This Maximalist Home Trend Is Like If Gallery Walls and Bookshelves Had a Baby

published Mar 3, 2024
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A living room with a green fabric couch across from a pink bookcase and gallery wall

It’s hard to go wrong with a gallery wall. If you have a blank spot of any size and a knack for arranging frames, then this solution is a surefire way to showcase loved ones and worldly souvenirs as fashionably as flea-market finds and hand-me-downs. Given all of that versatility, it may seem as though the gallery wall can’t be topped. But there’s a new twist that’s making it feel fresh and exciting again. 

Recently, I’ve seen gallery wall-like arrangements mixed into bookshelf displays with flat or slightly slanted perches perfect for holding open art books or cozy knicknacks — a design phenomenon I’m describing as “gallery shelves.” Many top-tier designers and creatives have been making this transition from strictly “flat” gallery wall to a more three-dimensional, all-encompassing, hybrid-art-meets-shelving-with-wares display.

For fashion-royalty-meets-designer Jenna Lyons, that means filling an empty corner with mounted bookcases, where prized art mingles with memories. It’s clear that these items were collected over time — from ceramic objects and glass vases to painted masks and figurines.

In the case of style forecaster Jordan Ferney, a built-in bookcase in her living room morphed into a gallery shelf situation, thanks to a Samsung Frame television masquerading as a focal point piece of art, sculptures, candles, and other collectibles stealing space that might otherwise just be books in another home. 

This trend of mixing art alongside other cherished items — like books, photo albums, and other ephemera — could be the next evolution of a gallery wall. This kind of setup is looser and more maximalist. It also invites stuff, it welcomes collections, and by displaying your favorite books and vases and bowls in conjunction with art, you’re showcasing a unique vantage point all your own.

You don’t even need a massive built-in bookcase with large openings for art like Ferney’s — or even a full-wall (or two!) of Vitsoe’s iconic shelving system like Lyons has to pull this off. To emulate this look on a budget, you just have to make use of surfaces where a bunch of things can be casually propped. 

Mount a long shelf beneath an existing gallery wall in a hallway, where a bowl for keys and a file for mail can also go. Push a console table under your favorite frames, and feel free to line up a small library beside a vase or two — and to casually perch a few more pieces of art on its tabletop. Place smaller frames in tight bookcases and longer built-ins, and then fill in the remainder with magazines and candlesticks and boxes.

The main point is to find balance wherever your eye feels at ease and symmetry wherever your prized possessions feel curated enough. Be sure that a range of colors, textures, and heights are present, and you should be all set. And then, when things start to feel stale, remix to your heart’s content. In this latest twist on the gallery wall, you’re free to go outside the lines. That’s the best part.