How I Created My Biggest Gallery Wall Ever
If you are a regular reader of my blog and Instagram, you will be more than aware that for the last three - yes, three - months I have been revamping my hall. There's a few reasons why it has taken so long. One, it's a ridiculously large space (when the downstairs flooring was measured out it was 47 square metres and that's just the hall. I told you it was ridiculous). Two, planning such a large area was a far bigger job than I anticipated. As someone who errs on the side of immediacy and isn't good at waiting for ANYTHING, this was a hurdle I had to get over. And three, it took me a while, if I'm going to be honest, to work out exactly what I wanted to do.
One thing that I had planned in my head right from the start was a gallery wall. Yes, again this will not come as a surprise to those of you who follow me. Gallery walls are for me, the icing on the cake of my home, the Kanye to my Kim, the Kylie to my Jason (eighties throwback, sorry millennials). They're a focal point in their own right, they are a wall of memories, they make my heart sing when I walk into the room. They bring colour to my walls and they are hugely therapeutic to pull together. Sometimes, prints need other prints around them to really shine. It's the juxtaposition of the styles that makes them stand out. A charity shop find alone can look a little lost, but surrounded by contemporary prints they're given a new lease of life. So when I was planning the new space, it was at the forefront of my mind to create one that would make an impact.
I'd scheduled to do it last Saturday and I had everything in position to get the job done. However, I hadn't taken into account the fact that we were going to dinner at my friend Pandora's on the Friday night. It had been a while since we had done any socialising due to being madly busy the last few months, so I was really looking forward to a good meal and catch up. Unfortunately, I also hadn't taken into account that I had been doing a combined vegan/5:2 diet for the previous three weeks and hadn't been drinking my usual quantity of wine. Predictably, the evening ended at 2.30 am after dancing on the table to Aerosmith, my friend Charlotte and I falling asleep on the sofa and Pandora challenging all comers to arm wrestling competitions (and winning, btw. She's very competitive). I awoke on Saturday feeling shocking, had a cup of tea to revive me and promptly spilt it all over the duvet. It wasn't a good start. Thus my Saturday plans were thwarted and I ended up going on a mercy mission to Marks & Spencer for vegan comfort food, spurning my usual Burger King Whopper remedy in favour of an edamame bean burger with Violife cheese and rocket in a ciabatta. I know, I'm good.
Sunday came. I was on it like a car bonnet and set to work. It took a couple of hours but as predicted, it immediately transformed the space. I was so happy with it, I kept going back and looking again in a way only an interior obsessive would comprehend. Even the kids were forced to comment on how effective it was. I posted it on Instagram to a new like PB of 18k. With over 1,000 comments, the main focus on the questions was 'how did you plan it?'. With so much interest, I decided that I would lay out what I did in a blog. Disclaimer: This is my own personal way of curating a gallery wall, which basically means, like everything I do, it's not rocket science. I only do the easy stuff.
Framed It Up
So, I am very lucky in the position in which I work that I am sent lots of beautiful prints. Honestly, I am always totally overwhelmed by the loveliness of what I receive and if I can put them on my wall, I always will do. But 99% of the time, they need to be framed and due to the quantity it's not possible to do made to measure framing for each individual print. So they sit in a corner of my office for a while (in some cases, six months) until I can measure them all up and go on a massive mission shopping for frames. I've been quite busy recently and this pile of prints had reached a previously unseen level of 27 and in danger of moving into second mortgage mode to get them on the wall.
The Range came up trumps. I varied the frames in colour and frame type, going for box white, black and wood. Some had mounts and some didn't but I worked off the print size and bought a selection. Some were more expensive than others, the bigger ones ranged from between £6 and £10 but there were some simple clip ones which I always think look effective that were only £2.50.
There were a couple that needed made to measure frames so I went on to Frames.co.uk and ordered them. These were more expensive - in fact, those two frames together came to half the price of the entire remainder of the print framing - but I decided that it was worth the effort seeing as the time had been taken to send to me. I framed them all up using a knife to push back the black tabs in order to save my fingers. The majority of the frames were perspex, only a small amount of them were glass so safer and lighter to hang. I'm not going to lie, it took a while. I stacked them ready to go.
Got The Equipment Sorted
Command Brand had very kindly sent me a selection of their Command products to put the prints on to the wall. I'd used Command Strips before and they'd been hugely effective - they have maximum weight requirements on the packet so as long as you keep to these then you're flying. They ranged from small hooks (great for putting up fairy lights or festoons) to picture clips, poster stickers to heavy duty hangers for large prints that you affix to the wall.
