How to Build a Pinterest-Inspired Gallery Wall

margot (Maddy), my baddie friend.

margot (Maddy), my baddie friend.

As the school year gets underway, one thing is clear: This year — perhaps more than ever — people are serious when it comes to dorm decor. And fortunately, even if you don’t have the budget (or, let’s be honest, the energy) for a full-on, custom, room transformation, there are plenty of accessible and affordable ways to up the style factor of your space.

Consider a gallery wall, for example. Gallery walls are having a real moment right now, and for good reason: They give you the chance to fill your bare walls with the coolest collections of art, photos, and meaningful pieces, without looking cluttered or random. You can make them as big, or as small, as you want — which means they’re perfect for dorm rooms, where space (including wall space) is at a premium.

While no two gallery walls are the same, there are a few things everyone should keep in mind before you start drilling holes. Get my friend Maddy's expert advice on how to create a Pinterest-worthy gallery wall for your dorm room. Check out her five key tips and tricks below.

1. Find art that speaks to your style.

While there’s nothing wrong with looking to sites like Pinterest and Instagram for ideas and inspirations, one of the coolest things about gallery walls is that they can be so easily personalized to reflect your own style, and tell your own story — so focus on finding a unique mix of pieces to include in yours. “To create a gallery wall that personalizes your dorm room, I recommend mixing personal photos of family and friends with affordable art finds,” Maddy says. “Gallery walls are a great way to tell an artistic story of your travels, life experiences, and tastes!”

She recommends starting with sites like EtsyMintedCitizen Atelier, and Rifle Paper Co. for cool, affordable art. For extra-personal additions, consider incorporating things like vintage pieces that have been passed down through your family. “Feel free to mix and match modern and traditional pieces to create an eclectic wall; the more mediums you combine, the better,” Maddy says. “Don’t feel like you need to stick only to photographs or prints.”

2. Make a statement with framing.

“I always say, framing art adds tremendous visual impact; it can make a $20 piece look like $2,000,” Maddy says. “One option is to go clean and classic by picking the same black or white wood frame for all your pieces; this creates unity and keeps the focus on the art. You can also go bold with a variety of frame materials and sizes. For example, consider pairing a thin one-inch modern metal frame with three-inch distressed wood frame from a thrift shop.”

And framing your art or photographs doesn’t have to be a huge additional expense. Check out stores like IKEAHomeGoodsPaper Source, or small, independent boutiques for stylish and affordable frames in all shapes and sizes. Don’t have time to hit the stores? Maddy recommends taking advantage of websites like Simply Framed and Framebridge that do all the heavy lifting for you. Just send in your art, and they’ll help you pick out a custom frame, then send the final product back to you, ready for hanging.

3. DIY it.

Your gallery wall doesn’t have to be a collection of other people’s art and photographs. In fact, using your own pictures will make it that much more meaningful — and you don’t have to be even a semi-professional photographer to make it happen. Your phone snaps will work just fine. “If you are on a budget but want to add visual interest to your wall, consider turning your own Instagram photos into art,” Maddy says. “Social Print Studio...print[s] all your shots in Polaroid-style squares ($15 for 48 prints), allowing you to create a fun gallery wall on the cheap.” Bonus: You’ll be able to look back at your favorite pictures every day, IRL, without scrolling through your entire social media feed or camera roll.

4. Display your art in unexpected ways.

Perhaps one of the biggest barriers to creating a gallery wall in your dorm room is figuring out how to actually hang everything — unfortunately, not all schools are cool with you using your dorm room walls for semi-permanent interior design projects. But, that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. “If you’re living in a dorm that doesn’t allow you to put holes in the wall, there are many alternatives to nails…like Command Picture Hanging Strips by 3M,” Maddy says. “Another fun and easy trick is to hang a picture wire across the room, and clip personal photographs, art prints, and drawings onto the wire using bulldog clips.”

5. Be playful with sizes.

“What makes a gallery wall fun and interesting is to vary the sizes and orientations of the art,” Maddy says. Make sure to include both horizontal and vertical pieces in different shapes and sizes, including, Maddy recommends, one large piece that’s at least 20 or 25 inches on its longest side. Use that to anchor the wall, and then build the rest of the gallery out from there, following Maddy’s main rules of thumb: “First, lay out all the pieces on the floor like a jigsaw puzzle before you start hanging or sticking,” she says. “Second, keep at least 2-3 inches between the pieces to make each one shine. Lastly, if you’re installing the gallery wall above a piece of furniture, leave at least 8 inches between the bottom of the frame and the [furniture].”