Friday, March 21, 2014

Anatomy of a DIY Gallery Wall

Hi friends!

Spring has sprung!!!!
We might be a little too excited about it here. My 5 year old announced on the way to the car this morning that she was so happy "it's summer!" :-) 

Today I want to share a recent home update I took on.  I have been slowly revamping our living room. We have an older, bungalow style home, without a foyer. Our front door opens right into our living room. 

And the wall where our couch sits is the first thing people see when they come to our home.  I had been given a beautiful, large art print which we enjoyed for a while, but I thought it was time for a refresh, and I wanted the space to really speak to us and who we are.

Over several months, I've been collecting items for this gallery. And it just needed one final trip to the home decor/craft store to pick up the last few things to really pull it together and finish it.
It took me a whole day to hang everything. But now that it's complete, I wanted to share how I went about collecting the items, what I looked for, and what I ended up using.

I numbered the things on my wall, and I'll explain each item and why I chose to include it.

Here we go!

1. Portrait of my kids, from a couple of years ago. I love this picture. And it's a close up, which means it's a good option for something at the top of the wall. It shows up from far away. 

2. A print of a geological map of the part of Minnesota where my Father-In-Law was born and raised. I believe I searched eBay for this. It's a link to our family's past, something that's important for us to pass on to our kids.  And it's an easy way to get Papa Mike to start telling stories about when he was young. :-) 

3. Snapshot of the hotel where my husband and I stayed on our trip to Florence, Italy.  It was the most amazing trip of my life, and we went to celebrate our 10th anniversary. Super special.
I put it in a frame with a fancy kind of design on it. I bought two of the exact same frames, for continuity. The next one is used in item 7. I bought them at Hobby Lobby.

4. Plaster-type round empty frame.  I picked this up at Hobby Lobby also. I wasn't totally sure how I was going to incorporate it.  I like it because it's got great texture and is a nice round shape, to break up all the squares and rectangles on the wall.  I ended up using it as a backdrop to hang a small letter T in front of it.  

The letters all came from Hobby Lobby. The black T is a metal piece that hangs from a ribbon.  I hung the frame first, then put a nail right above it to hang the letter. I just played with the things I had bought until I came up with a combination I liked. 

5. Subway art I made myself, with special attractions and things that are unique to this area, where I grew up.  Anyone can do this.  I used a wall hanging that I bought at the thrift store, painted black, and then painted on the words I wanted with white craft paint, freehand. You could stencil words, or make a collage online on a site like

6. Photo of me, my two sisters and my mom, all with our wedding rings on our hand, the day my youngest sister got married.  Very very special to me, and a pretty shot, too. The flowers and hands soften up a wall with a lot of black and white on it. It's a square shape, and kind of smaller, which I liked. My sister gave it to me framed.

7. Another snapshot from our trip to Italy, the day we went out into wine country. Best. Day. Ever. The frame matches the frame in number 3.

8. 3-D letters that are my first initial, an ampersand sign, and my husband's first initial. 

9. Picture of our first dance. We've had this for, well, over ten years now. I believe in keeping your wedding photos out - it's the basis for who we are as a family! It's in a slightly distressed black frame and basic white mat.

10. Original oil painting on canvas, in an old wood frame. This was a gift from a family member, and it also reminds us of Italy.  It brings some color and texture to the gallery. Important to break up the monotone colors.

11. Print of the State of Kentucky, that I got from one of the daily-deals-type sites. I bought it months ago and have just been holding onto it. It's in an old gold-tone frame with scroll designs on it, that came from the thrift store...again, months ago.  You might not think to put a frame like this in with all the black ones. I think it keeps it all fresh and adds to the eclectic vibe I wanted.

12. 3-D letter T, that is covered with burlap on the front. There are three letter T's in this grouping. I wasn't sure if I was going to use them all together, but I grabbed them, and played with it until I liked it.  If you shop somewhere you can return things, I say in this kind of case, buy them, and if you don't like them, return them.  You never know what you might like up on the wall.

13. Photograph of the Calatrava, the unique and beautiful waterfront building in Milwaukee that houses the Milwaukee Art Museum.  Matt's parents live in Milwaukee and this is one of their very favorite places to go.  Matt and I also met in Milwaukee :-) I bought it on Etsy and framed it in a clean, dark wood frame with a white mat.  To be honest, I can't really explain why I chose a brown frame over a black.  I like the tone of the wood, and we have a lot of brown in the house (hardwood floors, leather chair across from this gallery wall) and I think it helps the wall tie in with all that.
I'd highly suggest looking on places like Etsy for art photography from places that are special to you. There are some wonderful options out there, and you can support local artists. Our print came matted for $18.

14. Pair of horseshoe shaped wall hooks. Or at least that's what I think they are. :-) I found these at my favorite thrift store, maybe a year ago. I grabbed them as soon as I saw them.  We live in Kentucky and this is horse country! I have no idea where they came from, but they spoke to me. They're black metal, and they really make a statement, I think. No one has the same pair, that I know of yet!

15. Portrait of my kids from a couple of years ago. I love this picture, that a good friend took. 

16. DIY letter T art with a chevron background. I made this from an old wall hanging we had, that I was done with. Painted it and put our initial in the middle. Free!

17. Portrait of our family. It was taken the same session as the photo in number 15.

There you have it.

Here is what I learned in putting this wall together.

First - start collecting. The more variety of places you can look, the better, thrift shops, yard sales, online, department stores, craft and hobby stores... just keep your eyes open for something that speaks to you. If you like it, grab it.

Second - include some variety into the grouping.  Texture, color, size, shape, medium (i.e. photograph, painting, etc.) This is what keeps the eye interested and moving around the wall.

Third - eclectic doesn't have to mean scatter-brained or completely haphazard, and if you have a little Type A in you, "eclectic" might stress you out a little. Don't let it. You don't have to have one of every kind of frame there is. Repeating a choice is a way to keep the collection feeling cohesive.

Fourth - symmetry. This is just personal preference. There are plenty of ways to arrange your wall. But if you are anxious about how it might turn out, or you prefer a more calm aesthetic, instead of a really random, mismatched group of things, it is perfectly OK to arrange the gallery in a symmetrical fashion. 

If you look at how I laid things out, you can see there is a general balance from one side to another. To that end, a simple way to organize the pieces is to align the pieces in some way.

The three pieces I have in the center of this wall are all about the same width (this was just dumb luck but you could certainly plan it that way. They form a nice, neat column from top to bottom.

The middle row of frames is all aligned with the bottom of my subway art. Everything else sort of filled itself in from there.

After months of collecting, and hours of shopping, planning, and hanging, I finally have a focal feature in the room where people enter my home. It's unique. It's eye-catching. It's US.  And it was SO worth it!

Hope this inspires you.
Let me know if you do a gallery wall of your own!



  1. SO beautiful, and great detail! Thanks for the tips on alignment and composition.

    1. My pleasure, Loretta. Hope it is helpful. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Looks nice! And I love your floors!!!

    1. Thanks! They are original to the house, which was built in 1930's. They're the subfloor, actually. Thanks for stopping by!

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