How to Curate a Gallery Wall
By: Amanda Orr, Design Associate
As a self-diagnosed “art hoarder”, I have a deep appreciation for what art can do for a space. Art adds dimension, texture, and personality. It can juxtapose the style of a home for a cool, current feel (think: modern, abstract art in a historical home) or it can reinforce the existing architecture of a space.
Most of all, art affords us the opportunity to express ourselves in our homes. A good gallery wall creates a focal point to showcase who we are and what we love.
Here’s how you can curate yours in five fun steps!
Step 1: Source your art
Sourcing art is an ongoing task (and possibly the most fun part of the process!) You never know where you’re going to find a must-have piece. I’ve found some of my favorite pieces of art in some interesting places; estate sales, the garbage, my grandpa’s dental office basement, the list goes on.
A few of my favorite places to look for art, local and otherwise …
Ann Arbor Artists, Ellen Sherman’s gestural watercolors are gorgeous additions to any gallery wall. Photos via
- Treasure Mart - Almost never fails me.
- The Saline Antiques Market - Lots of vintage style paintings, various art prints. I just got an awesome indigo-dyed textile at the last market day. I have it hanging on a blanket ladder next to my gallery wall.
- Thistle & Bess - Great art collection, such a beautifully curated shop in general.
- Hollander’s in Kerrytown - Huge selection of handmade papers - framing a particularly awesome piece of paper (or gift wrap) is an inexpensive way to create art.
- Local Artists - So many great artists in the area, but I have to say Ellen Sherman’s abstract pieces SPEAK to me.
- Whitetail Farm - Shameless plug, but we have (and can help you source) great art.
- Artfully Walls - Highly curated online art collection. They can also help you install your gallery wall!
- MoMA Design Store - Great selection of art prints and framed art. Shop by artist.
- Ebay & Craigslist - You can find serious hidden gems if you spend enough time looking.
- Kids - The right frame can elevate your kid’s art to gallery status.
- Family photo albums
- Newspaper clippings
- Family member’s basement art collections - nothing like pillaging your loved ones homes in search of forgotten treasures!
A recent thrift shop find and great addition to my gallery wall - especially at $24!
Step 2: Break tradition
If you love an object, curate art around it. Not every piece on your gallery wall has to be a traditional painting.
A few non-traditional objects I use over and over when designing gallery walls:
- Found objects
- Architectural pieces
- Animal Mounts
Designer, Jana Bek, created this awesome Eucalyptus garland from hardware store materials and greens from University Flower Shop. Design: Jana Bek / Photo by Marta Perez
Some cool finds from the Saline Antiques Market paired with Porthole Mirror from Whitetail Farm. These items could combine to create a nautical-style gallery wall in a cottage Up North. I love the ore and the ship’s wheel.
When I was in college I designed my apartment (in part) around my grandma’s ballet shoes from the 1940s. If an something inspires you, let it!
Step 3: Pick a theme
The best way to join visual dissimilar pieces into a cohesive collection is to ensure all pieces fall within a theme or motif. Your theme can be loose or strict depending on your personal style.
Marcus Teo’s Townhouse gallery wall brings together different styles of art through a theme: Portraiture. Frames and artistic styles are different, but pieces are linked through their subject matter.
Photo by Marta Perez for The Maryn
General themes to consider:
- Color Scheme | Examples: primary colors, cool tones, warm tones, or black and white
- Mat/Frame Color | Examples: black frames, metal frames, found/vintage frames, all white mats
- Subject Matter | Examples: living things, architecture, animals
Note: For best results, mix artistic styles within a theme. For example, if your theme is “Living Things” you could mix family photos, a butterfly in a shadow box, floral oil paintings, and nude gesture drawings.
Step 4: Don’t force it!
The best gallery walls and art collections evolve over time. There’s no need to buy a bunch of pricey art for the sake of it, just like there’s also no need to run to Target and buy a cart full of random, inexpensive art to create a gallery wall in a weekend (although I’m def not against a run to Targét in general).
Instead, choose pieces you love over time, and allow your gallery wall to grow and change with you.
Step 5: Make it personal
The most important part of creating a successful gallery wall is to LOVE the pieces you’re incorporating. Make personal choices when it comes to art. If you’re just trying to fill a space, that’s how it will look. If something strikes you, it will naturally find its place in your home.
One of my favorite pieces from our gallery wall at home is this photo of my bf’s dad receiving his Seabee award from the Navy in the late sixties. I love it because it tells the story of our family. It’s sentimental pieces like this that you never get sick of.