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If you have a lot of art you want to hang, a gallery wall may seem like your only option. But the filling is basic, one color frame with your favorite prints can feel boring and overdone, even when the works they contain are far from average. We quizzed designers to see how they’re currently grouping murals, and unsurprisingly, they’re adding clever twists to classic decor.
“It’s about how the art is curated and the layout executed,” says the designer Jenny Dina Kirschnerwho believes a gallery wall is a timeless decorating option. “A gallery wall should never be too perfect or else it risks losing the collected nature that a gallery wall should have.”
To elevate a gallery wall, the founder of JDK interiors recommends integrating three-dimensional sculpture and art with two-dimensional works. “I love using acrylic boxes for interesting keepsakes, collections and smaller sculptures because they don’t distract from the object itself,” she explains. “You keep more valuable or fragile pieces protected inside, and the top surface can also be used as a shelf to display pieces that your guests might want to take away and explore.”
Designer Anthony Gianacakos also prefers to add more elements than just framed art. “I like dimensional objects that can create textures,” he says. This can include anything from objects and canvas prints to photos and framed fabrics.
“Gallery walls will exist as long as people have memories, achievements, and things they want to display and access visually rather than stashed away in storage or attics,” she says Designer Bailey Li.
For anyone who wants to do more than display a collection of textiles, valuable objects, and other items on a wall, Li has some creative ideas. “Lately I’ve been obsessed with blankets,” enthuses the founder of Bailey Li Interiors. She recently saw a designer place art flush to the ceiling in a bedroom and it made perfect sense to her. “What better way to look at the art is by lying down and looking up?” she says.
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As a muralist, Li believes that a large mural can completely replace a gallery wall, but it can also be used as a backdrop for artwork and eliminate the need for mats in framed pieces. “The art can be centered in its frame, with the colors and textures of the mural serving as a complementary and visual complement,” she says.
Another way to stray from traditional gallery wall displays? “Curtains are a great medium to incorporate when building and layering walls of visual interest,” explains Li. “The late Sam Gilliam was known for his abstract art, including drapes, which were often decorated with painted patterns and different hues and dived.”
If you are looking for a gallery wall alternative for children’s rooms, Kirschner has a solution that will allow their art display to grow and change with them. “For my little clients, I love designing large surfaces with cork walls or even doors or magnetic surfaces (they make magnetic wall coverings now!) so they can be the curators of their own gallery walls,” says Kirschner. “How much fun do you enjoy hanging up and rearranging your favorite pieces as your mood changes or as your tastes in art or creations evolve?”
When Gianacakos isn’t working on a gallery wall, “he likes to keep the sight lines on the same vein on a wall,” says Anthony George Home founder. This means that he likes to hang the pieces at intervals and at the same height. But he adds: “I don’t follow design rules, so when I choose art and hang it, I also see how I feel about the space and will hang art spontaneously. Bottom line: The energy and feel of the space can also determine placement.”
Whether you’re adding your own touch to a simple gallery wall or opting for an accent wall, there are countless ways to forego a plain gallery wall in favor of a spectacular display. The most important factor is to “incorporate elements into the accent wall or gallery wall that bring you joy,” says Li.
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