I have loved art ever since my first art history class in freshman year of high school. Learning about the culture, politics and meaning behind a particular artwork or art movement was an entirely new way to view the world and our history. Ever since, I have loved exploring museums or galleries whenever possible. This quickly segued into a love of décor and architecture, admiring the thought put into spaces like hotels, bars, boutiques and even homes. I became a Pinterest fiend, but until recently my love of the decorative arts had to remain virtual since I was moving apartments every 6-9 months, sometimes even more often!
Once I got settled in my new place Washington DC this past April, I styled it to my heart’s content. With furniture more or less sorted, over the summer I focused on decorating walls and building my indoor garden. As a maximalist with books, tchotchkes and mementos on every flat surface, I knew that one or two framed prints wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted the holy grail of wall art: the eclectic gallery wall. One day I’ll have a 6×6 gilded mirror or a giant statement painting, but this was my best option considering my limited bank account and wall space. A gallery wall is a good way to bring color to a space and start a collection that can move with me over the years. I took most of my inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram, notably lifestyle bloggers Kate La Vie, Audrey Rivet, Onyi Moss and Hill House Vintage who feature a lot of gorgeous, lush interiors. My ideal decor style is a mix of Parisian inspired elements with a dash of quirky collector vibes. Lots of light, gold accents, white linens and natural wood combined with mixed patterns and rich colors. But how does that translate into a gallery wall? Let me show you:
Themes: This is your starting point. A gallery wall should be a reflection of your favorite things. Mine incorporates a lot of fashion, travel and images of women. For an eclectic-chic gallery wall you want a mix of types of art: prints, photographs, watercolors, paintings. I even have a framed embroidered table mat from Hong Kong. You can do all pastels, all rich colors or even all black and white if you want, but I find doing a mix of colors brings character and personality. You also want to include a mix of subject matter, still life’s, portraits, landscapes and objets d’art. You can also add in mirrors, empty decorative frames and signs. The themes tie it all together. My gallery wall is based on women, Paris, fashion and travel.
Symmetry vs. Asymmetry: this is a good method to keep your gallery wall from feeling too…well…gallery-like. You want it to feel like a collection of art you have assembled in a mosaic on your wall. It should have character. It doesn’t have to be a proper square either, you can do a rectangle or build around another object- bookshelf, dresser, standing mirror or TV even. Mine is on a blank, white wall but rather than a 3×3 it’s asymmetric and made up of different shapes and sizes. As your collection grows, you can expand or change shape to accommodate. In order to keep it from looking haphazard, it’s important to hang each piece as straight as possible. I recommend using the level tool included in most basic tool boxes or you can buy one from your local hardware shop.
Don’t forget the frames: the color and shape of the frame you choose can really change the feel of a gallery wall. Modern gold or brass frames brings a pretty, mid-century aesthetic. A plain black frame is classic and a white frame can be used to lighten up a piece with dark colors. You can also choose a frame that is a statement in of itself- for example I love my Anthropologie Estelle Hanging Frame that holds the Corgi watercolor I commissioned from my friend Andrea Cheong of WAIH Studio. Going without a frame is also an option, just so long as you aren’t hanging up a poster with thumb tacks or tape- not chic my friends. The canvas of my Megan Lightell landscape is wrapped around wooden box frame, so it hangs on its own. It brings a modern feel which contrasts nicely with the vintage French magazine cover and the glitz of the Estelle mirror frame. For frames and objects that are art-worthy, I recommend checking out the selection at Anthropologie or Jungalow.
Continue the Story: To create visual flow, tie in your gallery wall with the rest of the room. For example, here the Paris theme starts with two photos of women in front of the iconic Parisian skyline (similar here and here). It continues throughout the room with the map of Paris leaning again my bedside table, the ‘I’d rather be in Paris’ cushion on my bed, books about traveling in France and French style, and several candles from Diptyque, the famous French parfumier. The same goes for the concepts of fashion and travel. However, to keep it from feeling too kitschy, some of your storytelling should be more subtle, using colors and textures. The blues and greens in my shoe illustrations, landscape and embroidery, continue in my four houseplants living on various tables and windowsills. The dove gray of my velvet bed is similar to the reflection in my standing mirror, table mirror and mirrored frame. The brown newsprint material of the vintage magazine ties into wooden floors and furniture. All of this makes the gallery wall feel fully integrated into the space.
I hope these tips help you craft your own eclectic-chic gallery wall! Remember, you can always add more art or start a new vignette. I prefer to think of it as a visual story, one that is very much in progress! Right now, I’m eyeing up a Roman Holiday film poster (my love of Audrey Hepburn is very much ongoing), a map of London, and some abstract sketches. I might also get a hanging shelf for above my bed, and then I’ll get into a whole other adventure: 3D art!