Not long ago everyone was all about dancing an assortment of framed photos in a random pattern across their wall. The “look” evoked creativity and interest. With very little need for exact measurements, hanging frames was somewhat brainless work. These days, however, folks are aiming for a more simplistic and clean look. Perfectly straight and symmetrical gallery walls can be found all over inspiration sites like Pinterest and Houzz. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a creative gallery wall mixed with unique wall art and good color, but I’m finding that my clients are sorta over it. Why such a change, you ask? Seems like our search for peace of mind within our home has us looking for neat lines and calming colors.
Being a Minimalist is IN
While at a recent visit to our local donation center I asked an employee how the center was doing. To my surprise she quickly replied, “We have more coming in than we do going out. Being a minimalist is popular right now.”. I guess I shouldn’t have been so shocked by her answer. She’s right! People are getting rid of things. I call it “deconstruction”. More and more my clients are asking me to help deconstruct their space from crazy and chaotic to clean and calming. Folks want soft, peaceful colors canvasing their walls and minimal accessories. Just about every client is looking for a stress-free, and low-maintenance way of living. Thus, the evolution of the perfectly straight gallery wall. It’s clean and precise lines are easy on the eye.
Gallery Hanging Nightmare
I’ve put up many galleries over the years and each gallery has come with its own nightmare. The perfectly straight gallery wall is no exception. If I’m being honest, it’s probably the most nerve-racking because it requires very precise measurement. Being off by a half an inch can throw the entire gallery off. The look is great, but most people are so intimidated by the task at hand that they’d rather pass on the job. Friends, I can say with certainty that I have finally found the best way to hang a perfectly straight row of frames with ease. You will need a few tools before you begin, so “hang” with me for a few more minutes as I explain how to “nail down” a perfectly straight gallery wall. Hahaha. Couldn’t help myself.
Click on photos below to be directed to the source.
We need to find the perimeter of the entire wall space we are working with. In this case, I measured from the edge of the open door to this bedroom (on the left) to the door moulding (not pictured on the right). That gave me my width. Using the width I was able to determine the center of the gallery wall by dividing the width in half. For example, if the width of this space was 100″ then the center of this wall would be at 50″. Now, do the same thing to determine the height. For the sake of making this easy we will say that the height of this wall is also 100″, therefore making the center also 50″.
X marks the spot! Put an X using painter’s tape right at the very spot where your width and your height meet up. This is the center of your perimeter and you will be referring to this X many times again.
Now that you’ve determined the center to your perimeter you have a starting point. From here you have to figure out the total perimeter width of your gallery. Let’s say that each frame is 20″ wide. I have (4) 20″ wide frames giving me a total width of 80″. But, we want there to be a space between each frame, right? I wanted 1″ between each frame. So, 80″ + 3″ = 83″. 83″ is the total perimeter of the gallery.
We have to do the same thing to find the perimeter height of your gallery. Let’s say that each frame is 15″ tall. I have (3) 15″ tall frames giving me a total height of 45″. I need to add 2″ for the space between the frames. So, 45″ + 2″ =47″. 47″ is the total height of the gallery.
Add painter’s tape to each side of the perimeter of your gallery wall. NOTE: I chose to place the tape 4″ outside of ends of the gallery perimeter. This painter’s tape will be your BEST friend during this project because it’s going to allow you a place to mark all your math notes AND it’s going to be extremely helpful in step 6. I only had blue tape, but I would have preferred for it to be green. *You’ll find out why in step 6.
Now that we know the perimeter of the gallery wall is a total of 83″ wide we need to find the center of it so that we can place it exactly in the center to the perimeter of the wall where you taped a big X during step one. If the width of our gallery wall is 83″ then the center of the gallery wall is 41.5″. If the height of our gallery wall is 47″ then the center is 23.5″. Your measurements will change according to how many rows and columns you have. Using the illustration above you can see how my measurements are for a 3 row, 4 column gallery wall. You can see that the exact center falls right between the two middle columns and dead center to the middle of the middle rows.
NOTE: At this point I always lay out all the frames on the floor exactly as I will be hanging them on the wall. It provides a great visual and makes the next three steps a breeze.
Using your painter’s tape, tape out the gallery perimeter on your wall. You won’t have anything hung yet. You are just giving yourself a visual box to work within when hanging your frames. This also gives you a chance to make sure your math is right before you start nailing away. Double check to make sure the center of your gallery perimeter falls center to the X you already have taped up on the wall. Use your level to make sure that your perimeter is straight.
Wah Wah Wah Wah
The math part is over…thank goodness, right? I hope the steps above have at least saved you from getting a migraine. My math talents have never lined up with my creative talents. I’m absolutely sure that every math teacher I ever had spoke the same language as Miss Othmar, Charlie Brown’s teacher. The upside is that I am fluent in “wah wah wah wah”.
The fun is about to begin, promise! Using your taped out gallery perimeter apply a line of tape to the middle of the rows. Use your level to make sure your lines are straight. This will give you a round-about (but not perfect) measurement of where the top of your frames will be hung. The perfect measurement is going to come from the chalk reel. Have someone hold the end of your chalk reel on one side of your gallery perimeter and stretch it across to the other side. Make sure the chalk string hovers over the taped row. Ever so gently pull the string away from the wall and release. It will snap a blue line of chalk right over the tape and this, my friend, will be the exact line that you will follow to hang your frames. Since I have three rows of frames I had to snap three lines of chalk. The chalk is blue, which is why I prefer to use green frog painter’s tape. You can see the chalk line better.
Start by hanging the center column frames and work your way out. The reason why you begin hanging from the center and work out is because if you did end up being off on your measurements in any way at all you won’t be able to tell once you get to the edge. If you start at the edge and work your way in, and you happened to be mathematically off, you will have noticeable gaps running through the center of your gallery. Of course, I’m not speaking from experience because this has NEVER happened to me! LOL
Goodness, this was a hard one for me to write up. All of the photo illustrations and mathematical computation I’ve created has me drained! 😉 I promise you that it’s much easier than it looks, especially now that I’ve given you detailed steps to follow. You got this!
Oh, wait…I forgot one thing! Remove the tape once you’ve nailed in all of your holes. The holes will still be there to show you where to hang the frames, but the tape will be gone, along with that cool chalk line you snapped.