Creating a beautiful gallery wall allows you to display your favorite photos, artwork, travel souvenirs, and collectibles in a spot where you can see and appreciate them every day, adding a completely personalized element to your space. But while the concept of an art gallery is timeless, the implementation—from exactly what you choose to hang to where and how you hang it—requires an experienced eye; otherwise, your arrangement can look dull and dated.

We asked experts to weigh in on whether gallery walls are a fading trend, and how you can style your walls to create focal points and visual interest—without a gallery.

What Is a Gallery Wall?

The official definition of a gallery wall is fairly straightforward: It’s a collection of artwork arranged on a single wall, similar to a setup you might see in an art gallery. However, real-world applications can include pieces other than artwork, like objects, collectibles, and even fashion. “A gallery wall is simply a collection of items thoughtfully arranged on a wall,” says interior designer Nadia Watts. “They look best with a mix of shapes, sizes, and textures: You can hang woven baskets, architectural salvage, vintage items, or even straw hats. Include mirrors, shelves with decorative objects, plants, or anything your heart desires.”

Creating a cohesive design requires paying careful attention to the items you choose and how you arrange them. “Not just anything can be hung and qualify as a successful gallery wall: pieces need to be spaced and placed in proportion to one another and have a sense of significance, along with having visual appeal,” says interior designer Kristina Phillips. “Having a common denominator within all the pieces—be it the framing, subject matter, finish, or style—unifies and creates cohesion as a gallery wall.”

The History Behind Gallery Walls

Watts points out that the concept of a wall filled with multiple works of art can be traced back to prehistoric cave paintings, but the approach truly came into its own during the European Renaissance period.

“Gallery walls have long been used to display art, starting in France in the early 1600s,” says Phillips. “Formerly called salon walls, framed pieces were hung from the floor to the ceiling in a haphazard manner. This same idea translated into wealthy homes, as owners were keen to show off their abundant art collections.”

As a Trend, Are Gallery Walls on Their Way Out?

After centuries as a staple approach for displaying multi-piece collections, designers don’t expect gallery walls to ever truly go out of style. “The appeal lies in the opportunity to tell a story through art, which is why I love incorporating them into designs,” says Low. “While design trends may ebb and flow, a well-curated gallery wall will never go out of style.”

Gallery walls are a tried-and-true way to create a focal point within a living space, ground an oversized room, and add texture and interest, says Watts—all without dedicating the floor space required for a shelf unit to your collection.

However, says Phillips, getting the scale, items, and layout right is essential. “I believe that gallery walls will always have a place in interior design, especially in homes that reflect personality and interest,” she says. “Nowadays, hanging family photos and school portraits as a gallery (especially along stairway walls!) can read as dated and a bit of a design don’t, but hanging curated and meaningful pieces together artfully will always stand the test of good taste.”

When to Avoid a Gallery Wall

Though gallery walls are still a common way to display valued art collections, antiques, or other objects, they aren’t the right fit for every space. Phillips encourages clients to avoid galleries in narrow halls and tiny powder rooms, where it’s impossible to see the entire collection at once.

Watts refrains from adding gallery layouts to walls that are already home to hanging pieces or elaborate storage. “You want your gallery wall to feel like a gallery—that means you need to start with a nice blank space,” she says. “Make sure the space is clear of other clutter and décor so the items in your gallery wall stand out; I would steer clear of gallery walls right next to bookcases or other display areas.”

Interior designer Shaolin Low often opts away from gallery walls in rooms with a minimalist design sense. “If you’re aiming for a more serene or focused atmosphere, I would recommend a design choice that aligns more closely with the overall aesthetic,” she says. Take note of how much natural light your room receives, too, she says: Dim spaces can be overwhelmed by large, elaborate collections.

How to Style Your Walls Without Creating a Gallery

If you don’t have a collection to display or aren’t confident in your ability to set up a curated and cohesive gallery, decorating a huge, empty wall can feel like an overwhelming task. For alternatives to a traditional gallery wall, try one of these other expert-approved approaches.

Go Big

Johnny Miller

The obvious opposite of a multi-piece gallery wall is a single piece of art—but it’s important to choose one that’s the correct size. “The rule of thumb in determining how large or small a piece of art should be in relation to the wall is that art should take up about 60 percent of the blank wall,” says Phillips.

However, this isn’t an exact science; you don’t need to measure your wall and find a percent down to the inch since furniture placement can alter the visual size of the wall. “A piece of art placed above a sofa can be slightly smaller than the width of the sofa, as well as hung eye-level,” says Phillips. “It often takes a trained eye to get the proportion just right.”

Create a Mini Collection


Instead of pulling together a disparate group of items to display together, choose pieces that can be displayed as a series or set. “A pair of large works or a triptych hung together work well on a big wall,” says Watts. “A triptych is a great option; you can hang it horizontally or vertically. It’s a nice choice if you want to fill your space but want a more streamlined look.” Using an odd number of frames will give your layout more dynamic energy and movement—even when the pieces are hung level with each other. “Hang three or five pieces linearly, with equal spacing between each piece,” says Phillips. “If you are doing a series of pieces, they can run the entire length of the wall.”

Incorporate Furniture

Courtesy of Anthropologie

An armchair, cabinet, or console table can break up a large wall and create a focal point. “These are also great starting points for hanging your art,” says Watts. “Use your furniture to help you determine where your art will hang. Create a grouping around the furniture to anchor the space and bring personality and interest.” Taller furniture—like an etagere or bookcase—can be flanked by artwork hung in a vertical line, suggests Phillips. “Even a single chair with a framed piece of art can make a statement,” she says.

Bring the Outside In

Laure Joliet

Phillips and Watts both recommend houseplants, potted trees, and leafy greens as alternatives to frames and objets d’art. “Indoor trees and plants are a wonderful way to take up space while still adding interest,” says Phillips. Place your plant pot on a pedestal table (or opt for a hanging planter) to create visual interest at your preferred height.

Add Mirrors


A well-placed mirror turns a blank wall into a window-inspired surface that takes a small room from dim and cramped to sunny and spacious. “Large-scale mirrors can be a good option for a blank wall,” says Watts. “They bring in light and make your space feel bigger and brighter.”

Work With Texture and Pattern

Sidney Bensimon

Adding a decorative screen, wallpaper, or tactile wallcovering can add visual interest to your space without the variety of a gallery wall. “Embrace textured art—fabric, rope, weaves—as an alternative,” says Low. “The key is to strike a balance between personal style, the room’s function, and the overall aesthetic you’re aiming for.”


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