Over the fiveish years I’ve worked in digital media, I’ve written probably…oh, 20 (or more) articles about gallery walls. Layout ideas, art ideas, color palette ideas, lather, rinse, repeat. Readers love gallery walls, Google loves gallery walls, WE ALL LOVE GALLERY WALLS. But, being someone whose fingers could churn out a post on the subject probably on muscle memory alone, my brain kicked in and thought “wait, but what’s NEXT.” Not next in terms of other ideas for filling a wall, but what’s next for the gallery wall itself. What is gallery wall 2.0?In its first internet-wide iteration, it felt like most art walls I was seeing felt like they came together in a weekend (start to finish, purchase to hang). I myself hung a “gallery” wall over my sofa in my first apartment after one trip to Home Goods and Michaels to DIY some canvas pieces with my initials on them. But the most striking gallery walls, I’m finding, are more than just “art.” I hesitate to say meaningless, but here’s the thing: the best gallery walls might have all been hung at once, but took a while to come together behind the scenes. Mementos, random collections, meaningful photography, curated art prints, that stuff takes time to trickle into your life, which to me, makes it worth displaying, right?
And I’m not just saying this because my own gallery wall (keep reading for that) has more than just art prints. I took stock of what some of the EHD team has done themselves over the last year and I realized, wait…there’s a lot of heart behind most of these walls. So, here’s my cry for you: if you have small little Polaroids, photo strips, kids drawings, movie tickets, postcards and the like sitting around in a drawer and you’re staring at a big blank wall you don’t know what to do with, read on because you’re about to get inspired.
For a wall in the family room of the mountain house, Emily really leaned into her family’s personal mementos to fill the space above that credenza. She used a piece of “real art” (ha, anything is art if you want it to be!) to anchor the wall, and then wrapped other sentimental items around it. From Emily: “All the pieces in this room are personal to our family. I’m obsessed with this wall and it’s a total conversation piece. Everyone stops and stares and comments. It’s just so special to our family. I included our wedding vow cards, the kids’ ultrasounds, artwork by them, a special piece from Danielle Krysa with a collage of Brian and I incorporated into it, photo strips, Polaroids and the kids’ self-portraits from pre-school. It’s full of life and color and makes me SO HAPPY. It’s my favorite gallery wall I’ve ever installed and I don’t plan on changing it for the rest of our life here.”
For the Atlanta showhouse, the team (Emily, Emily Bowser and Julie Rose) had to materialize a story to create the gallery wall in the living room because this wasn’t a room for a real family. So while this installation doesn’t have any real “history” to it for the non-existent resident, they pretended like it did…and there are some takeaways.
Bowser scoured Etsy for pieces like postcards, records, matchbooks and more that were specific to Atlanta and told a sort of history of the city, but for real, don’t we all have a lot of this kind of stuff ourselves, stashed away in some book, drawer, cabinet? Note how they displayed the postcards all together in one frame but the matchbooks in small individual frames. Play around with scale, too, as in, just because something is small doesn’t mean it has to go in a small frame. Those four ticket stubs from the first concerts you went to with your husband can be centered in a grid formation in a VERY large frame with tons of white space.
Oh, and don’t be afraid to mix-and-match art prints/paintings/fine art photography with your mementos either. The framed painting here really anchors this wall so it’s not just a bunch of small little frames scattered throughout.
For the “feature” wall in my dining room, I knew I needed to do something with all the random art I had stacked on the floor of the guest bedroom but I didn’t want it to just feel like…well, I went to town with a hammer and nail with all the random art I had stacked on the floor of my guest bedroom, ya know? So I printed out some photos that my husband and I had taken of each other at various points of our relationship, used some binder clips to hang “word art” I bought many moons ago that inspired me, and displayed all the compliments (those little papers in that white frame at the bottom) my lovely, thoughtful coworkers had given to me on my last birthday. With all that, I was able to build out a wall that was filled both with just pretty things I enjoyed to look at, but also things that sparked memories and feelings when my eye landed on them (I walk by this wall dozens of times a day as to the left is the doorway to the hall that leads to my bedrooms and bathroom).
Okay, so neither Sara’s old living room or mine technically has a gallery wall, but what they do have IS another fun way to think about displaying those small (flat) life souvenirs: get yourself a LARGE frame and put them all together. I think a clean grid is a way to elevate the look so it doesn’t end up looking like a scrapbook page you just tacked up on the wall but also, you do you.
So what do you think? Does the more personal angel have you convinced? Or are you already on the bandwagon and have some ideas of your own to share of mementos you’ve successfully used as art? I’ll be in the comments waiting to chat with you all about this!