How to Arrange a Stairway Gallery Wall

This is probably the least technical and potentially least-helpful “how to” post that will ever be written, but I think it might help those of you who like me, want to hang an “imperfect” gallery wall. Gallery walls can be a little daunting but they really don’t have to be too complicated.

Over a year after moving into our house, I snapped a photo of the entry and it was then that I realized how empty it looked. I decided that a gallery wall was the answer to our empty entryway problems and Conor was on board, so we got to work. We used a few pieces we already had and ordered a framed print from Anecdote, and three more framed photographs from Sonic Editions. Why no family photos? Well, we have family photos on the shelf in our entry, in the living room,  office, our bedroom, basement, and we’re adding a few to the upstairs hallway, so going with art felt right.

The first step was adding a runner although that was actually done for safety reasons with the added bonus of warming up our home. When Margot was a baby, I slipped going up the stairs while holding her. She was fine but I got a quote for an almost identical style runner for over $3000. I vowed to literally tread lightly knowing that we’d need one as soon as Margot started going up and down the stairs on her own. Months later, Buddy fell down the entire flight of stairs so I called my interior designer friend Kira David. She ordered swatches from DMI and had them to me within a few days. The quote came at more than 50% less than the first quote, and installation took place less than two weeks later! It’s a softer sisal and very padded, safe and inviting, and looks exactly how I hoped it would. I went with Paradise in Cobble. You can order it through Kira, or your interior designer if you have one.

Still a little bare though, right?

I know I’ll get questions about this so let’s talk about our baby gate before. Safety Matters (I did not partner with them but they did a great job on the and I highly recommend them) installed a gate  at the top of our stairs and suggested installing one at the bottom. I was told that some parents choose to wait and see how their toddlers handle stairs, so that’s what I decided to do, fully expecting to add one a few months later. Margot is just not a climber and hasn’t shown a lot of interest in climbing, so for now, we haven’t needed to add one.

My “process” isn’t very technical at all. Keeping the arrangement imperfect in terms of height and spacing makes the process a lot easier. Because we didn’t create a perfect grid or use perfect spacing and matching photos, it was easier to just piece it together. We started one-by-one, hanging pieces as we went along. I’d have Conor hold a piece up and move it around until we found the right spot. The only “plan” was to not have two pieces that were too similar next to each other (so spacing out photographs) and not having all the black frames next to each other. So we kind of laid it out but honestly didn’t overthink it and got to work.

I love the look of matching frames and perfect spacing, but that’s not the look we were going for, so I’m going to share some of the mistakes that I often see when it comes to “imperfect” gallery walls like this one.

So we got to work on hanging art. Here are some of the mistakes I see that I wanted to avoid:

  1. Too much space between frames
  2. Not enough space between frames / clumping everything together
  3. Not enough variation in frame / art sizing

Since nothing was mapped out in advance, we knew we might need to order another small piece or two to fill in any gaps. This would mean not finishing same day which we were fine with since we had lived in our house for almost a year and-a-half at this point.

The white frame with a Paris photograph from one of our trips went up first. Then the small engraving and Brigette Bardot (I love her). You can see that we kept things just a little uneven, not stacking anything too perfectly.

We opted to go up before adding more below. This helped since figuring out the top was a bit tricky. How high should we go?

Conor would hold each piece and shift up, down, left, and right. Bringing this small, square print to the left better filled the space and and kept things looking less perfect.

There’s more space to the right of that piece than above, but that’s ok. It works, right?

Here’s a shot from the entryway.

I was loving how this looked but it needed a little something different. Maybe a gold frame? And the lowest piece was still a little too high (just a bit higher than eye level) for anyone standing in the entry. It needed one more piece.


Here are the pieces I used along with some other framed budget-friendly favorites


Small gold frame (vintage) 14″h x 16″w
Large white mat frame with Paris photo (from our travels) 25″sq
Small engraving (vintage) 12″h x 15″w
Brigette Bardot framed photograph 25.5″h x 21.5″w
Small abstract print, 13″sq
Il Pellicano framed photograph, 21.5″h x 25.5″w
Francine Turk print framed at Hobby Lobby, 26.5″h x 22.5″w
Paul Newman framed photograph 17.5″h x 21.5″w

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