When you have a lot of art you want to hang, a gallery wall can seem like your only option. But filling basic, single-colored frames with your favorite prints can feel boring and overdone, even when the works inside of them are anything but average. We tapped designers to see how they’re currently grouping wall art and, unsurprisingly, they’re putting clever twists on the classic set up.
“It’s all about how the art is curated and the layout is executed,” says designer Jenny Dina Kirschner, who believes a gallery wall is a timeless decor option. “A gallery wall should never be too perfect or it risks losing the collected nature a gallery wall should have.”
To elevate a gallery wall, the founder of JDK Interiors recommends integrating three-dimensional sculptures and art with two-dimensional works. “I love using acrylic boxes for interesting keepsakes, collections, and smaller sculptures because they don’t detract from the object itself,” she explains. “They keep more valuable or fragile pieces protected inside, and the top surface can additionally be used as a shelf to display pieces you might want your guests to pick up and explore.”
Designer Anthony Gianacakos also prefers to add in more elements than just framed art. “I like dimensional items that can create texture,” he says. That can include anything from objects and canvas paintings to photos and framed fabrics.
“Gallery walls will exist as long as people have memories, accomplishments, and things that they want to display and visually access versus keeping them stowed away in storage or attics,” says designer Bailey Li.
For anyone looking to do more than display a collection of textiles, treasured objects, and other items on a wall, Li has a few creative ideas. “Lately, I’ve been obsessed with ceilings,” the founder of Bailey Li Interiors gushes. She recently saw a designer place art flush on the ceiling in a bedroom, and it made perfect sense to her. “What better way to view the art when you’re lying down and looking up?” she says.
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As a muralist, Li believes a big mural can replace a gallery wall altogether, but it can also be used as a backdrop for artwork and eliminate the need for matting in framed pieces. “The art can be centered in its frame with the mural’s colors and texture acting as a supplementary and visual complement,” she says.
Another way to veer away from traditional gallery wall displays? “Drapery is a great medium to integrate when building and layering walls of visual interest,” Li explains. “The late Sam Gilliam was well known for his abstract art, including drapery, which was often adorned and immersed with painted patterns and various hues.”
If you’re looking for a gallery wall alternative for kids’ rooms, Kirschner has a solution that’ll allow their art display to grow and change with them. “For my little clients, I love creating large areas of cork-covered walls, or even doors, or magnetic areas (they now make magnetic wall coverings!), so that they can be the curators of their own gallery walls,” Kirschner says. “How fun is it to be able to pin up your favorite pieces and change them when your mood changes or when your taste in art or your creations evolve?”
When not doing a gallery wall, Gianacakos likes to “keep the sight lines on the same vein on one wall,” says the founder of Anthony George Home. This means that he likes to hang pieces spaced out and all at the same height. But he adds: “I am not a rule follower with design, so when picking art and hanging it, I also see how I feel in the space and will hang art on the fly. Bottom line: The energy and feel of the space can also dictate placement.”
Whether you put your own twist on a basic gallery wall or go for more of an accent wall, there are tons of ways to forgo 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,” Li says.
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Kelly Allen is the current Associate Editor at House Beautiful, where she covers design, pop culture, and travel for digital and the print magazine. She’s been with the team for nearly three years, attending industry events and covering a range of topics. When she’s not watching every new TV show and movie, she’s browsing vintage home stores, admiring hotel interiors, and wandering around New York City. She previously worked for Delish and Cosmopolitan. Follow her on Instagram.