Wall Designs: How To Design A Gallery Wall

Posted on 21 March 2019

how to design a feature wall

Creating a gallery wall is a simple way to add style, design and personal touches to any room, without the hassle of painting or wallpaper. Feature walls should be used to help define a living space and are a fun and easy way to personalize your home. If you have an open concept living room, a feature wall (AKA: gallery wall or accent wall) can help to define the space in order to highlight the dining room, for instance. The obvious reason to showcase one wall in a room is to add a creative element and, therefore, spice up an otherwise dull space. A feature wall can also enlarge a smaller space, harmonize the overall design of your home and help to detract attention from something you don’t want people to focus on. When designing a feature wall, there are a lot of things to keep in mind: the color palette, furniture choices, the crowdedness of your living space, etc. So, if you’re wondering how to make a photo gallery wall, keep reading for some great ideas, tips & a step-by-step guide!

(For more information, check out our Complete Guide to Canvas Prints!)

What is a gallery wall?

So, first of all, what is a gallery wall? What is a feature wall? A feature wall can be as basic as one wall in a room that is painted a distinct color from the other walls in a way that makes it pop. In the 1990s or early 2000s, for instance, you might have come across one wall in a home painted orange or turquoise: this would be considered an old-fashioned feature wall. Today, the feature wall is making an updated and trendy comeback in the form of gallery photo walls. A gallery wall is a wall that features a mixture of various artistic elements that are usually personal to the homeowner in some way. The artworks represent a range of media, including photographs, drawings, canvas prints, framed artifacts, personal mementos and 3D souvenirs or wall decor items.

what is a gallery wall

Wall design ideas & tips

#1 Look for what inspires you

When searching for art and feature wall ideas, check the photos you’ve taken on your phone first. This is a great place to start, since these images are often spontaneous and can include unexpected moments. Considering combining family portraits, photos of you and your spouse and random photos from your phone to create a diverse expression of the things and people that inspire you on a daily basis. Creating a gallery wall is the perfect way to make a bold statement about who you are as an individual. As Jen Bekman, founder of 20X200 states, “This is your opportunity to make a statement about who you are and what you like. Mix paintings and photography, black-and-white and color and combine high and low pieces.”

#2 Take your time & consider the layout

Jana Bek, an interior designer in Ann Arbor, Mich., recommends going slow when coming up with wall decor ideas: “Don’t go online and buy a ton of pieces so you can create a gallery wall at top speed,” states Bek. “A captivating gallery wall should look and feel collected. The ensemble should be an interesting mix of genres and techniques — for instance, figures, landscapes, abstracts in the form of drawings, photography and painting. Practice patience and take joy in acquiring your finds.”

Before placing your finds on the wall, consider playing with a few different layout designs before you settle on one. Lay your artwork on the floor to test out a few different layouts. Take pictures of each different setup, so you can compare them by flipping through your phone.

wall design ideas

#3 Keep it cohesive: develop a color palette or theme

You can showcase your gallery wall as artwork with a common color or theme. For instance, Christiane Lemieux, founder of DwellStudio, encourages designing a gallery wall with large wall art all within a specific color palette: “Design a whole room around modern abstract paintings. I'm loving working with the bold black and whites. It's so graphic and chic — a palette that works all year!” Some other common color palette designs for gallery walls include blue and grey, pink and green, or black and yellow.

If you’re going for a more eclectic, salon-style design (see below, Step 2: Choose the right layout for your space), then coming up with a theme, rather than a consistent color palette makes more sense. For instance, consider a bohemian gallery wall theme, a collection of similar prints or framed fabrics, or a collection of artwork pieces that inspires you to create. The main thing to keep in mind is to have some cohesive elements throughout, whether it’s similar art types, matching frames, or a specific color palette.

wall decor ideas


#4 Create a wall story

Gallery walls can be used as unique way to document and tell a story of your travels or past experiences. Lemieux is a huge fan of utilizing pieces that showcase a story: “I'm always inspired by the vintage art I find while traveling and have developed a deep love of collecting pieces from flea markets and galleries all over the world. I love artwork that has a backstory. It's a real conversation starter.”

If you don’t have a specific story in mind when you start out, then begin by collecting artwork and objects that speak to you. Illustrations, paintings, prints and other distinctive pieces can all have a home in your feature wall design. Hillary Thomas of HGTV states, “Do mix in drawings with photos and paintings. The more eclectic, the more you'll get a 'salon' feel.” The most important thing when creating a gallery wall is to jump in and enjoy the creative process: what arises from your creation is your own unique story.


how to decorate a large wall


How to design a gallery wall

Step 1: Pick your wall space

Take a look around your home: is there a big blank space just begging to be a beautiful gallery wall? Perhaps you’re thinking that a bedroom feature wall is what you’re after. If there are more than a few possibilities for gallery walls in your home, pick the one that can really be the focal point. Also, consider the theme of the gallery wall: is it personal? The bedroom might be best for a gallery wall of a more personal touch. Is the theme artifacts or memories that inspire you? Perhaps place this collection in your home office. Make sure there is enough space on whichever wall you choose for everything in your collection, keeping in mind light switches, doors and windows.

