I Hate Gallery Walls, so I Tried “Gallery Clusters” in My Apartment Instead

published May 6, 2024
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Credit: Lula Poggi

I’m going to just say it: Gallery walls aren’t really my thing. I fully respect their purpose, though: to display beloved photos and art prints in a cohesive, intentional manner. But for me, most examples have always felt a little too well-designed and perfect, like you’re decorating a model home, which doesn’t necessarily align with my personal aesthetic. 

Of course, gallery walls will never go out of style, and the way people arrange them has also changed in recent years. Instead of a uniform, symmetrical look, many now feel more like a personalized collection with mix-and-match frames, different-sized photographs and paintings, and even some small knickknacks, like plates or wall planters thrown into the mix. Because these items don’t all align together in a perfect formation, the current gallery wall trend naturally takes on a more collected look. 

That inspired my own art layout: When I moved into my current apartment a few years ago, I wanted a way to show off special memories and decor without overcrowding my walls. So I decided to hang just a few things together in small clusters — “gallery clusters,” if you will — around my space. Now, my apartment features several spaced-out, yet well-curated art display areas that still show off my design personality and favorite mementos. 

Credit: Jessie Quinn

I love the look of gallery clusters because they’re a fun, organic approach to styling arrangements of art prints, photographs from your travels, decorative plates, or even a framed handwritten recipe from a loved one. These also allow you to design displays that fit within various spaces — especially tight corners or in between windows. Additionally, gallery clusters help make a home feel more lived-in, which is a nice change from the ultra-sleek and staged look I often see on social media.

This “new” type of gallery wall leans closer to my own personal thrifted aesthetic, too, as I don’t have to spend as much money (or time) collecting a ton of decor pieces. And because I still find that hanging a bunch of stuff can feel a bit too crowded — even for my antique mall-dwelling self — this style forces me to be strategic about what I do display. Instead of throwing everything at the wall (literally!) in the name of a personalized gallery, I prefer a few photographs and prints coupled together on accent walls throughout my apartment. 

Credit: Jessie Quinn

How to Create a Gallery Wall Cluster

There are a few different ways to create a gallery wall cluster. You can still opt for a sleek, minimalist, and symmetrical style, or you can lean into the eclectic aesthetic with different materials, sizes, and more randomized placement — just as long as you keep your arrangement to around three or four items total. 

For example, I have photographs of each of my grandparents on their wedding days — one set sharing a Champagne toast and the other enjoying a slice of cake — in my bar area pictured above, which is a natural place of celebration in my home. I also have a collection of watercolor pug prints that represent my two childhood dogs and my current fur baby in the kitchen. My dining space has a cluster as well, with two corresponding oil paintings created by a friend, paired with a vintage macrame plant hanger for a more three-dimensional look. 

Credit: Jessie Quinn

My hallway is the only place in my apartment with a more traditional gallery wall, although it’s technically still more of a cluster. It features four maps from the places my husband and I have lived, hung symmetrically in matching frames. No matter how you curate your collection, though, opting for fewer items can better highlight significant memories or artwork — especially in small spaces.