Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How to Plan Your Gallery Wall

Not that long ago I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and came across a little blurb on Anna Spiro's account  about her spending a peaceful afternoon with her daughter hanging up a gallery wall.  No plan, they just started hammering, and of course because we're talking about Anna Spiro here the result was like a spread out of Veranda magazine.  What really struck me is how carefree the gallery wall seems to be to other people -- how random and perfectly imperfect the end result.  I am not cool enough to pull off this kind of bohemian attitude to hammer and nails, so if you are feeling paralyzed by fear by permanent holes in the walls like I was, let me show you how you too can look effortlessly chic by systematically organizing and planning your wall to your heart's content.

The Inspiration:

We have a huge blank wall without windows behind our bedroom TV just like this one, so my plan was to roughly achieve this end result.  image via
The Planning:
Here's the little cheat that I hope you guys will all find helpful in organizing your gallery wall plans. Find your inspiration, and paste that image into Powerpoint.  Now go measure your space.  How tall is your cabinet?  How big is your TV?  How much distance between your floor and ceiling?  Write those numbers down and get back in front of your computer.  I'm going to say something scandalous: you don't need to convert your measurements here unless you really want to.  I know you just measured in inches, but grab a little millimeter ruler and just pretend that your inches were millimeters.  You don't really care if you create a miniature exact replica of your room.  You just need a proper ratio scale for your image. You can make your dresser, TV, wall space bigger or smaller than the image you have pasted into your worksheet by adding a few box shapes into your Powerpoint to reflect the correct proportions of your space:

Above I adjusted the size of the TV from the original image to better reflect the scale of my room. Then I went around inserting boxes over top of the original image's gallery wall frame layout.  If there is something you don't plan on copying, don't put a box over it.  Once you are done boxing over everything you want to keep, you can delete the original image underneath to de-clutter your workspace.  You are now left with only the boxes you placed into the Powerpoint sheet as items you plan on keeping.

Here's the final draft of my original mock-up.  You can see how things changed along the way in size and dimension from the inspiration image.  The biggest reason for this is because your image may call for a picture frame that's 21" x 37" but good luck finding that in a store.  You have to know the frames you are using if you really want to scale this out.  A good rule of thumb-- you can find wall frames in roughly these sizes: 
  • 5 x 7
  • 8 x 10
  • 11 x 14
  • 16 x 20  
And you can get large gallery wall canvases typically as large as 24 x 36.

Of course you can do custom framing, but if you are trying to save some money, try to use the sizes that are available in stores.  The cheapest place I have found gallery wall frames is Target -- you can often use a promo code on large home purchases and they have a good selection of style, size, and colors.  Plus you are definitely going to be spending enough for free shipping, and they don't have an oversize shipping charge on even larger frames.  I found Michael's to be a real rip off on gallery wall frames -- my same number and size of frames at Michael's was $200 more than what I ended up spending at Target just to give you an idea. 

Once you know your frame sizes that you plan on using, now you need to plan the pictures you are going to hang in them.  A great thing about using Powerpoint here is that you can insert the pictures you are planning to use right into your boxed out "frames" so you can really get an idea of how you want to lay things out.  You can even plan which frames you want to use mattes with by putting a little white border around your frame.  You can spend a lot of time here as you can imagine, but no actual time putting things on walls until you've tinkered with things until your heart's content.

The Reveal:

How do you really know where to hammer though?  Getting things from your computer screen to the wall can be a challenge, so you need another visual way to lay out your space on the actual wall before you start hammering away. A great idea here is to use the paper inserts from your frame as your wall guides.  You can mark exactly where the nail should go for each frame on the paper insert, and then hammer right into the guide.  If you buy nicer frames they often come with paper guides inside, but even cheap frames come with a paper advertisement photo that you can use to make your own guide.  While you are at this taping paper to the wall stage, you can make sure everything is level with a free leveler app on your cell phone.

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