Originally published on Shared Ramblings, my old blog.
Over the past year I have been lucky enough to have a large room at uni. Apart from buying a massive rug (that I now have nowhere to put), I was most excited about the wall space.
Gallery walls are all the rage at the moment but costs can add up with prints and frames. Here’s a more student-friendly budget option.
Optimise what you already have and consider using a mix of postcards, prints and photos.
Postcards are really cost-effective and look more expensive when mounted on card and framed. Next time you’re in a museum or funky shop, seek out these money-savers to add personality to your wall.
You can also treat yourself to some prints to intersperse with pictures and postcards. These will be the gems of your wall and are often best suited to glass frames with no borders to champion the artistry already within them. A3 prints cost on average around £25-£30 which is why they are more of an investment. Understandably, A5 prints are much cheaper and are a good way to include original art alongside postcards and photos; they’re also great to buy as gifts.
Traditionally, gallery walls tend to include solely prints but photos are a versatile option for collages. Keep down photo-printing costs by installing FreePrints and Snapfish. Not only are photos already cheaper than prints, but these apps will offer you around 50 free prints a month for a year when you first sign up. You can also order your photos in various sizes to fill different frames.
Most postcards and photos will look better mounted onto cardunless fitting the frame completely and even when forming a collage, you will need a base for your photos. I bought 2 A1 sheets of card, one black and one white, from The Range and cut them down to size for each frame (do the big frames first).
To make your gallery wall as impactful as possible, it’s worth having a variety of frame sizes and colours. Think about different textures and embellishments in the frames you choose as these will also add depth to your wall.
Frames can be expensive so it’s consider how much you want to spend and where you are willing to compromise. Black, silver, gold and clear frames are the most common and therefore have the most price flexibility. It’s worth buying a few nicer frames from somewhere like Homesense or T.K.Maxx and mixing in cheaper ones to carry a more expensive look.
Here are some useful shops:
The Range – Large frames, cheap prices, covers often acrylic rather than glass so are more durable but also prone to scratching.
Hobbycraft – Variety of shapes (e.g. square), particularly in the clear glass frames.
Wilko – Severely underrated.
Tiger – Clear glass and 3D frames.
Dunelm Mill – Different textures.
IKEA – The one, the only.
T.K.Maxx/Homesense – Fancier, embellished, frames. Check the shape and alignment of the frame to ensure they’re not in there because they’re wonky.
Supermarkets – In hindsight, these would have been a brilliant place to look.
It takes a while to collect all the frames you need so give yourself plenty of timefor shopping.
Thinking about space
It sounds obvious but walls are deceptively large. What you collect will look significantly smaller when it’s hung up. However, if your space is too small or frames are a pain, use wall safe tape to display your images.
Postcards work particularly well in limited spaces; not only are they small but they easily appear regimented and coordinated making your life easier. Try mixing up a combination of portrait and landscape images to keep the overall design interesting. Just like when designing the layout of a framed gallery wall, plan out your design on your bed before you start assembling and don’t forget to take a photo just in case you need to refer back to it.
The practical stuff
I had my glamorous assistant, or rather my dad, to put up my frames but here is a handy checklist:
Wall Safe Tape (no-frame option), which can be found in Paperchase and Rymans
White tac (possibly)
Before tackling the wall, make sure all the frames are on your bed or floor in their desired layout to make life easier. When it comes to assembling, start at the top of the gallery wall rather than the bottom to ensure you get a clean line (if you want one) at the top as your plans may change whilst hanging due to necessity (e.g. certain frames might not want to cooperate). Flexibility is key.
Some of the frames are super tricky to attach and you will need to stick the hooks on the wall sideways in order to slide the hanger-bit (technical lingo here) onto the hook. It’s obviously worth experimenting with the hooks before you stick them on the wall – we found that the ones with a complete glass front and no border were the hardest.
Making a small mark on the wall with a pencil and ruler to line up your frame will come in handy. This means you know where the top/bottom of your frame should end up hanging. You can work out where you need to stick the hook on the wall in relation to this line by measuring on the back of the frame the distance between the top of the frame and the space left for a hook.
Hang up your frame and align it. A couple of the frames needed an extra bit of support and we did stick some white-tack behind these ones to keep them at the right angle. These did leave small marks but in student accommodation you rarely get a mark-free wall anyway. You could try replacing the white-tack here with wall-safe tape but it will probably give quicker. Alternatively, Command also do a kind of velcro/tape that can be stuck to the wall; I haven’t tried this but would interested to hear how you get on with it.
Move onto the next frame!
I honestly loved having gallery walls this year; for me, having a thoughtfully decorated space really affects my mood in a positive way. On reflection, here are a couple of things I would have done differently:
Take some decent photos of your hard work! I was really proud with how my room came out but sadly only got shoddy pictures of the end result.
At the time, I really wanted to incorporate photo collages into my gallery wall as a neater way of including pictures of friends and family in my room. Personally, in the future, I am going to avoid the collages because they don’t look as classy as the individual frames with clean cut pictures. A handy way to get more pictures into your room is to use pegged fairy lights such as the ones from Tiger in the third picture.
Next year I’m recycling my gallery wall to fit a smaller space and am looking forward to playing around with new images and locations. I hope this has been helpful for you and you enjoy making your home look as welcoming as possible!