When we moved into our rental home, I quickly realized I was going to have a lot of leftover artwork. Between mine and Sean's old apartments, we had accumulated plenty of posters, prints, framed photos and mirrors.
In theory, this is a good problem to have. I had a lot of options and could find the best piece for the limited spots I did have available in my house. In reality, though, there was absolutely nowhere to store the leftover artwork in our small home and I needed to figure out how to use it or sell it.
The idea for a gallery hallway was born out of this problem. I'm very glad it worked out the way it did because the hallway is now one of my favorite "rooms" in the house!
Make sure to scroll to the end of the post to see tons of linked artwork and mirrors!
Creating the hallway took a lot of time and care. I didn't even take the project on until two of my best friends came into town to help us get settled and were down to help me get it done.
My gallery hallway isn't finished yet and you might notice several open spots in the photos. These are spots where I'm holding out for "money pieces" -- some incredible artwork that will really complete the space. The nice thing about a gallery wall is that not every piece has to be a showstopper. You need some pieces that naturally draw the eye but you also need a lot of filler content.
Here are some tips on how to plan for, start and complete your gallery hallway!
Tip #1: Select the right space.
Gallery walls are visually bulky. They also take a very, very long time to install. I don't recommend doing an all-in gallery wall on a super long hallway, especially if there aren't many "breaks" in the form of doors/windows. In that situation, I would do linear/more cohesive sets of artwork with sconces above them (see example from Pinterest --link to source was broken -- below).
I think a gallery wall worked particularly well in my space because the hallway was already broken up by so many doors. In my small hallway, there are six doors (closet, guest room, living room, dining room, main bedroom, bathroom) and a set of built-ins. Adding other visual elements to the mix made it feel more purposeful and actually made the doors fade into the background a bit.
Tip #2: Consider Painting
I live in a rental and painting wasn't an option. I don't think it would have worked out well for my space unless I painted everything -- doors, trim, walls, etc. -- a dark color. In the right space, I love the look of a dark, cozy hallway with eclectic artwork on the walls.
Another option is to paint half of the wall. This option works well if you want to be specific about which pieces you display (because you won't have to display as many pieces). If you do paint half of the wall (trim and below), I would advise to also paint the doors in order to bring some cohesion to the space. I also would go with a neutral-ish dark color, like the blue tones shown in these inspiration photos.
If you're not going for a two-tone or all-in dark paint job, I suggest a neutral white. The artwork in itself is going to be really busy, so a blank canvas is the best option.
Tip #3: Lay out everything you have.
Once you have your space selected and prepped, clear out some floor space and lay out your biggest pieces. You don't have to lay them out as you will on the wall -- just separate them between large and small pieces. If you really have a lot, you can add a medium category as well.
Tip #4: Make sure you have the right hanging materials.
You'll be hanging a lot of pieces. Make sure you have the right hardware and materials! I found that I used a combination of nails and command strips. Click on the links below to see what I found useful.
I made a mistake in purchasing some off-brand Command Strips in order to save a little money. Turns out, nothing replaces the real thing. I cannot tell you how many times I woke up to find broken glass and ruined frames on the floor because the strips lost their stickiness or were loosened as I hammered something else in the wall right beside them.
It is definitely easier to hang pieces with Command Strips (or off brand strips), but I recommend going with good ole nails unless you're hanging something unframed.
Tip #5: Select your "money pieces."
Undoubtedly, you will have some pieces that are better than others, whether in scale, texture, color or sentimentality. These are the pieces you want to highlight in the gallery with the best spots on the wall. If you notice that you only have one or two large pieces, you will need to invest in a few more before getting started.
I can't give a number on how many of these standout pieces you'll need because it depends on the size of your hallway and the amount of doors you have in the space. As a general rule, make sure you have enough to create somewhat of a "zig zag" pattern on the wall with the bigger pieces. You can see a loose pattern on my wall in the image below.
It really is important to have these large pieces before you begin because you'll base your layout around them. I've linked an assortment of artwork and mirrors at the bottom of this post if you're looking for some pieces to invest in.
