When did gallery walls become a thing? Anyone know? It must have been at the exact point at which I graduated from blu-tack to clip frames… or perhaps it was when I graduated from clip frames to ‘real’ frames. Either way, for me it just feels like the natural progression from teenage to ‘grown up’ decorating.
I’ve always been a scrapbooker. I don’t mean I kept a scrapbook – that would be far too regimented – but I have always had areas of my walls which are given over to clutter. At 13 my entire bedroom was covered with Blur and Oasis posters, strictly confined to different walls (because they don’t get on – obviously). Meanwhile Pulp had the wardrobe doors. As a student I started adding in things like fabric and patterned paper while the spaces above my bed and desk became an unofficial pinboard for articles I tore out of magazines, pictures I liked, postcards, ticket stubs from gigs and theatre trips, notes, to-do lists, ideas, drawings, inspiration… etc.
One of my favourite pieces from the Venice Biennale in 2007 was by Serbian artist Mrdjan Bajk and entitled ‘Backup’. I was taken with it because it appeared to be exactly that: pages torn from sketchbooks and collages, a thought process through mementos, images and ideas. On a simplistic level I liked the balance, the colours, and the way the images correspond to one another.
But apparently ‘gallery walls’ or ‘scrap walls’ are trendy now. Everybody’s doing it and with really quite drastically varying results. From the homes that look like they’re owned by mad hoarders where you can barely even see the walls, to the haphazard approach of people who embrace the trend without stopping to think whether what they’re putting up is even worth looking at, there are some really bad examples out there. I could share them but I’m not *that* mean.
That said, when they’re done well I do really like them. In fact, I’m working on a little gallery wall of my own and as I have progressed I have realised there are some really quite basic rules that are well worth following if you want to avoid looking like this (yeah, I know I said I wasn’t that mean but, well, I lied):
1. Choose your space carefully. Covering a huge living room wall with pictures can be a little bit oppressive. Select a recess wall or a small section of wall between pieces of furniture, windows or doorways or above a bed or sideboard. The aim is to create something that draws your eye to it, not dominates the entire view.
2. Know when to stop. Personally I’m not keen on the total-wall effect but grouping items together to create a larger feature can be really effective. The key is to decide on a size and stick to it. Some of the most disastrous gallery walls I’ve seen are when people have clearly thought “oh, I’ll just add one more picture…” and ended up with a sprawling mess.
3. Stay balanced. Whether you go for uniform rows of pictures or a more patchwork-style display, it’s really important to think about the sizes and shapes of your wall art as well as the colours and textures of the frames. Asymmetry adds interest but you don’t want it to end up looking lopsided. A tip I was given by a designer was to draw around your pictures onto paper first and use blu-tack to move them around the wall until you find a combination that works.
4. Coordinate. This doesn’t mean everything has to be the same colour or style but just as you wouldn’t group together furniture or textiles without thinking about whether or not they go, don’t go randomly combining pieces of wall art together. The best gallery walls have a vague colour scheme or general theme running through them.
5. Don’t rush it. Unless you happen to have stacks of pictures sitting around, you’re unlikely to be able to create a gallery wall overnight. Put up one or two things and add to it as and when you find the right pieces. Right now, I only have three pictures above my bed but I have plans to add to it. I have a few ideas for what I might put up but I’m holding on until I’m sure I have enough pieces and that they all work together.
You can see the start of my gallery wall HERE. Meanwhile, check out the fantastic walls that have been inspiring me…
// Pretty Mommy