A Beginner’s Guide to Art in the Home

Tips for planning a gallery wall

It’s undeniable that artwork can add so much life and personality to your home, but it’s not something I’ve always known a ton about. For example, do you know the best way to plan out an art gallery wall without ending up with unintended holes and scratches on your wall? Because in the past, I definitely have NOT! What about what separates fine art from other art? Beats me. Or it did until recently…because I got the chance to chat with UGallery.com co-founder and gallery director Alex Farkas, who very kindly offered to give us the skinny on all things home gallery wall.

As we’re slowly getting settled into our new apartment, Joe and I have been thinking a lot more about the types of artwork we might want to add to the space, and I’m happy to say, after talking with Alex, I learned A LOT, and it’s even made me look at the artwork we currently have in a whole different way! I guarantee you’ll learn something from our Q & A… 

how to hang a gallery wall

Q: Hi Alex! First things, first, tell us a little bit about your role as gallery director at UGallery. What does your job entail?

A: My main goal as gallery director is to connect promising artists with people looking to buy reasonably priced, original artwork. I am passionate about helping artists navigate the gallery world and providing UGallery clients with a one-of-a-kind experience. I oversee our panel of art experts who carefully select each artist and every piece we show. I spend time searching for new artists and creating collections of art on the site. I also enjoy helping clients search for artwork. I get to spend most days looking at art, which is pretty wonderful!

Q: That does sound wonderful. Okay, so my biggest question, because I ALWAYS struggle with this: what is the best way to plan out a gallery wall layout without putting a bunch of holes in the wall (and especially if you’re not particularly crafty)?

A: One way to plan out a gallery wall layout (without first putting holes in the wall) is to use the floor directly below the area where you will hang your art as your planning ground. First, arrange the art on the floor. Then, trace the outline of each piece on paper and cut it out so you have a template (editor’s note: I’m going to try this with newspaper for larger pieces!). Use these templates and painter’s tape to map out the layout on your wall, using your floor diagram as a reference of where you want the art to go. You’ll be able to see exactly where the art will hang. All that’s left is to grab a drill and screws (or a hammer and nails)!

tips on buying art

Q: That’s far simpler than the typical guesswork method I’ve used. Another question: I think some of the most interesting gallery walls have a mix of frame sizes and styles. Do you have any advice on how best to mix and match frames, especially in such a way that the frames are versatile and reusable with different types of art in the future?

A: DIY frames are a great way to let your personality shine through – and the best part is that you don’t even have to be artistic to pull it off! Rather than choose matching frames, buy a collection of different frames from garage sales. Whether you paint them in varying hues or leave them as they are, the variety will add an eclectic, personal look. You can also go to any home décor store to look for frames. Ready-made frames come in all shapes and sizes, so look around and have fun. Make sure to do your research beforehand and read up on reviews of local framers to see if they fit your budget.

No matter which route you choose, the key is to buy a frame that is two to four inches bigger on each side than the piece so you have room to play with a matte.

Q: What’s your approach to mixing budget and investment art pieces within a gallery wall?

A: More than anything, it’s important to buy art that speaks to you and fits within your budget. Investment-grade art tends to be out of reach for the typical art buyer, so it’s more important to choose pieces you like rather than ones you think will have a future resale value.

That said, you can make an eclectic wall that’s sure to be a conversation starter by mixing different mediums, styles, and subjects. For instance, there’s an abundance of inspiring, beautiful and inexpensive photography – many of our photographs on UGallery are a steal starting at just $125. Incorporating creative elements in your wall – such as family photos or the invitation from your wedding – is another way to add flair at little or no cost. Once you have some of the less expensive items in place, splurge on a few pieces, such as oil or acrylic paintings, to round out your look.

