First of all, thank you so much for all the lovely compliments on our DIY stairwell makeover and the new gallery wall. Hoo boy, that is a sentence 19-year-old me could never have imagined typing, I'll tell you that. 19-year-old me would probably only have been able to imagine typing "thank you for all the lovely compliments on my DIY peroxide highlights and my new butterfly hair clips" or something. Except that sentence would never actually have existed, because nobody, ever, in the history of the universe has ever been complimented on their DIY peroxide highlights. Or at least they shouldn't have been.
So I promised you a tutorial on how we made this gallery wall, and that is what I am here to provide. I am sure there are countless other tutorials for how to make a gallery wall on the Internet, and you may wish to follow those if you like, because probably the people who made those gallery walls didn't teeter on the verge of a nervous breakdown while making them, and we, my friends, did. When I say that our gallery wall was made with blood, sweat, and tears, it is not just a thing that I'm saying. Our gallery wall was made with actual blood, sweat, and tears. To wit: I cut my little finger pretty badly on a smashed IKEA picture frame, neither of us took a shower for the entire first day we worked on this thing, and while Sean will not admit to the tears of frustration I swear I saw in his eyes around hour seven, he will at least give over to the fact that he was "crying inside [his] head."
Regardless, we are really pretty pleased with how it turned out. In case you need a reminder, it looks like this:
Ready to make your own? Here's how you do it.
1. First of all, find a bunch of stuff that you want to frame.
It sounds like a no-brainer, I know, but if you're going to create a gallery wall that packs a big aesthetic punch, you're going to need a lot of stuff. I just went and counted how many pieces we've got hung on our wall and the total came to 32. That's a lot of stuff, and we're actually not even finished yet. It took a little while to collect, but I amassed things slowly and spent a few evenings a week getting it all in frames. Speaking of frames, we decided to go with mostly white (and mostly IKEA), but we hung a few black and silver ones in there too, pretty much because we already had them and didn't mind a little bit of a mis-matched effect.
2. Next, lay everything out on the floor all at once so you can see what you have.
This is actually kind of the fun part. You want to get everything in one place where you can see it, just to make sure that there's a modicum of cohesiveness to the whole thing. Don't get bogged down with trying to figure out a layout or anything—I mean, you can, but we didn't, mostly because we were going to be hanging everything in our stairwell, which is a tough shape to mimic. (If you're just hanging things on a regular rectangular-shaped wall, you don't have a huge number of frames, and you want to get a headstart on yourself, you crazy overachiever, you could probably start playing around with a layout here, if you want, or at least taking note of which pieces you think look nice near each other.)
Either way, for a little while your living room floor is going to look like this:
And then very quickly afterwards, it is going to look like this:
But that is okay, because that is the cue for your hand to start looking like this:
3. Draw around every frame you want to hang, then cut each one out.
I'm not going to lie, this isn't really the most exciting part ever. You know how you have to tape before you paint or squeeze ten thousand limes before you make a key lime pie? This is kind of like that. Basically, you want to put every single frame you're planning to hang on a piece of paper, then draw around it and cut it out, so that you'll have a paper "stand-in" for it when you're deciding what to hang where.
Now, this is not a novel idea when it comes to making a gallery wall; in fact, I only knew about it because I'd read it on about ten different decorating blogs. What I will say, however, is that I learned a few things that make it a whole lot easier.
For a start, about the cheapest thing you can use for making your paper templates—unless you happen to have a bunch of old newspapers hanging around, which we didn't—is a roll of brown masking paper (like this one, which is $2.47, and which we already had in our garage because it's useful to put down when you're painting.) Second of all, if you're drawing around white frames, use a white pen so that you don't accidentally get any color on the frame itself (yep, learned that the hard way.) And thirdly, as soon as you've drawn around your frame, write which picture it is, whether it's color or black and white, and what frame it's in. Trust me, when you're trying to arrange things on a wall in a little while to see what would look good together, this will be really, really, really helpful.
4. Hang yo' stuff.
Now that you have a bunch of paper squares and rectangles, it is time to let someone take an unflattering picture of you with a roll of tape in your mouth. Wait no, that's now how that goes: it is time to figure out a placement on the wall for all your pictures. We did this mostly by trial and error, taping things very lightly to the wall and then moving them around here and there as we went.
As you can see, we started at the bottom of the stairs and worked our way up: first, we considered what a person would see from the doorway as they walked in the front door, and then we put one of our most striking pieces—the "I Have Always Known It Was You" print, which is from here—in the bottom right-hand spot. We progressed up the staircase, hugging the banister pretty tightly, and making sure to alternate color and black and white pieces, and also to space out the black and silver frames very evenly among the sea of white. As we were deciding what to put where, we also found it helpful to measure frames that we hadn't found a home for yet, then write their dimensions on their corresponding template—this way, we could see at a glance which pieces looked about the same size.
When you are done taping all your pieces of the paper to the wall, you will probably already have booked a session of couples therapy. Also, you will have grown a beard, had a child, and sent that child off to college already. This part takes a really, really long time.
5. Hang yo' stuff, part B.
Okay, so now you have all of your paper templates on the wall, right? You are probably getting pretty excited right about now because you can see—finally!—that all your hard work is paying off and your gallery wall is taking shape.
Hate to break it to you, but now comes the worst part of all. You have to hammer that stuff in. I say this is the worst part because a) I am really bad at hammering stuff in—I know, right? HOW HARD COULD THAT BE?—and b) if you are going to break some frames, this is probably where you will break them. Several times, we had a frame on the wall already that didn't like the reverberations of the hammer a few inches over and decided to just jump off the wall and shatter. If this happens to you, just pretend that this is because you have difficult walls or something. Difficult how? I don't know. Maybe, like...thickness. Concrete? Left phalange? Whatever, they're just difficult. Stop asking questions.
So first of all, you will want to locate your real frame and place it on top of your template frame. Figure out where you want the nail to go, using your paper template as a guide, then break out your laser level because it is shiny and pretty and also makes things nice and straight:
Hammer the nail in, with the paper template still there, then place the actual frame over the paper template to check that everything lines up and you have indeed hung your real frame where you wanted it to go. (If not, just adjust so that it lines up with the paper template.) Keep working like this until all your real frames are hung.
6. Take away your paper templates!
You have been victorious, you clever craftswoman! You are basically the next Martha Stewart! Hark, is that your cell phone ringing, with HGTV offering you your own show? Ah no, it is just some telemarketer trying to sell you a vacation to Disneyland, which is really strange because you could have sworn you put yourself on every last do-no-call list known to man, but whatever, who cares, you have a gallery wall and now you must rejoice!
Taking away your paper templates is pretty easy. Just lift the frame off the wall, rip off the template, throw it in the recycling bin—you do have a recycling bin, right?—and replace the frame.
Now, if everything has gone according to plan, your gallery wall looks like this...
.....your hair is always going to be shiny and thick, and George Clooney himself is going to appear tomorrow on your doorstep holding a handwritten note from your husband that says you have a free pass.
Okay, not those last two. But hey, your gallery wall still looks pretty great. Congratulations! Any questions?