How to Art: Refresh Your Gallery Wall August 15 2015

Say hello again to How to Art! We asked Becki Singer, a writer, 20x200 addict and aspiring art collector, to sit down with our founder Jen Bekman and get answers to all of our burning questions about art. Something on your mind? Send your questions our way!

By now, we think it’s pretty safe to assume most of you have a burgeoning gallery wall in the works. In fact, we’re willing to bet you’ve been living with it long enough that…well, frankly, you’re ready for a change. We’re with you 100%! One of our favorite things about a gallery wall is its flexibility – it’s the Cirque de Soleil of art collecting. In the spirit of mixing things up, today we’re mining Jen’s endless cache of brilliant ideas for making your tried and true gallery wall feel fresh again.  – Becki Singer + 20x200


Change the art:
It might seem obvious, but one of the simplest changes you can make is to update the art in your existing wall. No new nail holes, very little framing expense (you might need a new mat cut to fit your art), and a big impact. Not sure where to start? Think thematically – hang pieces that all feature a predominant color (green or yellow would be a fresh choice), destination or favorite hobby. Need inspiration? Well, there’s 20x200, of course. Aperture and Blind Spot are great sources for benefit photography editions, and our 5+5 contributor The Jealous Curator is constantly featuring interesting new artists on her blog. I also love mixing memorabilia into a gallery wall. Frame concert tickets, an old letter you treasure, or a menu from an unforgettable meal. Fill a shadow box with your matchbook collection or pick up a map of a favorite destination.

Mix and match cool blue tones for a relaxing, themed gallery wall.


TIP: If you have favorite artists, be sure to follow their website or social media – they’ll often feature special one-off prints or collaborations with favorite shops.


White frames can make a gallery wall feel bright and fresh.


Change the frames:
A few years ago, everyone was framing their gallery walls in simple black frames. Now, white frames are more popular. Personally, I’m a big fan of mixing things up to create a truly eclectic, interesting salon-style gallery wall. So, if your black frames are getting you down, replace them with white. You could also swap them for simple clip frames to really let the art take center stage. Or get creative with alternative display options: I’ve seen everything from clipboards or binder clips on nails, to installing a large magnetic board that lets you casually display a grid of prints with tiny magnets. If you’re going the unframed route, just be sure they’re not valuable, since unframed prints are more likely to be damaged over time. But all art doesn’t have to be precious – have fun with it!


Get playful with a set of clipboards on a wall.

TIP: If you’re using a traditional grid formation for your gallery wall, or if your style is more traditional, your frames need to match. Otherwise, sky’s the limit!


One of the salon-style walls in Jen Bekman's favorite NYC apartment 

Change the location:
A gallery wall is a great solution to enlivening awkward or dead spaces. So, another easy way to shake things up is to switch up the location of your gallery wall…or add a second one! Consider creating an oversized gallery wall in a tiny space, like a hallway or a guest bath. I love the idea of a floor-to-ceiling text art gallery wall in a bathroom, for example. If you’re wary of all of those nail holes, layer framed art along the back of a desk or credenza, so you get the effect of a gallery wall without the work (a great trick for renters).


Layer brightly-colored pieces along foyer furniture for a welcoming entryway!


TIP: Use a removable adhesive putty to ensure your art stays put, and doesn’t fall off the desk every time a door slams.

Change the focus:
Try adding one major focal point into the mix of smaller prints. Invest in a larger print or vintage poster (I recently framed a pair of vintage National Parks posters, and love how they turned out!), repurpose an original you have displayed elsewhere in the house, or consider making your TV part of the gallery wall, which has the added benefit of playing down the largesse of an oversized big screen.


TV? What TV? Make a wall-mounted television seem like a work of art by surrounding it with other framed pieces. 

TIP: Remember that any time you’re hanging a gallery wall, the name of the game is ordered chaos. If you’re hanging a grid, it needs to be perfect – so unless you have a mighty steady hand, call in a pro. If you’re going more eclectic, remember that you want the distance between each piece to be roughly the same, and it’s easier on the eyes if either the top or the bottom of your grouping is level. Mock up your layout on the floor first, or think about cutting out pieces of paper to size and taping those up on the wall to get your grid organized. And get out that level! Not just when you first hang things, but whenever you do a thorough dusting – nothing ruins the effect of a well-curated gallery wall faster than lopsided frames. For a little extra insurance, hang your pictures on double hooks.


Made any creative updates to your gallery wall? Send us a pic! We love to see how you’re living with your art.