Gallery Style Picture Walls

Present your pictures museum-style
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Does the long white wall in your hall look empty and sterile, like a hospital hallway? Is your living room in an old building with high ceilings? Whenever there are big areas and nothing to guide your eye, you can use your own photos to set accents and create structure. Here we show you the opportunities you have for hanging pictures in a row, gallery-style.

Numerous options for rooms big and small

How you hang your pictures depends on your personal taste and preference and will also depend on the layout of the wall. There are various options for hanging pictures, which interior decorators refer to in their own jargon:

  • The Petersburg Hanging for instance, refers to hanging numerous, mostly smaller pictures in different formats closely next to and above each other, in what appears to be an unordered, chaotic way. The result will always feel slightly nostalgic and reminiscent of sitting rooms from centuries ago.
  • The Raster Hanging on the other hand refers to pictures of the same format that are being hung horizontally and vertically in a chessboard pattern. The result appears organised and modern.

The above-mentioned variations are best suited for small, intimate areas, in which the pictures will be viewed from quite a short distance.

Row arrangement gallery-style

Big empty walls, as in the hall mentioned earlier, are often best suited for row arrangements: here several large prints in the same format and with the same finish or frame are arranged next to each other, with identical spacing in between them.

This style of hanging is redolent of the presentation of pieces of art in galleries. You’ll achieve an elegant, clean and understated look, which works wonderfully in long, straight hallways or big, minimally furnished rooms.

Gallery style picture walls. Framed photo prints with landscapes displayed in row arrangement.

Step-by-step instructions for achieving the gallery style

The process is very simple:

  1. Choose a suitable number of your favourite pictures. Make sure you choose pictures which are identical in their width-to-height ratio – e.g. 16:9 upright format or 3:2 landscape format. You’ll achieve the best effect if all the pictures have a common theme or visual identity which will connect the pictures with each other. This could potentially be the colours (all the pictures are black and white or in pastel colours) or the motif (e.g. flowers or children’s pictures). Strong contrasts work equally well. However, this requires a sure instinct in order to balance the colours and shapes beautifully to create the desired effect.
  2. Use an unexpected element to achieve the “wow” factor: for instance, break the row of pictures with a mirror, which ideally has the same format ratio as the photo prints. An intriguing element could also be a colour print in a row of black and white prints.
  3. Print the pictures at home first and arrange them in the desired order. This will help you to choose which arrangement will give you the desired effect.
  4. As soon as you've made your choice, order a large print of each of your pictures. Shadow gap frames tend to be particularly suitable for perfecting the gallery style.
  5. When hanging the pictures stick to the general rule of thumb that prints should be hung at eye level. But of course anything’s allowed so long as you like it – sometimes you can achieve a fascinating effect by hanging pictures closer to the ceiling.

Accentuate with the right lighting

The icing on the cake is the professional lighting of your photo gallery – this will ensure perfect display of your pictures.

The easiest way is to think about the positioning of power outlets when planning the room, for instance during the renovating or building phase of your home. You generally don’t have that advantage in rented properties. In this case you should utilise thin and visually unobtrusive cable clips to conceal any cables.

And there are potential pitfalls when planning for lighting which you should be aware of: for example, if you’re planning on presenting your photos as acrylic prints you should never place them opposite a strong light source. Following this advice will mean you avoid unappealing reflections in the glass.

It’s a lot better to illuminate pictures from a light source at the top. Depending on the desired effect, single spots, picture lights or track lighting will be best.

Ceiling spots

Well suited to this are ceiling spots, which directly illuminate single pictures. They can be sunk into the ceiling or can be hung using a robe system. They allow you to exactly adjust the direction of illumination. Use bundled halogen lights so that every light source illuminates only its allocated picture and not too much of the wall surrounding it. This will direct attention straight to your photo artworks.

Gallery style picture walls. Beautiful black & white framed photo prints in living room.

A rule of thumb: ceiling spots should be positioned so that the rays of light hit the middle of the picture at a 30° angle.

If the angle is, for example, only 10° (if the spots are positioned close to the wall and point almost vertically down) it will create long shadows under the picture. If the source of light is positioned too far away, so that the light hits the picture at, for example, a 45° angle, there’ll be reflections on the surface of the picture.

Depending on your eye level, a distance of roughly half a metre to one metre from the wall will be ideal.

Track lighting systems

Track lighting systems on the ceiling are an excellent solution. Nowadays there are plenty of attractive and minimalist-looking systems available. When equipped with the correct lamps they offer some advantages over spot lighting: they’re easier to install as well as flexible. While removing sunk-in spots will definitely call for extra plasterwork, modern track lighting systems can easily be removed at any time and reattached in a different place.

Gallery style picture walls. Multiple prints in row arrangement.

Picture lighting

You can display single pictures effectively if you install special picture lighting on the picture frame. The transformers of most lighting sources are so thin that they can be easily and invisibly mounted behind the picture. Modern picture lighting comes in contemporary and chic designs and acts as additional room decoration.

Wallwashers

You don’t necessarily need to illuminate each and every single photo but could instead opt for a wallwasher. These are available in a range of versions – sunk into the ceiling, mounted on the ceiling or on a track system. Furthermore, they can be mounted on the wall or even on the floor and spread the light a lot wider than spots or picture lighting. The whole wall will be brightly illuminated but light won’t spread to the room itself.

Gallery style picture walls. Artistic photo prints displayed in collage.


This technique is preferred by a lot of modern galleries. It creates a contemporary and casual look. Due to the evenly distributed illumination of the wall the pictures can be easily rearranged, changed or moved.

Summary

There's no “wrong” way to beautify your home with photos. However, we do believe that the clean and professional row arrangement of the gallery style could be just the right thing if you want to present your large artworks in a captivating way!

 

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