Rae’s Texas Family Room Makeover {Part II: How to Create a Gallery Wall}


measuring tape  |  string  |  scissors  |  painters tape  |  level  |  hammer  |  nails  |  picture hangers  |  ladder  |  lots of fun picture frames, wall art, and other assorted objects to make your gallery yours

A few months ago when Justin and I moved into our house, we wanted to create a travel wall that showcased all of our adventures together and some of the amazing places we’ve been.  The pieces that went into this project probably deserve their own blog post, but for now, suffice it to say that a lot of love and inspiration and photos and maps and other assorted travel paraphernalia got pulled together and painstakingly arranged until it was finally ready to be hung on the wall.  And when it was time to put it up, we did what we usually do when it comes to this sort of stuff: Justin was the master hanger and I was the special helper.  But because I am trying to learn new skills and to become more self-sufficient when it comes to tasks I usually delegate to my husband, I watched carefully so next time—if there was a next time—I could do it on my own.

Fast forward a few months to the other week when I was sitting in my sister’s family room with her and my mom, and the three of us were looking at each other with blank stares as to how we were going to hang the gallery wall we had just spent two days carefully shopping and creating for.  I took full advantage of the opportunity and am proud to say I hung this gorgeous wall all on my own (with some special helpers handing me nails and hammers and levels of course).

Rae’s Texas Family Room Makeover

Here’s how I did it:

1.  First, measure out the wall space you want to hang on.  We didn’t want items hanging too close to the edges of the wall or to the couch, so we measured 3-4 inches away from our outermost parameters.

2.  Cut a piece of string, or yarn, or whatever you have to mirror the dimensions you measured.  Example: if your wall space is 60” across and 48” top to bottom, cut two pieces of 60” string and two pieces of 48” string.

3.  Lay the string out on the floor in order to recreate the space you will be working with on the wall.

4.  Play with the pieces you will be hanging inside the space you created on the floor until you have them positioned in a layout you like.

Tip:  I try to evenly space out frames of different colors and sizes, so I don’t have similar objects hanging next to each other.  I also try to mix in objects other than picture frames, such as pieces of art, fun sayings, letters or numbers in order to break up the space.  Too many picture frames can sometimes be overpowering and can overwhelm the eye.  You also want to make sure you have adequate space between each piece.  You’re going to want a bit of wiggle room in case your hanging skills are not exact (I know mine aren’t).  You don’t want the pieces on the wall to look squished together or forced into the space.  I try to allow anywhere from 2-4 inches between pieces.

5.  When you have your pieces positioned exactly how you want them, snap a picture or two.  You’re going to have to disassemble your masterpiece bit by bit in order to hang it on the wall and it’s always good to have back up in case your memory fails you on what goes where.

It’s hard to see in these photos, but we used thin white string to recreate the exact size of the wall space on the floor.

6.  Using the same measurements you took to cut the string, cut pieces of painters tape and apply them to the wall to section off the surface you will be hanging on.  Be sure to double-check your painters tape is on straight with a level.  The painters tape will serve as a guide so you don’t have to check each individual piece as you’re hanging.  As long as your tape is on straight and you stay within the lines, your pieces will hang level.

Rae's Texas Family Room Makeover

7.  Now you’re ready to transfer your gallery pieces from the floor to the wall.  I usually choose a corner to start in and then slowly work my way across the wall.  I like to work in towards the middle of the wall from both sides because the middle is where you have the most wiggle room, especially if you want your gallery space to have even edges (i.e. you want all of the outside pieces to hang at the same level).

Sometimes you have to pick up more than one piece at a time and hold them up against the wall to gauge spacing before you hang an object.  If this happens and you forget what goes where, just refer back to those photos you took in Step 5.

Rae's Texas Family Room Makeover

8.  When you’re done hanging, step back to see if any readjustments are needed.  Because you’ve been banging at the wall with a hammer for the past who-knows-how-long, most of your pieces have probably been rattling around and will need to be straightened.  If something still doesn’t look right, readjust it.  Don’t be afraid to pull the nail out of the wall and make another hole.  Whatever you’re hanging will probably cover the first hole and you don’t want to be sitting on the couch staring at it for the next six months wishing you had hung it just a tad to the left.  Fix it.  Now.

