid approach. To keep this vignette neat and focused, interior designer Kate Chipinski framed eight-by-10-inch photos, which were printed in black and white because it’s less distracting than colour.
Before pulling out the hammer, Chipinski spread everything out on the floor to visualize how all of the frames would look above the dresser. (The collection felt too busy, so she removed a row of photos, saving her wall from extra puncture wounds.) A laser level ensured the photos, which are hung from screws, sit absolutely straight.
To avoid hairline cracks, hammer each nail through a strip of tape. If you’re using two nails to hold a heavy picture, use a level to make sure they are at the same height.
4. You’re short on right angles
There’s no reason to sweat a slanted setup. As this stylish bedroom by interior designer Abbie Naber proves, a wonky wall makes an interesting backdrop (even more so if you throw in a cute pompom bedspread). It’s a cinch to layer in artwork if you’re still collecting by playing around with that peak, adding pieces all the way up to the ceiling.
Naber’s approach was very casual: She used the largest print as a focal point and eyeballed the surrounding pieces. While most of the art is graphic, each one feels suitably quiet for a bedroom. Give it more of an eclectic feel by mixing and matching frames, like the Plexiglas one by the headboard.
5. You can’t commit
Picture rails, which let you switch up your art on a whim, are perfect for those who are nervous about making too many holes in their walls. When stacking multiple ledges, leave enough room for tall pieces.
Now for the fun part: Experiment with heights, objects and placement. Overlapping frames creates a casual vibe, while spacing out several similar-toned pieces imparts a restrained elegance. And don’t limit your ledges to framed art—throw a graphic novel, floppy-leafed plant or sculptural vase into the mix.
6. You want something sculptural
Baskets, pennants, hats or anything you have a lot of can work well in a display. Design blogger Corinna Henderson scoured thrift shops to create this fun, textural cluster that speaks to her love of all things bohemian. If you can’t shop in person, look for treasures on Kijiji, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
She started by hanging the largest basket and tucked the others around it that were slightly smaller, making sure to balance sizes and colours on each side. Basic nails hammered straight into the wall keep everything secure.
7. You’re a collector
Gallery walls can be messy or methodical and be fantastic either way. This display obviously falls in the latter camp, and it brings a streamlined gravitas to a flat-screen TV.
The plexiglas cabinets are custom-made by Toronto design-builders Urban Blueprint. They showcase the homeowners’ treasured urban vinyl figures (and keep the dust out of the dioramas). The top shelf consists of all the original Star Wars action figures from the late 1970s and ’80s.
8. You embrace change
Wood, white, black and fresh pink peonies add up to one pretty dining room with ever-evolving artwork. Perfect if you just can’t commit to nailing holes into your wall.
Toronto homeowner Jo Wearing installed four picture ledges from Ikea to line up to the table—two on the bottom, two on top. Wearing can shuffle new pieces into the mix, which are mostly from thrift stores, as she finds them. The art was put into Ikea frames for cohesion; she likes black and white pieces because it establishes unity.
9. You want to make a statement
Sometimes you just have to go for it! Interior stylist Tamara Lee Beltran went hog-wild for this light-hearted space, covering the room with floor-to-ceiling artwork in black frames to pull everything together. Interspersing non-precious objects—from the gold horse’s head to the rainbow—makes for a relaxed, youthful feel.
10. You have high ceilings
There are no limits to gallery walls. Here, the homeowner took the art work right up to the ceiling, which gives it fantastic art gallery vibe.
11. Remember anything can be art
Painted tin trays, menus, scraps of fabric and even plants look gorgeous when hung up. It’s all about the balance of colour and texture and showing off the things you love most.
Originally published 2019; updated 2022.