Sunday, July 11, 2010

From Good to Great Galleries

Galleries are a staple for decorating large walls.  What elements make the difference between ho-hum groupings and memorable arrangements? There are four keys to a pleasing gallery: the quality of the art, the congruity of the content, the cohesiveness of the items, and the overall composition of the arrangement.

First, the quality of art makes or breaks the display. Because a grouping becomes a focal point, ask yourself, "Do these items warrant attention?" Obviously, where the gallery is located has some bearing on the decision. Context determines style. A hall, powder room, or game room call for more casual items than the dining room, living room, and entry.

To illustrate, look at the memorable gallery wall my sister has hanging in her family's kitchen-eating area. Original art graces her formal rooms, while antique family samplers, her own needlework, and a collection of woodcuts suit this space. Even though informal, the individual elements are unique, interesting, and tasteful.
The heirloom family cross-stitch in the center is the piece-de-resistance, lifting the quality of the presentation.
The second consideration when planning a gallery is subject matter. Is the content appropriate to the space, and are the individual pieces congruent with each other?  Homey needlework samplers suit my sister's family dining area, and their messages remind the family to give thanks for their daily bread and blessings.

 Similarly, the domestic subject matter of the Marlow woodcuts matches the near-kitchen location.
(The Marlow woodcuts have been made in Americus, Kansas since 1932.  Their silhouettes cut from black walnut are cataloged on their web site:

The third key to the success of my sister's gallery is the cohesiveness of the items displayed.  If you notice, she only has two types of items in the large grouping--samplers and woodcuts.  In addition, she has chosen wood frames for the samplers which match the wood in the silhouettes for cohesion. Her similar items with common frames become a unit.

Lastly, the geometric composition of my sister's arrangement contributes to its pleasing effect.  Notice the triangle formed by her art. A rectangle, square, or circle would work just as well. But, the importance of an overall shape cannot be overemphasized.  If an item or two seem to fall out of the outline, the whole arrangement morphs into a ragged conglomerate.
Finally, note the internal geometry of my sister's gallery. The balance of items--both in number, size, and relative shape give a pleasing balance. 

If you have a gallery wall, think about how you could make it more memorable. Don't be afraid to remove the poor step-sisters from your gallery. Does the subject matter of each piece contribute to the whole and fit its location? Would similar frames help unify the art?  What needs to be eliminated or moved so there is a clear shape and internal balance? 

Remember, as editing improves writing, so editing improves design. 

(For a tutorial on easily hanging an arrangement of pictures see: I would add that a laser level is an excellent help. There is even an app on the i-phone for a laser level!)


  1. I loved this. My favorite line "note the internal geometry of my sister's gallery."

  2. Oh my, I could never imagine getting all of that straight and then keeping it that way. It is very beautiful, though, and full of meaning and memories, I am sure.

    I love the combination of the stitchery and wood art. Very nice.

    You'll have to check your schedule for Wednesday and see if you can make it to the rescheduled Blog meet. This time at Sight and Sound for the 4:15pm show. Details are on my latest post.

    Becky K.

  3. That gallery looks wonderful, and that heirloom piece is incredible!