A picture wall of twenty Andy Warhol prints, hung in a grid formation.
Here are some picture wall ideas. If you’ve ever made a collage in art class at school then you can use the same principles to arrange and hang multiples or groups of frames or pictures. Each picture or frame acts as one formal element that needs to be pulled together as part of a cohesive whole, while still allowing the individual pieces to breathe and not be dominated by the other elements.
You will find this much easier when you are arranging multiples that have been intended to hang together, as in a botanical series. In the case of a botanical series or a series like Hogarth’s I would tend to go for some sort of grid formation.
Grid formations can be a great way to fill a wall space where a large painting or print isn’t available. Or to emphasise the lines of a long hallway.
Eight Japanese flower pictures hung in a grid formation.
The parallel lines created by the grid formation can look particularly striking. Matching frames tend to be what works for a conventional set of multiples or series. It allows the subject matter to be the focus rather than the frame. I can’t really think of a case where a frame should deemphasise or takeaway from what’s inside it.
That being said I have used different coloured frames to great effect. On a hanging project in 2016 I was presented with a series of typical barrister’s portraits in a London barrister’s chambers. I felt there was a way of arranging the portraits that spiced them up a bit without being disrespectful. The goal was to create a feature wall in the reception area of the chambers.
Collage of multicoloured framed pictures hung for Martyn in Seven Dials, Brighton
For a series of nine photographs I suggested using three different pastel colours repeated three times across the series. I worked with the framer and the client to choose the right Farrow and Ball colours that we felt added some interest without being too zany or poppy.
You could try the same creative approach with family photographs or similar. Use colours that reflect or enhance the subject matter, not act in conflict with it, or drown it out.
Equally, mismatching frames can be great, especially when a collection of works or family photographs has been built up and put into different frames over time then hung in various places around the house. Then, when having moved or redecorated you decide to hang a group of this disparate collection together, the mismatching frames can become a feature.
A trio of portraits, each from a distinctly different era and artist. Conversing through the ages, hung on a wall in a guest bedroom in in Kemp Town.
I’ll often arrange the group according to frame colour and style as well as the subject matter inside the frame. The principle to follow here is a technique I learnt in art school – you’re always working to achieve a balance between repetition and variation. The trick is to try to repeat colours, tones, styles where possible but also introduce enough variety throughout the group so that it doesn’t become too repetitive! It’s a balancing act!
Arranging a Collage Wall
A salon style or collage picture hanging in Leon’s house in Brighton
If you do find yourself with a set of mismatching frames it becomes very difficult to try and force it to adhere to a grid. Don’t be afraid to break out of the grid. This is when you really are creating a collage.
I always begin by measuring the space on the wall to determine how large I think the group should be. I’ll use Post-it notes to delineate the top, bottom, left and right boundaries of the group on the wall.
The next step is to find an area of floor space where I can lay out my frames. Again I will use is Post-it notes on the floor to mark out my wall dimensions. I then begin to lay out the frames on the floor.
When you’re beginning your picture arrangement the trick is not to think too much about it. Just start laying out the frames without editing too much.
A collage or picture wall that I arranged and installed running up these stairs in Eastbourne, East Sussex.
It is important at this stage to consider the gaps between the frames. When the frames are small to medium sized I like to go for gaps of 4 to 6 centimetres. Having relatively consistent gaps helps to unify the group.
Then stand back and look at the whole layout and start to edit and move things around until areas of the group start to work together. You might find that some frames are just too mismatching and won’t work in the group. Take them out.
A collage of over 50 framed photographs in a hallway in Putney
You need to play around for a while until it starts to work as a whole. For a group of say 15 or 20 frames it might take half an hour to an hour to find a layout that works.
It’s a fun process and the key is to not let it become to serious. Maintain a sense of play and discovery and don’t be afraid to try things that might seem out of the ordinary. You never know, it just might look great!