In addition to this ammunition for my project, I ordered a picture nail pack from Amazon. I am a massive fan of those small gold picture nails. They come with various types of hook for a whole range of picture sizes.
I've learned a few things during my many years of hammering and one of them is to always go in diagonally with a picture nail. Don't hammer the nail in straight - go from the top on an angle and it's more likely to stick. Knock it right in to the wall as far as it can go. If you've a concrete wall, you might as well give up from the start - you know it's concrete when the nail bends when you hit it. Unfortunately, in this case the only possible outcome involves the drill which in our house is enough to send us all into a decline. Joe and his drill are not a match made in heaven. Whenever I am hammering into a wall I've never decorated before, I always hope that this eventuality won't occur.
Knocking nails into the wall is one of the things that people always tell me they are most worried about. The worry that you are doing it in the wrong place or will take clumps out of the wall. To these people I say, just do it. Get that hammer and knock it in. The worst thing that can happen is you can make a hole in the wall in the wrong place but you can cover it with the picture. Every time I clear a wall of prints for a revamp, there's a history of wrong hammering behind them.
I'm currently working on my bedroom for Revamp Restyle Reveal and I've taken down the gallery wall from behind my bed to replace it with a piece of statement art. I can tell you that there will be a lot of hole filling in before that beaut will hit the wall. Life is too short to worry about doing it wrong.
Shopped My Home
Okay, so I had my new collection of nicely framed prints ready to go up. But that wasn't enough - it was a big space and needed more for impact. So I did what I am always recommending in my blogs - I shopped my home. I looked around my house for prints that would juxtapose what I already had. I have a picture ledge that I'm always changing around so I took my favourites from this and added them to the collection.
I'd picked up a selection of vintage prints from the charity shop a few weeks before so I added them into the mix. Some favourite typography, a couple of Stella Vine prints that I had bought Joe for Valentines Day a few years ago* (*I had bought myself for Valentines Day and pretended they were for Joe to justify them). Everything went into the pile and I was ready to go.
Chucked Out The Rule Book
There's no rules when it comes to curating a gallery wall. Nope. None whatsoever. I'm asked all the time whether I use paper templates, rulers, symmetry, guidelines. The only thing I do is keep them the same distance apart on the wall. A staircase is a different kettle of fish, but my normal way of doing a gallery wall involves a rug. Yep, I told you I wasn't a fan of rocket science. I like a squared off gallery wall, basically one where the edges are straight. I start on the bottom right hand corner of the floor rug and work my way up, bringing in different shaped frames and fitting them in one by one.
It can take time - as I said, I like to keep them the same distance apart - but it's worth the effort and you can see exactly how it will look on the wall. Once you've filled your rug, transfer the whole lot on to the wall. Again, start at the bottom left and work your way around. Decide on the best way to hang each picture, whether it be nail or strip. Mix the styles and frames of the pictures to juxtapose - I like to put typography next to vintage, family photos next to art prints. Try not to put lots of the same colour of frame together when you're planning on the floor.
Put It All Up
So a staircase gallery wall was always going to be a little more difficult than a straight wall. My landing is extremely high with a drop of about 30ft but I wanted to put the pictures as high as I could. Due to space, it wasn't possible to pre plan so I started in the bottom left hand corner, on the mid landing. I wanted the pictures to come right up from the floor for the best effect. Tbf, by the time I was three pictures high and was standing on the top of the step ladder looking down the stairs I was bloody terrified, so decided that was high enough for now.
I was able to take it along the landing by leaning over the handrail and then worked the pictures down from there. I kept to a straight line along the ceiling but the bottom was obviously more difficult as it was on a slant so I staggered those along the stair line. When it came to deciding what went where, I literally went with my eye - it was a case of trial and error as to what would fit in. I tried to think two pictures ahead so that I wouldn't be stuck with a space which had no picture the correct size to fill it. The whole thing took about two hours and I was super happy with the result.
So that's it. We've got a central light going up in a few weeks that requires a scaffold tower so I'm going to make the most of that and go up another couple of layers on the landing at the same time without fear of falling 30ft and risking life and limb. It wasn't difficult - if I can do it, anyone can - and it was a great way to spend the day doing something creative. For me, a gallery wall is a reflection of my personality and my style and creating a new one never fails to make me happy. And in my book, that's what interior styling is all about. Just don't overdo the dessert wine the night before. Or worse, get into an arm wrestle with Pandora Maxton. She's very good.