hanging a gallery art wall

hallway details via perfectly imperfect living

Oh my goodness! It’s been a long time between drinks, as the saying goes. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook then you will have seen the main reason for a little blog hiatus has been my travels in India. And yes, I’m sure I can promise an upcoming post or two on these. Just as soon as I’ve made sense of the hundreds of photos that I took that is.

In the meantime, I’m already back in the deep end at work. Which leads me to write this post about hanging a gallery-style art wall.

I love a salon hang. I believe this is the interior stylist’s technical term for a gallery wall of all sorts of smaller sized, mismatched, mixed media art works on the one wall. The wall acts as an equaliser, and, in my case, accommodates everything from favourite etchings, prints & paintings to works of ahem, ‘importance’ by my girls. A salon hung wall is a great way to make minor artworks look major, provides great visual impact, and works to unify so many styles, sizes, genres and artists all under the one umbrella.

Please note the key word in the paragraph above is ‘favourite’. As in, these pieces are my personal favourites. Art can be such a snobby topic. Last week I visited some lovely clients who spent half our time together apologising for the lack of financial value in their beautifully hung, and visually stunning gallery wall. Not only was their wall beautiful to look at, but it was truly personal, with pieces they had collected, created and inherited. Every piece was high in emotional value, and to me, that is the best reason to hang something on your wall.

salon hang gallery art wall via perfectly imperfect living

A salon hang is also a wonderful use of space, and ultimately means you are maximising your wall space. Instead of one bigger art work and perhaps one or two smaller pieces (which is how this wall used to look) there are now fifteen pieces and counting.

If there is one thing I’m not scared of, it’s hanging a picture or two. To tell the truth, usually, I’m pretty gung ho when it comes to hanging art. In my own home anyway. I have a baby hammer (which usually provokes much merriment), and a box of picture hooks, and away I go.

None of this banging on the wall to find the dwang which dictates where the piece can be hung. That was my father’s dictum, which I always did choose to ignore! Please – is there anything worse than a painting hung too high?

For better or worse, I belong more to the school that hammers now and sometimes pays the price later. Or just makes another hole in the wall. (OK, before I make any of my clients nervous and regret letting me loose on their walls, I should clarify that should a piece be really heavy, or should a wall look particularly difficult, none of the above applies – I would call in an expert art hanger without hesitation.)

But, in the perfectly imperfect spirit of my own home at least, my salon hung gallery wall is a constant work in progress, and perfect experimental playground.

If I’m honest, hammering the first hole on a pristine, newly painted wall, be it my freshly painted grey bedroom walls, or a client’s, will always increase my heart rate. But once I’m underway, I love the way it all comes together. Always with the end goal in sight of a wall so inspiring that your heart beats for different reasons altogether upon seeing it each day.

mixed salon hang art wall via perfectly imperfect living

There are a few schools of thought when working out the layout of your wall, but this is how I approach it –

Gather together the pieces that you have collected for your wall. They do not have to be of the same era or genre or frame colour or price bracket. That is the beauty of a salon hang. The wall acts as an equaliser.

Which is the piece that you gravitate towards the most? It can be big or small. Once you have decided, look at this piece again. This will not necessarily be the focal point of the wall, but it will be the linch pin, around which you will build your overall picture. Using my wall as an example, the linch pin is the Huia bird screen print.

Lay your favourite on the floor, and place some of your other pieces around it to get an idea of how you will group them on the wall. Or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, hammer in the hook for the key piece, and hang it. Make sure it is a little off centre and at eye level. The gap to allow between frames will depend on how many pieces you are hanging. On my wall, the gap is around 10cm between the Huia and the bigger frames on either side of it. Note that the Huia is my eye level piece, and the frames either side of it are both set higher, but not at the same height. The smaller frames above and below are then centred to the piece they are above or below, and the gap between is just that little bit more because of this. There is nothing scientific what so ever about my wall. And I promise, nor is it measured. I really trust my instincts and my eye once I am hanging. Sometimes I do get it wrong, by a few millimetres, and this bothers my Virgo sensibilities more than if it was jaringly out! I simply pull the nail out, move it, and keep going. A little nail hole is neither here nor there, and on a white wall, a little bit of white toothpaste in the hole will quickly and easily cover up any mishaps that you don’t want anyone else to notice. (Try it!)

As you move out from your linch pin work, hang to either side, then above and then below. And keep moving in a circle in this way.

flowers and gallery wall via perfectly imperfect living

If you are wondering about outer edges and where to stop, a good thing to do is to imagine a huge rectangle or square on the wall as a whole. You could mark this out with washi or masking tape if you like and this will give you a framework to keep within. Some of the frames of the artworks on the outside of your grouping should line up with this imaginary frame.

I know some people are a lot more particular about their layout than I am, cutting out brown paper shapes for each of their art works and meticulously working out where each of these will go, taping them to the wall, before they begin hanging their actual pieces. It’s not that there is anything wrong with this approach, and if you think this is how you would prefer to work out your layout then please do this instead. Personally, I am a visual girl through and through, and I would rather roughly work out my layout on the floor by laying each piece approximately in the pattern I will use when hanging it, and then going piece by piece in my circular way, stopping after each art work is hung, standing back to check that I am visually happy, and then proceeding with the next picture. Gung ho this may be, but sometimes you just have to get on with it. No amount of postulating can really change the fact that sooner or later you have to put a nail in that wall!

As I add new pieces to my collection I change the wall. In the time that this hallway salon wall has been in place there have been no major major changes – the Huia is still my key piece visually, but I have added and subtracted and moved other smaller bits and pieces around it. This way I keep things interesting for all concerned! After all, a house is never done and nor should a gallery wall be.

Amanda xx

(photography and styling by Amanda Holland for perfectly imperfect living)

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