I also suggest making use of the resources around you. Don’t be afraid to talk with gallerists about exactly what you want – along with your budget – and have them help you find the perfect piece. If you’re shopping at UGallery, we have a designated team of art experts who assist clients in finding artwork that meets their needs.

buying art for your home

Q: So let’s say you’re ready to invest in a piece of art, or maybe you receive a valuable piece as part of a family hand-me-down. When should a person consider having their art insured?

A: First, find out what your current insurance covers. Standard renters’ and homeowners’ insurance policies typically cover a dollar amount for valuables, including art. Depending on how much art you own, you may not need to purchase supplemental insurance.

Q: I’ve always wondered how do you go about determining whether something is truly a “fine art” piece? Does this just mean it’s an original?

A: Fine art takes on many forms. Just because a piece is an original work does not necessarily mean it is “fine art.” At a basic level, you can distinguish a work of fine art by looking at several factors. First, what is the artist’s background? Do they have a Bachelor or Master of Fine Arts degree? How long have they been creating art? The artist’s resume can tell you a great deal about their experience and the type of work they are creating. Second, is the piece itself an original concept? Reproductions of other artworks or pieces done in a very similar style to another artist’s work are generally not considered fine art. Third, is the piece part of a larger series of work? Fine artworks are usually created as part of a large series of art, where the artist spends time and effort to refine the concept and the execution. Finally, all artwork should be viewed individually. Does the composition, construction, and message work? Does the piece stir our emotions? Are you unable to look away?

Art is created at many levels, and the more art you see the better you become at understanding and evaluating it. It’s truly a life-long pursuit.

guide for buying and hanging art

Q: What are your favorite sources for art?

A: Personally, I like to collect art from artists I know. I find that knowing the person enriches the art. I enjoy going to local open studios and gallery openings to find new pieces. I also think the Internet is a fantastic resource for discovery. You can see so many pieces at once and connect with artists from around the world. Through UGallery, I have gotten to know some truly talented artists.

Q: And of course, I have to ask — do you have a favorite artist?

A: I don’t have a favorite artist, or even a few favorites. I admire so many artists spanning centuries of time, and I just continue to discover new creators. Lately, I have become fascinated with graffiti art around San Francisco. It’s angstful, rebellious art. I am fascinated by the mystery of the artist and the temporary nature of the work. It’s exciting to spot new pieces, and interesting to see them disappear just as quickly.

{Image Credits: Dwell Studio; Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg for Matchbook Magazine, Nov. 2011; Lonny, July/Aug 2013; Lonny, Sept 2010; Apartment Therapy

Leave a Comment


  1. 7.22.13

    uh, pinning all of this and loving this post! I move in to a new place in late august and have been thinking of how to compile my gallery wall – this helps!!

    XO, Stefanie
    Life on the Squares

  2. 7.22.13
    jackie said:

    I’m slowly trying to buy more personalized art for my home and love all of these great tips!
    — jackie – jadeoak.com

  3. 7.22.13

    Great advice. We have 2 gallery walls in our home, one that is more personal with new and old family photos and another of all our black white art work.

  4. 7.22.13
    Brenna said:

    This is so amazing! Thank you for sharing – getting ready to move into my very first apartment and I am so overwhelmed by the decor situation.

    xx, B of Bubbly in Brooklyn

  5. 7.22.13

    Thank you for the introduction to UGallery, digging through the site NOW!

  6. 7.22.13
    nora said:

    really great advice. i’m hoping to invest in some pieces in the future.

  7. 7.22.13
    Peyton said:
  8. 7.23.13
    Kristiana said:

    That top photo from Dwell Studio was my inspiration for our Living Room gallery wall. If anyone needs to hang plates or anything that does not have hooks, these adhesive plate hangers are awesome! http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=10010750&N=&Ntt=plate+hanger

  9. 7.23.13

    Love this Q&A! I have recently started thinking about art collections as well. I love how you can start with just one piece and collect over time and see how your life and taste change through the years yet its still beautiful all mixed together.

    – Heath

    • 7.23.13
      vmacandcheese said:

      That’s such a nice way to put it! I love that too.