Wall Stories – – Gallery Walls That Define

Martha Stewart.com

Story walls allow your room to tell your story.

With the grim reality of the onset of the first day necessitating two sweaters,  I was thinking that this might be a good time to begin focusing on in-door projects like gallery walls.Then I saw this article snipet from The Wall Street Journal, heralding Tara Shaw and her “staggering inventory of storied furniture”….and it struck me that opposed to a gallery wall, what a home and its occupant require for definition is a story wall. Perhaps it was having met Tara, and her proclivity for story telling of her own about her grandmother’s influence on her own story. It would make sense to be drawn to antiques with vivid histories and mastering the ability to pass those on.

French Up Your Décor – Wall St Journal phot credit – Paul Costello

I have uploaded the empty wall (below) so that you can find me on Olioboard (as ReDoitDesign – yes, that user name was a fit of original thought)  so that you can practice your own lay-out concepts shared here on Olioboard.

Here you have it – the blank canvas of intimidating emptiness – waiting to tell a story. Even artists find this intimidating – it’s the confrontation and fear of block that paralyzes many people at the mere thought of creating design from empty space – but of course, I have some tools and tips to help you spin straw into golden tales that define your space.

An empty virtual wall I use to check out concept feasibility

There are two parts to creating story or gallery walls – choosing art and/or story elements and layout.  Let’s begin with the much easier aspect – lay-out and composition.

Yesterday I remarked on stylistic minimalism. I love the image below, the way that you love an empty house than conveys a sense of its personality and potential – but as a room to live in, it might feel personality challenged.


Every life is a compilation of stories. Blank walls are just opportunities to create an allegory that chronicle your memories and experiences, and broadcast to guests a bit about who you are and your interests. An empty wall is like a tale half-written tale, void or fearful of disclosure.

There are loads of ways to express yourself on a wall. Mixing collections works beautifully when you set up shapes on the wall, wherein elements fall in place following invisible lines.

Story Wall via House Beautiful

I have a number of gallery wall samples here, but a story wall is all about you – and anything that can reasonably be wall-mounted can be a character in your story, from faux taxidermy to family photos, to mirrors…..

We will deliberate color and its function, but not today.

Original Jeanine Hays Gallery Wall

Today is about layout; the theory being that if a composition is strong enough, you will have created a big picture that in and of itself renders the use of color, style, elements or budget incedental so that all the rest of your choices are visual gravy – like a paint sketch for a master piece.

I can see that this may require some explaining…


Picture all of this as black and white – wrap your head around layout only….


A layout has symmetry (or is symmetrical) when elements opposing in position on either side of the center axis are duplicated in size, scale and position. The example I created below is perfectly symmetrical, with centered features for balance.

A rather text-book example of Symmetry I whipped up for the sake of discussion on Olioboard .

Asymmetrical arrangement relies on identifying a common axis to use as a guide point to line up your frames or wall hung objects. Lining up the frames along the bottom is a great way of achieving a balanced layout even in absence of symmetry.

An A-symmetrical layout is a great deal more difficult for novices at picture hanging, as the composition varies above and below either side of a horizontal center axis – here the layout requires a great deal of time and measurement. I was thrilled to find these great elevation sketches (below) featured on the blog Design Formula that illustrate in precise detail how this can be achieved – this saves me a lot of time tracing templates or in Sketch-up!

The Asymmetrical layout used below is a great example of a trick that simplifies A-symmetry:

Asymmetrical elevation1 – Design Formula blogspot

An off-center vertical axis is chosen – like the rule of drawing within a horizontal, rectangular layout – never center your composition dead-center.

mid-wall assymetry – elevation via Design Formula Blogspot

When displaying a collection on a staircase, the composition of top aspect of the frames should mimic the steps of the stairs, though need not identically shadow the riser heights, as shown in the elevation below.

Stair elevation template – Design Formula Blog

The elevation (below) shows the opportunity for visual interest that a well-planned  layout of a story wall over a headboard can create in a master retreat, or kids room. The success of the layout is evidenced in the fact of how well it works, in absence of specifics, such as images, surfaces and color!

Headboard with lighting elevation – Design Formula Blogspot

There are a few ways of going about arranging and hanging your images. You will need a level to make certain that your items hand straight; I strongly suggest a laser level – don’t get the cheapest model – it will fall off the wall! A wall mounted laser level will save on allot of unnecessary nail holes that slow your project to a crawl.

The fastest and easiest way by far is not surprisingly the most costly:

picture wall brand template kit

If you go with this option, you simply center other items within the squared layouts.

Eddie Ross is one of my favorite designer / bloggers, and he perfected the lower cost if more time-consuming method with none other than Martha Stewart, which makes it impeccable by default…

Allot of people suggest the floor-layout trick, but I am not going to do that to you, because I really love the fact that you come here for useful information and suggestions. There are just too many things that can go South with the floor-layout method, so if you try it it will not be at my hand!

No, I am not going to provide frame selection tips here…that’s not lay out! Wax on, wax off as they say in the Karate Kid movie…learning design in steps is not just for Marshall arts – its for all arts.

Practice some on Olioboard, and next I will try to illuminate the more difficult topic of writing your story – how to choose art and items to showcase on your story or gallery walls!