I have lost track of how many decisions I’ve made since I began my MOTO (makeover takeover) process last year. I’ve nailed down paint color, window treatments, pillows, throws, rug, and furniture options and yet the decisions keep on coming. Right now, I am staring at my unfinished gallery wall wishing it would magically become self-aware and figure itself out. Even though I have a vision of what I want it to be, the execution is easier said than done. Namely, the amount of frame options out there makes my head spin and I kinda just want someone to tell me “this is what you should do and it will look awesome”. Well, fortunately for me I work for a pretty famous interior designer! What luck! So last week, I sheepishly asked Em if she could help me figure out the right frames for my gallery wall because frankly, I am all out of decision-making energy in this area. She graciously agreed so now my gallery wall is in much better hands. But first, let me give you a sense of what I am going for…
As a refresher, or for those just tuning in to my MOTO process, my style is a bit 70s-cowgirl-meets-eclectic-old-world-Italian-grandma or as I’ve recently liked to put it, Bridgerton meets The Godfather meets Thelma and Louise with a hint of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Now, the location and feel of my gallery wall is specifically inspired by some of my and my fiancé’s favorite Italian restaurants. Shortly after the pandemic hit and we were quarantined, we both felt we hit a roadblock with the design of our living and dining area. I was feeling super uninspired and wanted more color and life in the space but didn’t know what direction to go necessarily. Then, one day my fiancé was making one of his famous Italian dishes and it suddenly hit me. I looked at him and said, “what if we made our home feel as welcoming and eclectic as an old Italian restaurant, with a bunch of photos and art surrounding our dining table??” Of course he loved the idea and it’s been our vision ever since.
Since then, the creation of our gallery wall has been highly influenced by how we want the space to feel. We want it to feel lived in but not cluttered, definitely eclectic, and very heavily inspired by both of our interests. Easier said than done…
As I looked through my pinboard for inspiration for this post, I noticed all the gallery walls I am attracted to have a mix of styles of both frames and art but with a mostly old-world feel which is possibly why this aspect of my MOTO has been so tough. I just needed a true professional for help.
Enter The Emily Henderson:
General Framing Questions:
1. Do you have any golden rules when it comes to framing?
I always share the advice “frame for the piece, not for your space”. While I don’t ALWAYS stick to it, it’s a pretty great rule of thumb – the frame should complement the art first, think about your space after (and usually the simpler the better IMHO).
2. Are there frames you would only use for certain types of art?
I like a visually lighter/thinner frame, in general, unless it’s a big piece of art and can handle a thick frame. The bulkiness of the frame shouldn’t overpower the piece of art – it should bring your eye to the art (you know, frame it, ha) but then let the art shine.
3. When it comes to gallery walls do you prefer uniform frames or mixing and matching?
All can look GREAT, but you aren’t wrong by being frustrated. It’s HARD. I know that this is really annoying advice, but a gallery wall is only as good as the art in it. I think it’s much easier to execute one large piece of art than try to quickly collect a bunch and force them to work together. There are some frames I don’t love (like over-the-top baroque, needlessly chunky, or too shiny brass), but that’s just a personal preference.
4. If you use matted frames should they all be matted or is it okay to have some matted and some not?
You can definitely mix matted and not matted. I love float mounted with a mat far better than the more traditional bevel cut mat and if I had to choose between full bleed and matted I suppose I prefer full bleed (where the art goes straight to the frame) but there are some pieces that really need the negative space between the art and the frame – some breathing room to help it feel more important and special and give your eye a break.
5. What are some of your favorite places to source frames?
If you want to make your life easier and you have a budget then we love Framebridge and Simply Framed, but they are on the more expensive side. I generally only do those for pieces that are not standard sizes or where you want a special treatment (like float mount). I honestly love frames from Ikea, CB2, Room and Board and West Elm as well.
6. Are there rules for mixing vintage ornate frames and new frames?
Not really, I think that modern art looks better in simpler frames and not in ornate frames. So I generally only use ornate frames if they are original to the older painting or feels really fitting. I’ve found that if I’m intentionally framing something that I opt for simpler as I feel it’s more timeless.