Victoria Leslie founder of Etalage, an English company specializing in antique prints, vintage oil paintings and decorative pictures for gallery walls, stated “If you don’t have one large wall, gallery walls can be hung around windows, around doors, above bed heads, above and around fireplaces or even around cabinets in a kitchen.”


Family/Living Room

Since the family room is the room in the house where its inhabitants tend to spend the most amount of time, this location is great for showing off your family’s unique personality. Showcase your family’s most recent vacation photos, photo shoot or random photos throughout your family’s history. In your feature wall living room, consider organizing your gallery wall items around the fireplace: since the fireplace already makes such a statement in the room, it makes for a great location for a bold feature wall.


Adding canvas prints to your entryway is a great way to add charm to your home as soon as you walk in the door. Incorporate a family last name sign or a meaningful family quote. Also, consider creating a family “command center” to collect keys, mail and other important documents.


how to design a gallery wall


You can add a personal touch to the master bedroom or to the kids’ rooms by creating a bedroom feature wall. Large prints can make a statement above a bed and serve to encourage a child’s sense of individuality.


Quirky art prints with food-related sayings make for great elements in a kitchen feature wall. For a kitchen feature wall, avoid hanging canvas prints in areas where they might get wet.


Hallways are often afterthoughts when it comes to decorating and designing your home. However, the long wall space actually makes for a great location for all those old family photos you never knew where to hang! For large wall decor, your hallway can actually make the perfect space.


Your home office is the perfect location for artwork and canvas prints that inspire you and motivate you to create.


Like the kitchen, you might not think of the bathroom as a space for a feature wall but you would be surprised! Bathrooms often have large blank walls that are perfect for a canvas print gallery wall. The small spaces can make a huge impact on the rest of your house!


layouts for pictures


Step 2: Choose the right layout for your space

In terms of style and layout, gallery walls tend to fall into two categories: a grid, or linear, arrangement and a salon arrangement. When deciding on the layout, consider the feel you want to create in the room. David Kassel, owner of ILevel, an art-placement and picture-hanging service in Manhattan, states “Grids result in a clean, crisp, formal arrangement, and work nicely in a dining room to replace one larger piece,” he said. “If a more relaxed, personal style is interesting to you, consider a salon-style arrangement,” which is an eclectic grouping of images and objects and can include a diverse range of pieces, from oil paintings and canvas prints to tattoo or graffiti art and 3D objects.

The size and magnitude of your gallery wall is generally dependent on your aesthetic choices, as well as the space you have available. As a general rule of thumb, choose either a large image to act as the focal piece, or spread out a series of smaller photos over a large area. In addition to the salon-style arrangement, there are 4 main other layout types.


Symmetrical layouts

In a traditional design, symmetry is key and generally works best with one large image in the center and smaller images centered on either side.

Asymmetrical layouts

Asymmetrical layouts are more in line with the modern, eclectic gallery canvas wall. For asymmetrical layouts, aline the artwork so that the tops are flush: this gives the appearance of symmetry, but there is an obvious directional line to the collection.

Vertical layouts

Vertical layouts work well for spaces that are long and skinny: next to doors, bathrooms or if you want to define a small space on a larger wall.

Grid layouts

As mentioned above, grid layouts are formed in grids. They offer the most cohesive appearance by using a given number of canvas prints all of the same size.

(Check out our Standard Canvas Sizes Here at Canvas Vows in our Canvas Sizing Guide!)

layouts for pictures

Step 3: Layout your design (before you hang it up!)

The most surefire way to ensure your gallery wall is top-notch is to lay out the design beforehand. Taking this step will ensure that everything lines up and will keep you from making unnecessary holes in the walls that you will have to patch up later. Find a space on your floor large enough to accommodate your gallery wall. Lay out each piece and move them around until you are happy with the arrangement you see on the floor. Next is the “Newspaper Trick”: cut the exact sizes of each piece of artwork out of newspaper or large paper. Place the pieces of paper on your wall where the artwork will go and hang up your pieces over the paper.


bedroom feature wall


Step 4: Hang your canvas gallery wall art

Hanging your canvases and artwork in your gallery wall is easy with the following rules:

57”— the ideal height for art on the wall.
3” to 6” — the ideal distance between pieces of art.
6” to 8”— the ideal distance between the bottom edge of art and the top edge of a piece of furniture.


(Check out our complete guide for How to Hang A Canvas Print!)

Step 5: Celebrate!

Whew! You did it. Now it’s time to take a step back and admire all your hard work.

gallery wall

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