The first gallery wall I ever saw was at my friend Anna’s house in San Luis Obispo. I remember walking in to the living room and seeing it above the couch – such an eclectic collection of items, but somehow perfectly cohesive and lawlessly beautiful.
Anna is amazing. She is deep and introspective, and her laugh makes your soul feel lighter. Anna loves lavishly, and that love overflows into her hospitality and homemaking. She taught me about butter bells, cooks scones from scratch, and reads cookbooks cover to cover like a novel. Given how highly I esteemed her homemaking, to me this newest addition to her home was neither unexpected nor attainable.
Maybe everyone was equally inspired by Anna, maybe there was something in the wind, but gallery walls seemed to spread like wildfire. Beautiful and creative wildfire.
Flood of Gallery Walls
Soon, my Pinterest was flooded with them, and stores filled with hangable knick-knacks to pair with frames and arrange into perfect family mosaics. Women everywhere received the memo, and their beautifully arranged art spread across living room walls throughout the nation.
The fire continued to spread, getting closer and closer to home. A blog I follow featured a post about gallery walls, and my sister-in-law’s living room was featured on Joybird’s Instagram with the caption, “Gallery Wall Envy.” (P.S. If you’re not already following @babelrose, you should be.)
Everywhere I looked was another gallery wall, but given the caliber of women making them, I still didn’t think I had a chance. In my mind, these women hailed from Mt. Olympus, gifted with abilities that were unattainable to mere decorating mortals like myself.
Until finally, enough was enough. I’m not sure what exactly caused my breaking point, but I was done feeling needlessly left out and inferior.
I wanted a gallery wall. I still had a huge blank wall in my living room, and I liked them. Not because they’re “in” in decorating right now, but because I had been smitten with them since the first one I ever saw in Anna’s house. I loved the balance between chaos and beauty, mismatch and cohesion.
For a long time, I’ve believed that if you can read, you can learn, and if you can learn, you’re capable of nearly anything. I recently finished Talent is Overrated, by Geoff Colvin, which teaches that talent becomes an overrated indicator of success the moment learning and practice are introduced.
Learning the Skill of Gallery Wall Making
So, ignoring my lack of the god given gift of gallery wall making, I determined to develop the skill. So I went to my own Mt. Olympus: Pinterest.
I pinned a lot of gallery walls. There were some I liked, some I loved, and some that weren’t my taste. I discovered, for example, that I felt overwhelmed when a whole wall was covered, and that I didn’t want to use knick-knacks like arrows or ampersands.
Now knowing what I liked, I started collecting. When I was at Goodwill and garage sales, I looked for anything that fit into my increasingly more defined style. I also threw in sentimental items that had not yet found a place in our home, and the pile grew.
Next, I needed to learn how to put them on the wall. My sister-in-law Danyelle is amazing and supportive, and she encouraged me to arrange my items however I liked it! She has multiple gallery walls in her home, all with different styles and unifying factors, and I loved the freedom in not having an exact right way to do it!
. . .Except, I needed a little less freedom. To keep from being overwhelmed by possibilities, I needed guidelines.
In all my pinning, I found an infographic that recommended an art to wall ratio, so I used this as a jumping off point.
I measured my wall and used masking tape to block off the targeted area. I tapered in the corners, because I had noticed that I preferred more of an oval-ish shape as opposed to a rigid rectangle.
Now, for the actual arranging.
Compiling the Wall
Pinterest had a few suggestions on method, but the one that made the most sense to me (and that was supported by on-call expert, Danyelle!) was to block it out with butcher paper.
I cut out and labeled the pieces of butcher paper, and I then arranged the pieces slowly over a few days (weeks?). I rearranged them constantly as I changed my mind or had new ideas – until finally days went by without me wanting to make any changes.
When I was sure I was sure, I switched out the butcher paper for the items that had won a place on the wall. I didn’t use everything. Some of the items got returned to Goodwill, some got donated, and the sentimental items found homes elsewhere in our house.
But it really came together! And I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results!
I’ll point out something you might have already noticed: many of the frames are still in whatever state I bought them in, whether that’s empty or with something odd in them. The large picture on the right even has kids circling a christmas tree horizontally.
But I have to say, it doesn’t bother me.
I’m fine with it being a work in progress; in fact, I enjoy it being a work in progress. It gives me something to think over – treasures to hunt for at garage sales and Goodwill. I’ll get to enjoy each frame individually as it’s filled in with something special.
For now, I’m still soaking up the joy of the pretty arrangement, so why rush the process?
Sure, it may not be Pinterest worthy yet. But, do you know what? Neither am I.
And I’m doing just fine.
Here’s to works in progress! Especially the ones that bring us joy.
Have you ever felt like everyone could do something you couldn’t? How did you handle it?
Do you have any works-in-progress projects going right now?