Ryann here again. Now, we are going to move on to my actual gallery wall and I feel nauseous thinking about revealing it to you because A) it is not final and B) art is hard to curate and so so personal so there is a big chance many of you will not love anything I have up. Even though a handful of the pieces are straight from Emily’s prop closet, arranging them correctly and presenting them in the best way is no easy feat. But for the sake of research, I am setting aside my pride because all I really want is a fabulous gallery wall that reflects my personality and style. Here she is (for now):
From Em: At first glance it does feel off and it’s hard to know why. After staring at it for a while I think there are few things you could think about: 1. I think you have too many small pieces, specifically vertical. 2. you need a bigger piece to help anchor everything and 3. I’m still not convinced it’s the right wall for a gallery wall. I usually put gallery walls either over a piece of furniture – sofa, credenza, built-in, or where I would put an accent wall (like a niche or a hallway/powder room). I fear that in this location you need an anchor of some sort. However, ANYTHING can be done. But it is making this corner feel cluttered, busy, and small. For those of you at home, Ryann has a tricky corner because needs a dining table, desk, and a piece of storage so it’s pretty tight over there. I kinda want to take a stab at rearranging and put the dining table in the corner where the desk is instead of floating in the pass-through space.
I also think that I would play with the rivers being closer together – less spacing in between the pieces. I kinda want your table to be against the wall – as a rectangle, not floating so that it can help ground that gallery and also allow for more pass-through space. Then you could integrate an articulating sconce into the gallery to hang over the table which would look cool. Then maybe you find a cool folding screen to delineate between the “dining area” and your “office” or move your desk somewhere altogether (by entry?). It’s SO HARD!!!!
Emily’s Framing Advice
Left: This frame feels a bit heavy and ornate for the piece. It could totally work but it feels like a lot.
Right: I think as-is this is fine. I feel like on the dark wall all I see is the white mat, but I would leave it for now and try to work with it.
Left: I would put this in a much bigger frame with a matte. Maybe a mid-tone wood and make it look more like contemporary art. this piece can go really “thrift store” and “cheesy” but I think elevating it into a much bigger modern wood frame would give it the presence it needs.
Right: I think this frame is great as is!
Left: This guy is hilarious. Keep the frame for now. It could go in a modern frame to give it more of a contemporary art feel – thin wood frame, float mount over a mat.
Right: This piece is all about personal preference. I’m assuming it has sentimental meaning but the colors and vibe are different than the other pieces, which can be totally fine but just makes it more challenging.
Left: I love this little old frame, it’s cute!
Right: I found this etching piece at a thrift store and while I like the frame I don’t love the matting – I wish it were less dingy (but that’s just a personal preference). But I also fear that a bright white frame on the wall would be really jarring.
I would float mount this with a wood frame – you want to see the edges and that it’s old, not behind a mat. I’ve hoarded this for so long and I’m so excited to see it get some play!
Left: You could float mount this in a larger wood frame to help it have more presence, to see the ripped edges, and add some warmth.
Right: I love this piece – definitely a dark frame, maybe a black fabric mat to help give it some presence?
Left: Leave for now! I got this piece at the flea market I think and loved it as-is.
Right: I love this piece and I think mixed with the old world art it still totally works and the color palette feels spot on.
OOh I like this little guy. You could float mount it with a dark thin frame that echos the thin lines of the piece.
Also from Em: Listen, again I want to say “there are no rules” with gallery walls because I’ve seen all the rules broken and have broken them myself many times, and they can all work. HOWEVER, it’s just easier to make a gallery wall look really good when there is a theme or some sort of consistent color palette within the variety of shapes and colors. I would lean into the “old world” vibe of the paintings, etchings, and the figure work that all feel more neutral and naturally work together really well. I would take them all down and divide them into two categories – old world and neutral and more modern and colorful. You might find that sticking in one world makes it so much easier to look good.
Ryann here again. I honestly feel like I just got a Masterclass in framing which is awesome. It’s like everything I was feeling that was off about my gallery wall has finally been put into words. I am PUMPED but also slightly nervous thinking about letting Em and all of you down because I am so emotionally attached to many of these pieces. That said, I feel hopeful and excited and on the right track.
Now, I’d love your guys’ input if you’d be so kind. Namely, do you think the gallery wall is in the wrong place or can I make it work? Should I move it over the sofa so it’s more grounded or do you like the idea of it staying in the dining area as I originally was inspired to do? I know it’s tough having not seen the whole space (I must leave some things for the reveal after all) but your two cents is very valuable and welcomed. xx
Opener Image Credit: Design by Velinda Hellen Design | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Velinda’s First Freelance Client Reveal: Molding The ‘Builder-Grade Budget’ + Where They Saved & Splurged