I have a long blank wall along the hallway at the top of my stairs
visible from the living room below
For some time now, I have been planning to do a family photo gallery there.

I thought I'd share some tips, tricks and ideas
on making beautiful and striking gallery walls or shelves

Shelves are a perfect place to display photos
they allow you to bring in other items of interest
layer for dimension
mix and match
a wall, on the other hand, is a little more difficult to keep interesting
there is only one dimension

the images have to stand out
it needs to pull together as one whole piece

this wall works for a couple of reasons:
1. the frames and mats are identical
2. the images are black and white and of the same value (intensity)

here's a good example of symmetrical design
it looks nice, orderly and balanced
it all works together as one large piece of wall art

bear in mind for this type of grouping the matting needs to be the same
and the photos should be similar - all black and white, or sepia would work well
a larger frame is needed to accomodate the mat and still keep the image large enough to be seen
these Ikat frames from Ikea are inexpensive and classic

the frames on these pictures are minimal and unimportant
the matting and sepia images and how tightly they are placed together is important
see how it works as one large piece of art over the bed

although the frames are the same size on this installation
the images are not - but the frames and mats are all the same color 
so it still works together

I loved how this gallery migrates to other walls in this example, yet still feels pulled together because all the images are the same size, and all of the mats and frames are identical

narrow gold frames
wide white matting
similar images
fills the wall

another example of inexpensive Ikea frames with similar images and matting - looking soft and wonderful on this bedroom wall, and below in this stairwell

although I love the look of a symmetrical gallery
my personal style is more 'unbalanced' (I know I left myself WIDE open on that one)
these frames are in multiple sizes,
but once again, the images are all of the same value and the frames are of the same material
and the theme of the images is a unifying factor in this gallery
as is the fact that the images are all black and white or a similar intensity

these same-sized white frames placed with no wall space between them
create one big bright piece of art
it is important to keep your images larger with small frames such as this

this mix of photos and artwork may have no common ground
but the frames and spacing still make it all work together

there is nothing worse than framing a photo with images too small to see easily
enlarge and crop your photos - make sure they are striking images and not just sentimental
keep the sentimental photos in your album, put the beautiful ones on display

Spacing is critical when hanging artwork or photos.  Here is a great example of making random look right.  They pulled this together by using the same narrow black frame for each piece and using white backgrounds, or white matting. 
that odd shaped, seldom used stairway wall can be an amazing place for a gallery. 
spacing is critical. 
the white matting helps keep this from being too heavy, and the brown/sepia tones of the images all work together. 
notice that there are no 'heavy' frames mixed into this. 
it helps to keep you focused on the wall as a whole and not on any one particular piece.

this is a beautiful mixing of light toned frames, in a balanced arrangement
white, silver and light toned wood all work together, because they match the surrounding decor and they are all similar in style and matting
when creating a gallery, remember to fill the wall space
leave enough room so that it doesn't appear crowded
keep your spacing around the frames consistent

the theme of this gallery is its unifying factor
the images of shore birds with the same background value
and thin dark frames keep this collection looking great
even though the arrangement is more random
designer Vincente Wolf created this wall (apologize for poor quality) with architectural fragments
completely random
but still works together because of similarities in values and theme
it is similar to both wall color and furnishings
it adds texture and interest to the room without distracting from the overall design
I thought this was a nice stairway gallery 
works because of the unified frame color
 and they did a pretty good job in spacing

this adorable wall is unified by the color scheme
inspired by this frame
which was also used on the wall

small photos often get lost on a large wall
but these work together as one larger piece
the ribbon unites and ties them together
(great idea for a wedding, by the way)
from martha stewart, this wall is unified by black and white images and similar frames
but also by a theme - the ancestral chart (can be downloaded from marthastewart.com) historical photos make this a meaningful collection
the larger piece in the middle works as a great focal point

from 'cut once measure twice' blog, this is a well spaced wall. 
the pictures all have similar frames and the other objects work well  because of  the color scheme. 
the shelf and stars add dimension

i love this wall
it is completely filled with art in a completely random yet amazing way
i think it works because of the white backgrounds
and because the frames are narrow and not too dark
the dark furniture, by contrast, stands out

ledges or shelves are another way to create a gallery wall
the shelves allow layering which creates depth

here is a monochromatic example

and one by Pottery Barn, unified by the same style frames

and this is gorgeous - that's all I have to say
a collection of artifacts or small items can become a unified collage inside a larger frame
and would otherwise have been lost on this wall

Here are my tips on the very best way to plan your wall.

1.  Trace around each frame on kraft paper (or the back of a roll of wrapping paper) and cut them out. 
2.  Label each cutout, so you know which frame it refers to.
3.  Lay your framed photos/art out on the floor. 
4.  Move things around until you have a pleasing arrangement.  (Remember spacing around your frames)
5. Remember to fill up the space, but don't crowd it.
6. Take into consideration any furniture on the wall.
7. Don't hang it too high - pefect hanging height is eye level - or about 5'3", and in a gallery that is around the middle of your grouping.

8.  Hang your cutouts on the wall in the same pattern you have created on the floor - measuring to find the center of your gallery - use painters tape for easy removal (I use a laser level to keep them straight)
9.  Step back and take a look and adjust if necessary
10.  Mark each cutout with the place to put the picture hanger
11.  Without removing the cutout, nail the hanger in place
12.  Remove the cutout, and hang the pictures, one at a time

If you are hanging over sofa, sideboard or bed, the furniture and art should read as one whole.  That means, don't leave too much space between the furniture and the gallery or it will look detached and odd

The bad and the ugly
I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or point fingers
just please be careful and avoid:

disregarding the furniture
this gallery looks good on its own, but it's placement over the bed is awkward
it drops below the headboard and obscures the pictures

this gallery is awkwardly high, leaving too much wall at the bottom
great job with the unified white frames,
but they are too closely spaced and would have looked much better
if the line at the bottom was straight
 and they were planned to create more of a straight line at the top
this otherwise great idea, just looks messy

an interesting collection that needed more planning
to keep it from looking a little sloppy
completely random and unbalanced
this could look sooo much better

I love this idea, and hate the arrangement
it looks smashed together and crowded
a little space and placement planning could have produced an adorable little gallery
the spacing isn't bad on this
but the artwork doesn't work together
if the matting was uniform on each piece it would work as a whole

Love this waincote with the ledge
the bottom row of  photos sits on the ledge
with the top row hanging on the wall

this wall of botanicals look terrific together
kids rooms are so fun
their walls should be, too
I love incorporating words and letters into a grouping

this person did everything right
unified frames and up-close images you don't have to get up close to see

vinyl lettering can bring any word or meaningful message to a personalized wall
 (I have a source for custom work at a great price, talk to me)
I like this wall, but would narrow the spacing a little

great example of vinyl in a grouping

and I love this vinyl treatment that makes this narrow and forgotten wall
a delightful art piece

A while ago I had a sign made with vinyl lettering
it was very plain, just a painted board
but it was sentimental
I wanted to use it in the photo gallery I'm planning - so I had it framed
just got it back
and LOVE it

I can't wait to use it as the center piece of my wall

I have been playing around with converting my images to this sepia tone, as well
putting one in a frame should help me decide whether I like this or black and white

I find that black and white or sepia images work best for me on a wall.  I can focus on the image more without the distraction of color, and often unwanted background images are less visable when the color is removed.  I love images of family - I'm not a great photographer, but I am a great cropper
I can make an ordinary photo look amazing with a little photoshop help


Best wishes,

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