Sep 11, 20203 min
Before building my stairway gallery, I scoured the internet (including several hours of Pinterest) looking for the perfect format. Don't get me wrong, there are some beautiful wall galleries out there, but nothing seemed to fit exactly what I was looking for. So, I took in all the info I could get, and created my own gallery from scratch. I picked out the pieces I wanted to include, had some pictures printed, and went to work. There were lots of trial-and-error steps and boy did I go through a lot of painters tape. But at the end of the day I had a beautiful wall. Here are some tips for building your perfect stairway gallery wall:
One way to assure that your baseline for your gallery isn't too low, is to measure the handrail. If your handrail is on the opposite side of the wall, you'll want to mirror it. If your handrail is on the wall, you'll want to choose 3-5 inches above it. Make a mark on the wall (with pencil or tape) from the middle of the first step, then do the same at the top step. No need to make measurements for each step, the line from the bottom to the top should do the trick. Use the same height for the landing area (if you have one).
Create your canvas! The baseline will be from Tip #1. The top-line will be determined from your narrowest point. Where the second floor starts is our narrowest point of the stairway wall. I moved down length of an 8x10 frame and measured the distance from that point to my baseline. From there I had my measurements to create two parallel lines that will become my canvas. You'll fill up inside of the parallel lines, and build out from there, leading us to our next tip...
You have your "track" of parallel lines, now you need to eyeball what will fill that space. From there, you will build from the center-out. Meaning if you have more wall space on your landing, you may want to add frames going up. If you have space before your steps, build forward. You want to fill the space from the inside-out, leaving no chance for awkward spaces in-between. Think of a newspaper layout, there are no gaping spaces from the center-out. If there is any extra space, it is on the outside. Use this mentality when building your canvas.
How many times have you envisioned something on your walls, and once it was up there you were a bit disappointed? Obviously it would be much easier to use your actual frames to decide placement, but that is just not practical... from excessive holes in the wall to dropped/broken frames, leave them in a safe spot until your space is finalized. To get a good idea of how the space will come together, use scrap paper/cardboard to make mock frames. Some of my 5x7's had narrow frames, some had wide or circular frames. Actually seeing the exact shape on the wall helped me make a few tweaks before it was time to poke holes.
Those perfect matching sets of frames on the walls always look so clean. But in real life, they're nearly impossible to line up perfectly from every perspective. Remember, your gallery is on a stairwell, so the viewer's perspective is always going to be different. Having identical frames/styles makes any placement mistake super visible. Instead, opt for different size/texture/shapes of frames. Not only does this blur the placement mistakes, it adds so much more character to your gallery. It makes it look truly eclectic. I received some old photos from my MIL that had old brass frames. When I added them to my gallery wall, I was beaming. They looked beautiful! It really added depth to it.
Get that level ready!! If you don't have one, there's one on your iPhone (go to the Measure app, switch to Level at bottom). But perfectionists beware: old houses are not level! Our house was build in 1890 and I swear there isn't a level surface within the whole damn house! This is where you're going to have to step back and eyeball it. Sometimes you'll to level it based on the ceiling, or the adjacent door-frame. Either way, make sure it is level to you. Have your spouse/roommate/neighbor take a look as well. Sometimes you can get buried in a project and need a fresh set of eyes.
And there you have it! Hopefully this tip guide will help you build your perfect gallery wall! We have ours, and there are plans for to add more on the next set of stairs.