Before I was even done hanging, I could tell that two of my frames were much too close together and the "B" kept getting more and more crooked each time I hammered a nail into the wall.  It was driving me nuts!

Before I was even done hanging, I could tell that two of the frames were much too close together, and the “B” kept getting more and more crooked each time I hammered a nail into the wall. It was driving me nuts!  I fixed it the minute everything was up.

9.  Stand back and admire your work.

Rae’s Texas Family Room Makeover

A few other tips:  Don’t be afraid to buy or repurpose something for your wall if it doesn’t have a hanger on it.  You can add a hanger to anything.  I purchased a picture hanging kit from Home Depot, which came with a variety of different sized nails, picture hooks, hanging wire, and sawtooth hangers.  The sawtooth hangers look like this (below) and can be nailed into the back of any wooden frame or object to allow it to hang.  I would strongly recommend picking up a picture hanging kit for a project like this because you’re apt to have pieces in a variety of different shapes and sizes that are all going to have different hanging needs.

Sawtooth Picture Hanger

Sawtooth picture hanger, available at any hardware store

{What to Hang}

I think it’s extremely helpful to have a list of what you’d like on your gallery wall before you go shopping.  Of course, you can always improvise if you see something fabulous that wasn’t on the list, but having an outline is always a good starting point.  Look at the space you will be covering and try to gauge its size and how many pieces you will need.  Make a list and check it off as you go.  It never hurts to buy extra pieces for your gallery wall and return them later if you don’t end up using them.  It’s always better to have options to work with than to have to run out after the fact because there are still gaps on your gallery wall that need to be filled.

For my sister’s wall, we knew we wanted to stick mainly to a black and white theme with a few metallics to bring in the silver from the rest of the room.  I wanted the majority of the picture frames to be black, with a smattering of white ones.  I thought that about half should have mats and half should not.  If you can’t find frames you like that come with mats – no big deal.  You can pick up mats at any craft store in the framing section.  I also wanted to pull in some initials and some black and white canvas wall art so the frames didn’t overwhelm the space.  I had my eye out for a clock or two too, but unfortunately we didn’t see anything we loved that was the right color and size (not to mention price).

{Where to Buy It}

We found most of the frames for my sister’s gallery wall at a combination of Ross, Garden Ridge, and Michaels.

Rae's Texas Family Room Makeover

1.  The thin, square black frames with cream mats are from Michaels and come in 4-packs for $19.99 {plus a 40% off coupon = $11.99 for 4 frames!}.

2.  The thick rectangular black frames with cream mats are from Ross and cost $7.99 each.

3.  The medium sized rectangular black frames {$5.99} and the thick rectangular white distressed frames {$12.99} are both from Garden Ridge.

4.  The black and white wall art sayings {$9.99-$14.99} were purchased from a combination of Ross, Marshalls, and T.J.Maxx.

5.  The ampersand photo {$14.99} was another T.J.Maxx find, but would also be incredibly easy to print out and frame yourself.

6.  The mirror is originally from Target {$29.99}, but was repurposed from another room in Rae’s house.

7.  The oil rubbed bronze letter “B” {$9.99 on sale for $4.99} and the Texas star {$4.99} are from Hobby Lobby.

8.  The R & D were originally plain wooden letters purchased from Michaels for under $3 each.  We gave them two coats of acrylic silver paint, and then sanded them down for more of a rustic [farmhouse glam!] look.

Rae’s Texas Family Room Makeover

Disclaimer:  Not sure if you noticed or not, but 99% of the picture frames are empty.  Don’t worry, they won’t stay this way.  We just couldn’t cover everything in 4 short days.  I left my sister with instructions to fill them with black and white prints, but we’ll have to wait until my next visit to see if she follows through.  Hint, hint.  Get to work Rae. 🙂



12 thoughts on “Rae’s Texas Family Room Makeover {Part II: How to Create a Gallery Wall}

  1. Absolutely fabulous! Love love love the finished look.
    Rae – finish framing so we can come back and admire your makeover all over again!

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