5 Gallery Wall Layouts to Try in 2021 (And One That'll Date You Immediately), According to Designers
You’ve just moved into a new place. After months of scrolling Pinterest inspo, you’ve got your essentials—a coffee table, sofa, and area rug are all present and accounted for. So why doesn’t your living room look like the swoon-worthy images you’ve been saving? The answer is simple: You’re missing a gallery wall. When it comes to bringing a space together, it’s your secret weapon (and it’s not just for maximalists anymore).
We get that it can be hard to look at a space abstractly when you’re in the design trenches—most of us mere mortals were not blessed with Kelly Wearstler’s eye for detail. That’s why we’ve put together a rundown of the latest gallery wall trends and styling tips from our favorite designers. Here, find five gallery wall layouts to try in 2021 (and one look that you should avoid at all costs).
1. DO: Feature Diverse Subject Matter
For some, selecting pieces for a wall is a fun, creative way to spend an afternoon. For others, it can feel like an extensional crisis. What if you’re a mother of four who loves ACDC? How do you choose which side of your personality to display? Our answer: this doesn’t need to be a Sophie’s Choice scenario. “The most important thing about creating your wall is the intention or story you want to tell,” says Brittany Peltz, designer and founder of SENA Lifestyle Studio. Practice the art of Modern Eclecticism (TikTok’s latest design obsession), and use your personal preferences and interests as the guiding force of your wall.
If you’re struggling with where to start, 1stDibs Editorial and Fine Art Director Anthony Barzilay Freund recommends “artfully mixing works of various size and quality.” He says this can be anything from “well-known prints grouped with beautifully framed textiles or needlepoint, family photos or a child’s explorations in fingerpainting.” So, if your story says kids lunches by day and rock groupie by night, feel free to display a framed ACDC poster next to your family vacation photos—you’ll be the coolest mom on the block.
2. DO: Consistent Colors
You’re probably wondering how all of these unique and miscellaneous items are supposed to come together (without looking like a hodgepodge of your life). While the gallery wall is all about self-expression and creativity, there’s one design rule that should be obeyed: a consistent color palette. “It’s a good idea to pinpoint one particular piece in your collection to use as inspiration for the entire collection,” says Amy Wax, the artist and color consultant behind Color911. For example, a light color palette would include pieces with “off-white, butter yellow, light neutrals, and neutral-colored frames [to] help your artwork blend into the wall. This is perfect for more colorful abstract art on gallery walls,” Wax explains.
“I typically recommend that either all of the subject matter colors be consistent, or all of the frames be consistent,” Davis says. Essentially, you can mix and match as many interests as you want (the more, the better). Just make sure your selections have the same color palette. We’d say that depending on how big your wall is, choose a maximum of three colors to use throughout your selected items. Remember: you’re trying to showcase your interests… no one will be able to see what those are if it looks like Crayola had a massacre on your wall.
3. DO: Unexpected Objects
The days of matchy-matchy decor are long gone, and personalized objects with meaning have taken their place. “Get creative!” says designer Kate Lester. “We created a gallery wall of unexpected objects like a vintage skateboard I found at a garage sale, framed pieces of wallpaper, simple inexpensive pencil sketches and downloadable art as well as local photography in ready-made frames.” As we’ve mentioned before, 2021 is all about originality, so why not start with your artwork? Lester says, “the result is dynamic, curated and impactful and way more interesting than a single piece of expensive store-bought art!”
“When it comes to decorating a [gallery wall], we like to differentiate the types of products we use. This helps to keep the space interesting and adds character,” says Kirsten Krason, co-founder of House of Jade Interiors. One of her go-to items are wall baskets that vary in size, texture and color. “Hang them in a similar way you would a gallery wall, varying the heights and spaces between…as with art, you can do a wide array of colors or go with a more monochromatic look,” Krason explains.
4. DO: Unconventional Arrangements
So you have your color-coordinated, one-of-a-kind objects set and ready to go…now what? Unique and eclectic gallery walls are in for 2021 (and they’re not as hard to pull off as you think). Design blogger and DIY-guru Emily Henderson says, “Start by placing your biggest pieces first and build around them...This will be your jumping point for placing all your other pieces.” After you’ve hung a few of your largest pieces, you can *exhale* before you start to hang your smaller items. “Try placing your second biggest piece diagonally from your biggest piece – whether that’s right next door or on the opposite side of the wall. Now you just need to fill in a little bit of empty space between and around them,” says Henderson (Psst: check out her step-by-step hanging process here).
If a large, abstract wall feels too cluttered for you, you can still pull off a gallery wall without overpowering the space. One way to do this is by choosing smaller pieces of artwork and framed photos with lots of white space. Or, if you’re up for a challenge, start with a single photo, painting, or object that speaks to you. Then, try to find pieces from the same artist in the same series. If you can pull this off, we guarantee your space will have that cool, Soho-art-gallery vibe. “Decorating rules can be broken, too: A loosely casual room can be made more formal with a structured, grid-like arrangement of works, whereas a streamlined or minimalist space can be given some lightness and warmth by a more relaxed, asymmetrical composition of pieces,” Freund explains.
5. DO: Layered Frames
Minimalists, don’t freak out. A monochromatic color palette is one of the hallmarks of 2021’s Japandi aesthetic, and it’s the key to creating a trendy-yet-understated gallery wall. “You want to be able to layer some frames on top of each other and have a variety of sizes/shapes to create dimension and texture,” says designer Shaolin Low.
“Quality frames are worth investing in,” says Freund. You can even dress up a photo you hate (but your S.O *insisted on*) by selecting a high gloss, brass or real wooden frame. “I love equally minimalist, modern wood or white-painted frames and ornate vintage and antique ones. What I don’t love is frames that are painted in ugly colors, faux-antique finishes or shiny metallics meant to simulate real gilding,” he explains.
6. DON’T: Choose Matching Objects
“Even an outlier can be brought into the family fold if it’s juxtaposed against a tight grouping of small-but-mighty works,” says Freund. While it’s one thing to match your gallery wall’s colors, it’s another to match the physical selections. As we mentioned before, 2021’s answer to home design and decor is bringing personality into the home. That means skipping generic, cookie-cutter artwork or matchy-matchy wall hangings. One of the best forms of self-expression is through artwork, and what better way is there to showcase your interests than by plastering it on the walls? (Literally.)