Why You Should be Afraid of Eclectic Gallery Art Walls

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Ya know those cool eclectic gallery art walls? The ones with lots of different sized images with mismatched frames and it all looks so amazing— like you’ve spent a lifetime collecting such interesting frames and images?

Carola Kastman

Carola Kastman

Lots of my clients tell me they want one. And the one above is the kind of thing they are talking about.

They even ask me to HELP them.

Usually, we end doing something much simpler and they are happy.

Quite frankly, it’s a lot of work and it’s also a very personal thing, so I think that this is something that is often better for the individual to figure out. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t help available. And it also doesn’t mean that I won’t do it. I will, but it’s not inexpensive as it takes many hours to do it right.

Before, I get started. A lot of these images are uncredited because after an extensive search, I came up empty. In other cases, I am intentionally not giving credit to the ones that are not done well. I am presenting them to make a point, not to embarrass anyone.

There’s a right way to do eclectic gallery art walls and a wrong way.

 

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Just a lot going on, but it could be great. We’re going to see just how easy it is to muck it up and ways we can make our art walls wonderful, every time.

Here’s what NOT to do with eclectic gallery art walls

 

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oh dear.

  • Just start nailing up stuff thinking that it’ll all work out in the end. I guarantee you that it is not going to work out in the end.
  • Overcrowding
  • Having too, too many shapes and sizes, colors, itsy-bitsy little things.

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stuffed animals? It’s some kind of memento wall? Okay. Maybe. It’s your home.

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If the bookcase had doors. then this one would work better, I think. And just too much crap on top of the bookcase.

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Some people will love this and it certainly took a lot of planning, however, I think it would be better to have spaces between the pieces.

How much space?

Good question. At an absolute minimum, I think that there should never be less than an inch between any of the pieces at any point. And usually, not more than 6″ between any of the pieces at any one point. I think that a good spacing to shoot for is between two to four inches or so.

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Butterflies Aren’t Free?

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Moving Day is going to be rough

More don’ts  for eclectic gallery art walls.
  • Not paying close attention to the composition.

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Let’s see how we can accentuate this truly ugly pipe/chimney stack thingy and bizarre mantle. On a different wall, these art pieces could make for a terrific eclectic art gallery wall. This is all just cluttered and weird, IMO.

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I do know some people who would be driven to the brink of madness if they had to live with this. And what on earth is going on with that floor? Maybe that’s where the dog has hidden his bone?

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Haphazard and crooked. This one makes me dizzy and nauseous. Besides, it’s all kinda weird and creepy.

  • It is important to keep your eclectic art gallery walls straight and the individual pieces in ONE place, despite the cleaning lady, doors slamming, drunken brawls, kids running around and earthquakes. [although crooked art might be the least of your problems in that case.]

Here’s how.

There’s a great product called Joe’s Sticky Stuff.

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You will only need a tiny piece in all four corners, or wherever the artwork meets the wall. It is easy to remove and will not muck up your walls. [they say] There are also little clear silicone pads that you can find in framing stores and probably most hardware stores to put on all four corners.

  • Another issue I commonly see is not leaving an appropriate amount of margin of wall space. You really do not want to put art right up to the edge of the wall, ceiling or floor. Or for the matter doorway or window.

Is there a rule for this? Well, a small wall needs less of a margin than say a very large wall. Generally, you can’t go wrong with four inches of margin for a small wall or between a door or window. For a very large wall, if you are basically covering the entire wall, I would leave at least 10″, assuming there is no furniture on the wall. In that case, the furniture  changes things according to the situation.

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This one could’ve been really wonderful with about 25% less pieces and a 4″ minimum of margin on all sides

Unless you room is really, really funky Boho, having too, too many different kinds of frames, colors, sizes, patterns.

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Some people will like this one and I like many aspects, but again, too much going on.

Now, for the do’s

Do plan out your composition. This is the most difficult part.

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The above three are from A Beautiful Mess. Quite frankly, the way she’s done this with the paper on the walls is the best way to make sure that the spacing and composition is good.

  • Look for inspiration in magazines, pinterest and Laurel’s blog :]

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This one is perfect except for the one piece at the top should be moved down and to the left, IMO.

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Feminine and pretty. These eclectic art gallery walls do not have to be expensive. You can use postcards, photos, greeting cards, vintage prints, love notes. Really, just about anything.

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This one is very good. The only thing that distracts me is the one very large piece.

arkpad-2Amanda Lindroth

Layering is very, very tricky. I think that this one is very well-done, but it was done by a pro.

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Based on the floor this one might be in a school?

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I like the way the art enhances the furnishings. The composition and spacing are very good. It’s not so eclectic, but works nicely here.

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Nina Van De Goor

Perfect for the children’s playroom.

More tips
  • Begin with what do you already have. Do you already have some pieces either framed or unframed that you would like to incorporate? Or maybe you have some cool vintage frames that need some art work.
  • The art must look appropriate with the rest of the furnishings and fit in with the use of the room.
  • Do vary the frames and sizes, but it’s not a matter of anything goes. Eclectic should look collected not psycho. :]
  • very, important. Even though things are not perfectly square, there is a middle point and a horizontal and vertical axis from that. In a great composition, there is an equivalency in its opposite side

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Nastasi Vail

Here is an example of one that is a wee bit lop-sided which could’ve been avoided, but other-wise very nicely done.

  • Make sure that there is balance throughout with size and color. In other words, if you have three images with blue mats, don’t put them all on one end. Don’t put all the big pieces on one end.
Here are some more beautiful examples of well-crafted eclectic art walls.