Tip #6: Hang the largest and/or most important pieces first, then medium, then small.
Hang your largest pieces first and make sure to space them out. There needs to be some hung really low and some hung really high. I'd try to make sure any at eye-level are arranged so some small and medium pieces can mix in and you're not only looking into a piece hung at a "normal" level.
Make sure to consider all options before putting a nail in the wall! If you start with a section of the wall and try to complete it, you might be compromising the overall look. You need to hang the pieces all over starting with their size (followed by consideration of their texture and variation and sentimental value).
Try them out in a few places before you nail them in the wall. If you're not sure about where to put something, then you can hold up the medium and small pieces and see how it looks in an arrangement.
Tip #7: Mix and match shapes, colors and textures. Mix new and old. Mix styles.
If you want a gallery wall that feels very "collected," this tip is key. And more good news: a collected gallery wall is much easier to put together and is usually cheaper, too. Like I mentioned earlier in the post, not every piece is going to be a standout. It is important to mix money pieces with some basics and odd objects in order to create interest and depth to the gallery.
To achieve this look, you'll need to look around at a lot of different places. Go to the local thrift store, check out your grandma's basement, look at Minted, find local prints, buy concert posters, make your own... combinations are endless!
Don't be afraid to get frames of different colors and styles as well. This is what makes the wall interesting, in my opinion. You can always try to stick with a few frame styles for some cohesion but I personally think the "collected" look is way more fun! I've linked some different frame styles and looks below.
Sometimes a frame is worth way more than the artwork inside. If you see a frame you love but hate the artwork, purchase the whole set and change out the artwork. If a frame is impactful enough, even a simple line drawing or watercolor could "complete" the look. (See example above in the collage).
Tip #8: Get creative for filler content: Use greeting cards, create your own small watercolor prints, coasters, records, hats... anything!
As you can imagine, gallery hallways can be expensive if you're trying to fill a lot of space. I took $100 and went to a local thrift store to fill in some of my key spots, then I improvised with a lot of the filler content. I used everything from greeting cards to coasters to a hat to create some dimension and cheaply fill the gaps. I even hung some event passes from my time at a sports marketing agency. Most greeting cards cost about $5.00 -- no brainer for cute and cheap artwork.
I've linked some of my favorite greeting cards below! They all are about $5.00. You can also frame them, although you might need to shave a little off to get them to fit in a standard photo frame.
Tip #9: Make your own artwork.
Before you even start thinking that you don't have enough artistic ability to do this, remember that your wall is going to be filled with artwork and that no one piece is going to stand out very much. Most of my watercolor pieces were done by my cousin -- who is a trained artist -- but you can give something simple a go!
Head to Target, Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michael's, Amazon.... wherever you get your craft supplies, pick up some small canvases, paint (I'd go acrylic or watercolor), brushes and you're good to go. Look on Pinterest for inspiration and remember that it doesn't have to be very intricate.
Tip #10: Hang the mirrors in weird spots.
In my hallway, hanging the mirrors high created this quirky element where the mirrors became about their artistic value more than their function. Plus, we hung the largest mirror in front of the pendant so it reflects even more light into the space.
Also, if you're hanging one mirror, I recommend hanging multiple and spacing them out. Put them low, put them high, put them over doors. The point is to add that extra artistic element to the hallway.
Tip #11: Finish it off with a fun rug or other accessories.
The hallway doesn't stand alone. I helped tie the look together with a vintage runner that shares similar hues to some of my big pieces of artwork. Consider your light fixture, rug, door handles, bench, etc. as artwork in the space, too!
Tip #12: Don't feel like you need to finish it all at once.
My hallway isn't finished. As I mentioned, these are spots where I'm holding out for incredible artwork that will really complete the space. It also costs a lot of money to collect enough for any gallery-style wall, so if you are being particular about your pieces then you might not be able to do it all at one time.
Also, even if you don't have the space for a gallery hallway or space now, keep these tips in mind if you want one in the future.
Whew! That was a long post. I hope it was helpful. Don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments about your own gallery!