I'm a firm believer that a good gallery wall can be an accessible, affordable approach to fill a blank wall. Also realizing it can be an intimidating option for some, I'm going to attempt to dissolve some of the most common hesitations by walking through our living room gallery. Let's go!
First, I often hear it said that the frames and/or matting all need to match. I'd like to dispel this myth right now. As long as the variety is balanced well, a mix is fine! For our home, I actually prefer mixing in a few unexpected options for a collected feel. I realize this look isn't for everyone! But with my easily-bored eye, this mix needed to be diverse enough that I wouldn't be going crazy and needing a change after a few months. Of course, I can always mix up a few pieces over time, but the goal was to have a longer-term solution.
I will say that an interesting, quality collection likely won't happen overnight. For this wall, I had pieces that I'd picked up over several years of travel and such. Then, when I was ready to put the entire wall together, I pulled in a few more easily-accessible pieces. But truly - nothing here was expensive! Let me give you some examples of what you see here...
Very far right: wooden cross, Montana thrift store
Top right: marbled paper from Paper Source (purchased a few years ago), thrift store frame
Middle right: greeting card from World Market in another thrift store frame. I used black poster board as a second layer of matting, and to avoid needing a custom mat to fit the "art." Also worth noting: this has hung in a very sunny room for a couple of years and hasn't faded - even the construction paper!
Bottom right: iPhone photo of Lake Michigan (near my hometown). An image that's slightly abstract doesn't need to be high res to be printed. This frame was handed down from friends. It was black; I painted it blue to customize it and make it look less predictable/off-the-shelf.
Next row…top photo is a page torn out of a travel magazine. It's an image of a woman waiting for a bus in India, and the moment I saw it, it just grabbed me. This was years ago (maybe 8?!), and it still has the same effect on me. Moral of the story: if something hits you in the gut, causes a reaction from you (and you can afford it ;)), display it in your home! You will love it forever. (same blue frame as Lake Michigan photo - see above)
Next down: Large gold frame from Ross; removed art as purchased and replaced with greeting card.
Colorful ladies leaning on floor: art purchased in Malawi, in Ikea frame with included mat.
Moving to the left, the small, black, thrifted frame holds a scrap piece of fabric. The pink (Ikea) frame below that holds a thrift store piece - I just switched out the frame.
Above the TV are greeting cards on black poster board in a thrifted frame.
Are you seeing a pattern? :)
Okay let's quickly go through the left side...
Beginning on the far left here: moroccan-style mirror and art above it are both thrift store finds.
White Otomi art: thrifted. Frame: thrifted (separately). Green "matting" by me.
Thin, vertical strip (hard to see detail of an African scene on wood) and wooden bowl: thrifted.
Pink chinese dragon: picked up in Chinatown, in another one of those hand-me-down frames (see above :)).
Colorful Otomi: art purchased in Mexico, Ikea frame. I removed the (white) matting which was included, and used the black cardboard found behind the matting.
Peacock papyrus: art purchased in Cairo, in - you guessed it - an Ikea frame with blue mat (this is actually a proper mat, purchased from a framing store - shocking, I know).
Okay! Sorry if that was a little tedious. I'm just determined to prove that YOU can have a beautiful home…are you convinced?! :) It's true that there's an equation at work here. If you have time and patience, you can have a very affordable gallery. On the flip side, if I was pulling this together for a client, I would be working with a more limited timeframe. I'd likely purchase most of the frames new (as it takes valuable time to find the right frames at thrift stores), and pieces like those collected during my travels would instead be ordered online (no opportunity to bargain down for a good price, add shipping costs, etc.). Some of the ideas above could definitely be incorporated in any scenario...
Greeting cards and pretty paper, for example. There aren't many more affordable art options. Be sure to snatch up pretty ones whenever you see them! I hung onto the leftover of the pretty marbled-patterned paper (see gallery wall top right, above), knowing I'd be able to use it someday. This past weekend, I helped a friend freshen up their new apartment. She didn't have any photos on hand, so I cut a 5"x7" piece of paper to fill this beautiful frame from TJ Maxx. The pretty flower clippings are from our yard (=free!).
Phew! I feel like I just downloaded a lot of details. If you somehow have any questions after that, I'll be happy to answer them below. :) Help me convince you to make your home beautiful, regardless of your budget. :)
Interested in working together to make your home a place you love? Contact me here. I would love to hear from you!