The Secret to a (Really) Good Gallery Wall

Article by Kevin Francis O'Gara

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While the term “gallery wall” may feel like a buzz word in the design world, the fact of the matter is that this decorating trick for filling empty wall space is not just a trend and won’t be going away any time soon. It’s an age-old way to display artwork and collections and work around odd spaces in your home. But—the ubiquitous white-on-white gallery wall is definitely not timeless. There is a subtle trick that makes gallery walls work, and carry the same weight as one large piece of artwork would, and it has to do with a foundational principle of design. Read on to see how these prime gallery wall examples embody this one key rule!

The keyword here is contrast – and the easiest way to achieve this is to have a beautiful color behind your gallery wall in the first place. By providing an existing element for your artwork to play against, you immediately create more visual interest for the wall art. Without color, like the white wall in the last example below, all of the interest has to be carried by your artwork itself, so you’ll need to play with either contrasting framing or sizing to ensure the composition isn’t washed away by its lack of impact. See how these spaces pull it off perfectly.

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A fully-saturated wall brings a splash of life to this showhouse living room in Melbourne. The success here lies in the variety of sizes and complement of teal and bright coral. With the same colors in the furniture of the room, the artwork relates well to the whole room design to tie it together.

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This fabulous converted barn project hides a TV in the center of this gallery wall (the Samsung Frame)! Super dark navy provides a sophisticated backdrop for pops of bright white you can find in a lot of the artwork. The size of the TV is perfect for anchoring the whole wall, and almost every piece has a bit of black to relate to the shades of the lamp and sconces in this space.

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A subtle pale blue gives just enough color to offset a white mirror grounding this eclectic vintage collection in the bedroom of Rebecca de Ravenel. The size of the mirror helps emphasize symmetry above the sofa, and the larger pieces to the left of the mirror help balance the smaller elements on the other side.

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Like the dark blue wall above, this moody red wall provides a great contrast to the bright white mats of these prints and black frames in this bathroom. The tan tones in these pieces are consistent throughout this space, which helps tie in disparate pieces of artwork interspersed between the similar prints.

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A full-blown pink warms up this gallery wall, which not only features a variety of sizes but offers a large dose of black at the bottom of the wall, providing the perfect counterbalance to the lighter pieces in the set. With so many smaller prints at the top of the wall, the size of this large black piece and the large floral piece are important to anchor the wall with sizes appropriate to the scale of the entire composition.

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This dining room certainly doesn’t shy away from color, and black frames create solid boundaries between the aqua walls and the rich hues of these small paintings. While all of the paintings of the same size are aligned in a grid, the other artwork including the gold sculpture have room to breathe on their own, anchoring the left side of the wall.

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For the only gallery wall with a white wall (are you getting the gist yet?), black is utilized to create a crisp contrast in most of the frames and the majority of the artwork itself, making sure enough visual weight is carried by the collection in totality. The frame style is also similar, so even between the black and white frames, the clean modern style of the frames keeps a common thread. You’ll also notice that this photography collection focuses on portraits and parts of the human body for a continuous theme!

I hope these gallery wall tips give some insight into principles that can really be applied to any sort of decorating vignette or composition you approach within your home.

Follow Kevin Francis O'Gara @kfogara

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