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From Heather Clawson’s wonderful blog, Habitually Chic. She’s very good about crediting the original source. Neither of us could find it. It’s a shame too, because the person who put this together is very talented and deserves the credit!

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Another terrific job on this stairwell from the Forever Cottage Blog.

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I like the way she incorporated the sconce

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I believe that this is the same stairwell above and below by Scott Sanders Design. I posted it on another post about art walls. It’s worth a repeat because it is absolutely perfect in every single way and then some.

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  • Consider mixing in different mediums of art, such as an oil painting with sketches or prints. Maybe some pieces unframed
  • Sometimes it’s cool to mix in a dash of the unexpected

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One butterfly in the mix is nice.

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A masterful mix by Ken Fulk

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 A photo I had not seen before of Charlotte Moss’ office. Absolutely stupendously gorgeous. She makes it all look so easy.

I hope that these tips will help you make your eclectic art walls something special, if you are brave enough to tackle one. Please let me know. And please have a wonderful relaxing weekend!

xo,

laurel

  • Shelton, J. - October 17, 2016 - 4:24 AM

    This is exactly the post I was looking for, after hours & hrs. You explained everything perfectly. Thanks for the time and effort you put in.

    PS I kinda made a temporary gallery wall surrounding a large armoire now used for flatscreen tv. I just used what I had around the house (the room needed something). It reflects my personality, I would be eternally grateful for an honest opinion.ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne - September 29, 2016 - 6:34 PM

    Hi Laurel,

    Just found your site and I’ve been reading it all day, so if I get fired, it’s all your fault. lol I just love your sense of humor and love how you interweave that with educational posts. I don’t see anyone else with a design blog doing that. It’s usually the same old– lots of fluff but little substance. And then, a link to go “shopping.” Thanks for all that you do! ~ SuzanneReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 29, 2016 - 10:37 PM

      Hi Suzanne,

      Thank you so much! It’s people like you that make all of the effort worthwhile. I very much appreciate your stopping by with such a sweet, thoughtful comment!ReplyCancel

  • Kelly McGill - March 31, 2016 - 12:57 PM

    Very helpful article! I’m wanting to put a photo gallery wall in a space at the top of our stairs but am so conflicted! Lots of articles say you should stick to black and white photos, or not mix the colour of frames, etc. Can you offer your ideas for a family photo wall? The pictures I plan to use are not from professional photo shoots; rather they are candids and posed shots from our daily lives. I have a variety of black, white, grey, and metallic frames, varying in size. Thought about throwing in a letter ‘M’ and a mirror somewhere, though that might be too much. Any guidance or suggestions would be so appreciated! Thanks 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2016 - 10:53 AM

      Hi Kelly,

      I can only say that you can mix frames but there has to be a logic about it. For instance mostly wood frames, some wood color, some black and some gold. But then you could have some metallic gold frames too.

      For other ideas, I have at least three other posts that feature art gallery walls. Please type in art walls or art gallery walls in the search box in the sidebar and they should pop up.ReplyCancel

  • Sofia - September 22, 2015 - 1:30 AM

    Love this post. It’s kinda funny too – the upfront bit.
    I did a great gallery wall – photographs – that worked out very well. BUT it takes AGES…and using paper first is definitely the right way to go! Thanks for this 🙂ReplyCancel

  • carola kastman - January 27, 2015 - 6:07 AM

    ..great post.. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Laurel Bern - November 22, 2014 - 11:24 AM

    Thanks so much Jill. A wonderful colleague and friend clued me in on how to post images from my blog. I think I screwed up the url, however. But anyway, you found me! I love instagram!ReplyCancel

  • Jill - November 22, 2014 - 10:55 AM

    Hi Laurel,

    Thanks for the post on Instagram otherwise, I didn’t know about your blog. Loved this post. Very inspiring.ReplyCancel

  • Sandy - October 10, 2014 - 12:47 AM

    Great post! I have a gallery wall planned with a few narrow wall shelves in the mix. Good or bad idea?ReplyCancel

  • Tone on Tone Loi Thai - September 20, 2014 - 1:51 PM

    I’ve done a few of these – very time consuming and lots of work. It’s all about planning, like you stated. For one client, I did a gallery wall of old family / ancestral photos. Great post, Laurel. Very informative. Ciao ciaoReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2014 - 10:37 PM

      Hi Loi,

      I bet it’s absolutely gorgeous! I think it helps at least, to have the artwork, be it photos or whatnot. But still… I’ve done some small art walls with groupings of prints and even that took many, many hours. xo, LReplyCancel

  • Wendy Caldwell - September 20, 2014 - 2:56 AM

    Hi Laurel. Great post & terrific info.
    The gorgeous layered wall is the work of Amanda Lindroth. & appeared in a House Beautiful about 2 years ago. An amazing mid century styled house where she used lots of blue & white striped fabric, blue & white ikat bedroom , pink bougainvilla & a boat on the canal. Another house of hers was in HB late last year I think. Equally stunning
    How do I know? I am totally besotted by her work.
    R. de R’s apart in NYC was fab as well. Much the same aesthetic really.
    Thanks for the opportunity to comment
    WxReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2014 - 10:34 PM

      Hi Wendy, Thank you so much for letting me know! I’ve made the change! I saw different images of that room after I looked her up, but not the one I have. And her work IS amazing! I like that word “besotted.” xo, LaurelReplyCancel