Eclectic gallery walls are not a new invention. They have been around for as long as photos have been printed. But with that said, there are so many decades and centuries of inspiration to draw from: vintage, modern, eclectic, structured, art, photographs…the list goes on. I had a general idea of the kind of gallery wall I wanted to create, but I still felt overwhelmed at how to get the right feel on the right budget.
If any of you have ever looked into getting something professionally framed, you know that the cost is no joke. I was just not up for that type of expense, so I decided to start off on the opposite end of the spectrum – the thrift store. After all, typical retail frames can be $30 bucks a pop, easy, so the thrift store was the obvious route for me.
Where to begin
I had a general idea of some landscape and wedding photos that I might want to frame, but I was holding all of that very loosely. When I headed to the thrift store, I knew that I wanted:
- a “collected,” somewhat vintage feel
- a mixture of art and photos
- a variety of shapes and sizes
- some matted photos and some not
Once I found what I felt like was a good variety of frames and prints (including a gold, wooden plate with “frame potential”), I found a quiet corner of the store and laid them all out on the floor. I wanted to make sure they had a somewhat cohesive look before deciding on anything. The great thing about shopping for these items at a thrift store is that when your frames are only $2.00-$4.00 a piece, you can stand to buy a few extras to get it just right.
If you go this route, I would try not to think about all the specific photos that will fill the frames yet as this is an easy way to get caught up on details like landscape or portrait orientation, what needs to go next to what, etc. Instead, look at the shapes and textures of your frames. Is there enough variety in color, shape, and size? Can you spray paint any of them to get the color combo that you want? Are there other unique items that could make your eclectic gallery wall more interesting?
I knew what I wanted in my large center frame, and I kept it fluid from there. I recommend starting with one or two large frames/items (depending on the size of your gallery) that will ground your gallery and keep it from looking too cluttered and busy.
Decide on your layout
Once you have purchased your frames, bring them home and decide on a final layout. I started with one large frame in the center and moved outward from there. Keeping things asymmetrical rather than mirrored will create a more “collected” feel, just like varying the shapes and sizes will.
This is where I evaluated if anything was missing and my final decisions on color. I used Rub n’ Buff on a metal floral ornament that I added to my eclectic gallery wall, knowing that the original gold was completely the wrong color. It ended up looking much more intentional and consistent with the gold frames I had picked out.
Selecting and ordering your prints
Now that you know the colors and layout for your frames, it will be easier to choose which photos and sizes to order. My guidance here on creating a cohesive look is to repeat themes across the wall. I printed a black and white wedding photo, but if I left it as the only black and white print, it would look out of place and accidental. Instead, I also converted a color photo on the opposite side of the wall to black and white, creating balance and intentionality.
The general theme of our eclectic gallery wall is nature/landscapes and wedding/romantic photos. Of course, this isn’t a hard fast rule (there is also a photo I took at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk that I just loved too much), but it helps to bring everything together.
Once you choose your prints, you can order them from a drugstore like Walgreens and select the sizes and orientation you need. Always go with a matte finish for a more professional look. You can have them mailed to you or to a Walgreens store in about a week. The most exciting part is when they finally come and you get to see the project start to pull together!
Side note: Some of my thrifted frames came with mats and some I ordered from Amazon. Not all of your photos need to be matted – variety is good if you are going for a “collected” look. I didn’t use straight white mats because I am looking for a more vintage feel. If this is your goal too, I’d recommend ivory or cream.
Time to hang your eclectic gallery wall!
I know the planning and getting this far can take a while, but it is finally time to see your gallery take shape! Now that you are ready to get hanging, start in the center (or splitting center, dependent on your layout) and work your way out. I used painter’s tape to map out my layout on the wall and it made me much more confident about my placement choice before I started putting holes in the wall.
Take into account what type of hardware is on the back of your frames (if any) and what you may need to pick up at the hardware store in order to hang them. Clearly I had more of an interest in getting my frames on the wall than I did in doing the job perfectly. See below.
This frame was sold with a stock photo and the back was stapled on. When I changed it out for my own photo, I didn’t have the means to staple it shut again. Painter’s tape worked just fine for me. No one (but you) will ever know. ha! Don’t get caught up on the little things – just go for it!
Stand back & admire
I LOVE our new eclectic gallery wall. Chris and I both agreed that we would eventually like to add something else to the left side to balance it out, but it is UP! And that’s the important thing. I love making these changes happen in our home instead of just talking about them and taking no action. It may end up being a two month process, but the “doing” it is what matters! I hope you feel more inspired and less intimidated to get going on your own gallery wall.
For another totally achievable, high impact project, check out my post, Transform Your Space With Removable Wallpaper.