DIY: Create a Gallery Wall All Your Own

Going from ‘wall’ to ‘wow’ is simple with this creative way to turn a blank space into an inspiring spot

Going from ‘wall’ to ‘wow’ is simple with this creative way to turn a blank space into an inspiring spot

For years, designers have espoused the virtues of personalized touches in home decor, recommending mementos and cherished keepsakes as pivotal additions to a room’s overall look. Using a memory wall to showcase treasured reminders can transform a sterile environment into a conversation piece in just a few simple steps.

With input from Vancouver stylist Maxwell Darling, we tell you how…

Credit: Josh Murray

Create a collage

A memory wall is more than simply a collection of photographs. It should fold in tangible pieces of your own history: anything that brings back warm memories of the past. “A memory or gallery wall is a way to have the people, places and things you love fill your home,” says Darling.

Be creative with your choices as you collect items to showcase: notes, certificates, tickets, even shells, leaves or a unique rock from a romantic stroll on a white sand beach. Anyone can frame a collection of black and white portraits but not everyone can post a well-rounded snapshot of a life. “Found objects that invoke a memory add a modern sense of depth and whimsy,” concurs Darling.

Keep it in context

The wall of personal artifacts is just that… personal. A faux tortoise shell snatched up during a mid-season sale won’t pass muster. “Personalization is important ’cause we live so much of our lives in austere public spaces,” explains Darling.

The space should evoke strong memories of your own successes, challenges and relationships. Avoid throwing in generic items that have little to no connection with your backstory.

Location, location, location

Memories take up space. Think strategically about where to hang your work. If your entranceway or hall is thin or your living room is stuffed with technical gadgets, adding in a gallery wall may provide too much chaos.

Aim for a room or space that could use a little more texture. Above a work space is ideal, providing inspiration throughout the day, or perhaps over the bed or in a foyer to provide a splash of personality.

Finding frames

With a combination of photos and keepsakes on the wall, first-timers may want to ensure cohesion as a hodge-podge of frames and colours will distract from the impact of the display itself.

“The frames don’t necessarily have to have a common theme, but unless you possess a curatorial eye, it’s best to stick to a theme or it could end up looking like a display wall at flea market,” advises Darling.

Try to find a collection of frames that share at least one common characteristic: be it the same colour, tone, style or even texture. A gathering of black, grey or gold frames will be easiest to track down at your local home decor retailer.

Lay It down

It’s easy to make a mess. Before hanging frames, decide on a solid spacing plan by laying out the wall on the ground. Play with placement combinations, heights and distance so that positioning is complimentary.

Consider the viewer’s experience: should notes and letters be lower down so they can be easily read? Should larger prints be placed higher so as not to overpower? A memory wall should be a unique collection and not a major distraction.

Involve others

The wall may be full of your personal memories, but it’s no opportunity for a narcissistic selfie wall. This is a gallery wall, not a shrine.

“If you’re compelled to make a wall of selfies, your time and money is likely better spent in a therapist’s office exploring the root cause of your narcissism,” laughs Darling.

Don’t use self-portraits or other photos of just your smiling mug in frame. Conversation in a home begins when others are involved so always select items and photographs with rich stories or at least a level of sentimentality—not simply a well-lit portrait that shaves a few years off.

Refresh and renew

The best thing about being creative with your home decor choices in this manner is that the wall is a living reminder of good times. “The worst thing you can do is set it and forget it,” cautions Darling. “This isn’t a yearbook frozen in time, it’s your life. Don’t be a sad cheerleader forever living out the glory of college days.”

Take a few moments each year—or even each season—to refresh the contents. Add in newer shots or give a little attention in objects unearthed during your spring cleaning.