Of all home decorating tasks, one that is perhaps most neglected and intimidating is hanging wall art. We’ve all had those art-propped-up-against-the-wall, must-buy-a-spirit-level times or those painfully noncommittal moments of actually taking hammer to nail (“What if I change my mind? What if I hang it incorrectly?”). Thankfully there’s one easy and effective place to start—gallery walls.
“A gallery wall can add character and an extra layer to the room,” claims interior design Maurizio Pellizzoni, “Artwork is very important when completing the interior of any project. A great selection of art can easily represent the owner’s lifestyle and influence the mood of the room. For our Ascot Lodge project we used a power rail system to hang the artwork in the Grade-II-listed Georgian room. This system made the art gallery flexible and prevents any damage to the restored panelling. For this project we chose contemporary photography and art to create a more modern feel in the stunning Georgian room.”
As Maurizio suggests, these arrangements make great use of your vertical space as well as being one of the most personal art display formations available. The beauty of gallery walls is their countless possibilities in both configuration and medium. A series of prints, shadow boxes filled with interesting artefacts, treasured kids’ drawings, personal photographs, mirrors or a mixture of any or all make interesting gallery wall choices. Even more, gallery walls lend themselves to basically any room from a spacious living room to a small-scale vestibule.
Learn how to master the look with advice from these wall art ideas from art-loving designers.
Forever pushing the boundaries of convention and going against the grain, Jean-Louis Deniot’s art choices often comprise of anything but canvases so his arrangements need to incorporate a variety of mediums.
When it comes to his carefully considered gallery walls, he explains, “I really enjoy the repetition of the same format on a wall, with the distraction of having each pieces inside the frames being very unique. The repetition is like the beat in electronic sounds, it creates an exciting repetitive rhythm.”
The framed butterflies in this opulent bathroom maximise the tall awkward spaces of the wall panelling without trying too hard and add a delicate addition to the Neoclassical space.
Galleries work really well against a dark backdrop as seen here in Greg Natale’s equestrian-themed Geelong project (left) which is full of great examples of the technique. A set of four dapper horse jockey prints by Vanity Fair caricaturist Sir Leslie Ward a.k.a. Spy or Drawl are framed in simple black designs for a fresh take on a traditional look.
“When creating gallery walls it’s important to consider the place of the art in the broader scheme,” Greg shrewdly determines, “In this instance, these vintage prints from Vanity Fair were hung in a horizontal arrangement to balance the lines of the chair rail and the length of the furnishings immediately in the same eye-line. Consider how each piece that you are hanging relates to the next.”
Designer Tobi Fairley shares some of her top tips for mastering the look. “1. Hang a series of art close together, say two inches apart, to let the group read as one large piece. 2. Think about “wrapping” art around a corner, you don’t have to stick to just one wall. 3. The art doesn’t have to be all exactly the same, or even the same size. Just use the same frame, or select art in similar colour groups, to create cohesion.”
Proving that gallery walls can work in just about any space and for anyone, Sophie Paterson employed the technique to draw the eye in this recently completed animal nursery. The series—six photographs of baby animals—are impossibly cute and extremely well-chosen thanks to their blank space which offsets the decorative wallpaper. “I like to use either the same frame or a similar colour palette for all the frames so that it looks neat visually,” the designer says, “I always use one of my tradesmen who hangs all my art for both my own home and clients’ homes and if we are drilling into expensive wallpaper I leave the room as I hate watching it!”
“There is no single secret [to gallery walls],” Sandra Nunnerley reveals, “but one critical element is lighting. I like to develop “tiers” of lighting to ensure that everything will be viewed to the best advantage.
I encourage clients to think about how to display works. For example, I like to mix different kinds of art such as tribal or folk art and sculpture with more everyday objects like books or whimsical things with no particular value. This allows the eye to make new and unexpected discoveries.
I also think many people are afraid to use colour on their walls for fear of how it will interact with the art, when in fact art hanging on lacquered cherry red walls or moss green walls can be stunning.”
"Black and white prints in coordinating frames afford timeless elegance to this living room corner."
In this living room detail, Sandra has mirrored the aesthetics of Michele Oka Doner’s Celestial chair with a four-part arrangement of Judith McMillan gelatine prints. Treating the gallery as part of the room’s backdrop, the designer isn’t scared to overlay the gallery with other complementary accents.
“Do a dry run before starting to place items on the wall,” Susana Simonpietri of New York interior design studio Chango & Co., “We like to place the cluster of art on the floor directly under the wall the pieces will be placed on and determine what the total cluster width and height is to be, then make an arrangement that works on the floor. Odds are it will shift and change a bit once you start translating it to the wall, but at least you have an idea and direction before you begin.”