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3 Reasons Your Gallery Wall Isn’t Working (and How to Fix It)

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If I had to list out the top three things I get questions about from readers, family members and friends, advice on how to create a gallery wall would definitely be at the top.

You probably know this already, but I’m a huge fan of gallery walls. 

In fact, I already wrote a post sharing my tips on how to create a gallery wall so that it looks like a designer did it for you, which you should totally read right here!

We have gallery walls in many places throughout our house — ranging from our master bedroom that recently got a facelift (probably my favorite art display!) to our dining room to my daughter’s bright, happy bedroom — and they’re usually a great way to make a big impact design-wise without going broke.

modern boho master bedroom 3

Our master bedroom gallery wall

However, I can’t tell you how many friends have texted me photos of their gallery walls, and they’re frustrated about the finished product.

They’re annoyed. They put so much effort into curating different pieces, only to have something feel “off” — but they’re not sure what.

Many times they have a lot of GOOD THINGS working well for them, but there are one or two tweaks they could make to feel that their finished product is exactly what they were going for.

If you’ve ever created a gallery wall only to feel as though it didn’t quite turn out how you’d hoped, then keep reading.

Here are a couple secrets to getting your gallery walls right EVERY time.

Problem #1: Your artwork is hung too close together.

The first mistake I see people making with gallery walls is that they’re placing the elements of their display too close together.

I’m talking about leaving only a few inches in between everything you’re hanging — which often means that you’re leaving far too much of the wall still empty.

And isn’t that why you’re creating a gallery wall in the first place? To create a focal point and fill a large space?

Don’t skimp on the artwork, guys. If you have too few pieces, your art collection is going to look like a small blip on a giant wall, and it’s not going to be the focal point that you’d hoped.

I know what you’re thinking, though…..but Kate, it takes time to collect the perfect pieces. Am I supposed to just deal with this huge blank space for even LONGER even though I already have some of the artwork I’ll be using already?

I totally get it, not to mention I am horribly impatient.

When I decorate, I want all the perfect pieces right now, and I hate thinking about leaving a decorating project in view that feels even the slightest bit undone. Or worse yet, putting off hanging up my artwork when I already have 90% of what I need.

So one trick I use when I am just dying to hang up art but don’t have all the perfect pieces yet is to buy a blank frame in the desired size that will help round out my gallery wall, and hang it up.

And yes….I leave it blank. I’ve learned to live with this compromise. Better to have that placeholder there and add THE print when the mood strikes than to try making do with an incomplete collection.

After all, good decorating takes time.

And when I’ve rushed decorating in the past, I’ve always been disappointed in the results. So it’s best to (try to) be patient.

As for finding the correct layout and spacing, the best way to make sure you’re filling the wall adequately is to lay all your artwork on the floor before hanging it, and move the pieces around until you’re happy with the result.

This technique helps you get your spacing correct without putting unnecessary extra holes in your walls.

Problem #2: You have too many elements that are the same exact size.

Unless you are aiming for clean and crisp uniformity — which can be absolutely beautiful, just like this gallery wall from Chelsea at Making Home Base — you need to vary the sizes of the elements you’re including in your gallery wall. 

When you vary the sizes of the prints you’re using, your eye more easily shifts from one print to the next, allowing you to take in the entire gallery wall. When you use several prints that are all the same size, your eyes don’t know where to look first.

And don’t forget to use prints in both vertical and horizontal orientations.

When it comes to artwork collections, variety really is the spice of life — embrace it!

Gallery wall design and image via Jenny’s Print Shop

And one more thing: Don’t hang prints on the wall that have a frame size smaller than 8×10.

Art prints or photos that are too small get lost in a wall display.

Save those smaller prints for your nightstand or your family room console table.

Problem #3: Something in your gallery wall was purchased at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

No disrespect to Bed, Bath & Beyond — I happen to have purchased many a fabulous pair of sheets there and some nice cookware over the years — but the artwork in your gallery wall should be unique to you and tell your story. Not the story of a big box retailer.

Now, if you just love a piece of art, buy it. No matter where it’s from.

But the thing I try to avoid is walking into a store in search of a “filler” art piece because I need one final thing to add to my wall.

I’ve made that mistake before, and I’ve always regretted it.

On a related note, I typically try to abide by these guidelines:

  • Keep quotes to a minimum (Use words on walls sparingly)
  • No reprints of famous art pieces
  • Steer clear of anything that looks overly mass produced 

Thanks to retailers like Etsy and Minted, it’s 100% possible to get plenty of beautiful, unique artwork at affordable prices.

If you need a solid list of shops to peruse, then check out this post about my favorite online shops for wall art.

I’ll leave you with one more example of a fun gallery wall — this one’s the latest addition to our home, and is in our dining room.

ikea henriksdal hack 2

Have you experienced any other challenges when creating a gallery wall?

What other parts of the process do you find most difficult? Tell me below!

P.S. – Did you find this post helpful? If so, I’d love it if you’d pin it! Thanks!

These tips will help you create the perfect gallery wall!


Want to create the perfect gallery wall? These three tips are on point!Want to create the perfect gallery wall? These three tips are the only ones you'll need!

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Donna Watson

Thursday 8th of April 2021

I’m wanting to create a gallery wall in our family TV/Rec room and wanting to keep a Industrial farmhouse theme but include a movie theme as well. Is that possible, Is it ok to mix framed art with canvas art? I’ve seen wooden movie reels & vintage movie signs that I like. Touches of “movie” stuff.


Sunday 11th of April 2021

Hi Donna! That sounds like a fun mix of art! It's great to mix types of artwork -- canvases, wooden pieces, and more.

Alaina Ciencewicki

Monday 11th of January 2021

Why no famous reprints? I am creating a gallery wall in my living room and i specifically want famous artwork. Which leads only option as reprints. I love Claude Monet and i was thinking either an impressionist wall or landscape paintings of which a couple are impressionists, mixing up frame colors, maybe incorporating a metal reprint. But now you have me worried. Thanks for your feedback.


Tuesday 12th of January 2021

Hi Alaina! I often see people try to use those pieces as "fillers" in a larger gallery wall. There's nothing wrong with it -- my point is just that I'd rather see something the person truly loves on their walls versus something that was more of a "I need one more piece of art so this'll do" purchase.

That said, what you're describing sounds lovely! And most importantly, a gallery wall of famous artwork is what makes YOU happy ... and that's exactly how it should be because it's YOUR home.


Wednesday 30th of December 2020

I would love your thoughts on my wall please


Saturday 2nd of January 2021

Hi Kaitlyn, I'd love to work with you! If you're interested in my design consulting services, please send me an email at hi [at] katedecorates [dot] co (no "M" at the end).

Trudy Aldridge

Thursday 23rd of April 2020

We have just redone our en suite and we painted the walls and shelves white. I wanted a bit of a spa look. I have one wall that is just crying out for art and I'd like to do a gallery wall there.I want the main accent color to be teal. Any suggestions on what would go together in a spa like bathroom?


Thursday 23rd of April 2020

Hi Trudy, your new bathroom sounds lovely! There are lots of options for adding pops of teal to an all-white bathroom. I'd love to help you design a gallery wall for your bathroom -- you can find out more about the decorating services I offer right here:


Saturday 18th of April 2020

Good useful tips! Thanks


Saturday 18th of April 2020

So glad they were helpful, Elizabeth!

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