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5 Tips to a Better Gallery Wall

5 Tips to a Better Gallery Wall

 I finished! A gallery wall for my long, dark, Victorian hallway.

I finished! A gallery wall for my long, dark, Victorian hallway.

I finally finished! I've been dreaming up a solution for my apartment hallway for at least the last year, maybe even longer. Over the weekend, I was finally able to hang all the art and photos I'd recently framed. I'm super happy with the results, and have five tips to help you with your own gallery wall project. 

1. Take your time! 

This tip can seem like it should go unsaid, and might not even seem that important, but actually it's the most important step. Don't rush into a project without giving it a good amount of thought and consideration. For a gallery wall, don't rush out and buy a bunch of art, prints or frames. Take time and research options you like, and identify what it is exactly about it. Do you like the colors or theme? Do you instead like other aspects in the photo? A staircase or really nice view?

Be realistic, and take the time to think about what would work in your space, how it would fit into your daily life, and what you actually want. Do you love textile art but have an gymnast cat? Is your space narrow like mine? Where in your home will it go? What do you actually want?

Before Hallway

2. Develop your vision

Begin to think about a theme or color story. I love the look of mixed frames, but decided on all white for my space. I used a few posters/art pieces to add variety to my photos, and didn't rush. I wanted all the items to be in the same color family, and that took time. If you don't take the time to carefully put together items for your wall, you may end up with a less than satisfactory result.

3. Make a plan! (and a budget!)

Gallery wall layout plan

Before you go to the store, before you print or frame or buy anything, make a plan. Measure your space. Research options. How many pieces do you need? How will you hang them? A common mistake is having too few pieces, or too small pieces. Keep the scale of the space in mind. 

Make a budget and stick too it! I researched many frame options before I settled on the super cost effective Ikea Ribba frames. I could have spent 10x more and had museum quality pieces, but that just wasn't in my budget. Before I even headed out to Ikea, I had a list with prices and frame sizes on hand. You can also find tons of frames at thrift stores or flea markets, and either rock the variety of finishes or paint them all to match. Either way, make a list and stick too it!

4. Bring your layout to life!

Gallery wall plan

Gather everything you think you might want to include together. If you can do it in the final space, perfect! I couldn't lay a bunch of breakable items out in my hallway, so I did it in the living room. Get all your pieces into frames, and begin working on different layouts. (The Ikea frames have these metal tabs that hold the backing to the frame and are killers for your fingers! Be sure to use a screw driver or a dull knife or you'll be in pain! Save the paper inserts that come with each frame--these will make planning your layout much easier!) 

I made a rough sketch and guide first, and basically stuck to that. I did play with different image combos on the floor, which makes it easier to figure out spacing and placement.

5. Measure twice--hammer once

 The Ikea Ribba frames come with this handy insert. It's slightly smaller than the frame, so be careful not to place images too close together. I measured the same distance down from the top of each paper for nails. All the frames except for the square ones were deep enough to hang with just nails. 

The Ikea Ribba frames come with this handy insert. It's slightly smaller than the frame, so be careful not to place images too close together. I measured the same distance down from the top of each paper for nails. All the frames except for the square ones were deep enough to hang with just nails. 

Once you've decided on a layout, find the middle of your wall, or where the gallery wall will be centered and mark it with blue tape. I also marked off an 'eyeline' I wanted things to stick to. Then take the paper inserts that came with each frame, or use butcher paper to create frame-sized templates, and tape them up with blue tape. Get they layout onto the wall, and then worry about measuring spacing. Keep in mind that hanging art too high is very common. I've heard that the center should be around 54" high, and I think mine are around 60", since all the boys in the house are much taller than me.

After you've got the spacing down, and you like the paper layout, use a level and check that the frame templates are level. Now, if your frames have wires, is when you'd figure out where the hook will sit and measure it onto the paper templates. Instead of using wires, I used nails. Each frame sits on at least two nails, and the larger frames sit on as many as six nails. If you're worried about poking lots of holes in the wall, this isn't the best option. Our walls haven't been painted in years (and we can't paint) so I wasn't worried about it. When I worked at Z Gallerie, this is how we hung pretty much all of our large artwork.

Note: this only works on deeper frames, and shouldn't be used on mirrors or any heavy pieces. Take the thickness of the frame into account, add a few millimeters more, and come up with a round number that you can use for all of the frames. They might end up hanging a little lower than your paper layout, but not much. I put my nails in about 1/2" from the top of the paper, and at about a 30 degree angle upwards. Be sure to only put nails in stud, or they'll pull right out. Don't add nails to the very edges, or you won't be able to adjust pieces as you need to. One of the best parts of this technique is being able to slide frames over a bit if the spacing needs to change. After your nails are in, pull the paper off, and hang your frame up! Viola! 

final gallery wall
 Down the hall from the full gallery wall

Down the hall from the full gallery wall

 Above you can see the 'before' and 'after'. I love coming up the stairs and seeing all my photos framed! Also, I'm no longer embarrassed to turn the hall light on. I do need to give the wall by the stairs a good scrub, and in a perfect world I'd switch out the flood lights for something pretty, but we'll see. 

Above you can see the 'before' and 'after'. I love coming up the stairs and seeing all my photos framed! Also, I'm no longer embarrassed to turn the hall light on. I do need to give the wall by the stairs a good scrub, and in a perfect world I'd switch out the flood lights for something pretty, but we'll see. 

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