It's about time you learned how to use a leveler
You moved into your apartment a year ago, but the only thing hanging on a wall is your TV.
If this sounds familiar, grab a hammer. We’re going to create a picture wall. Why? Hanging some pictures makes you look both erudite and handy.
Plus, it signals to your one friend who still funnels beers that he’s no longer allowed to punch holes in the Sheetrock.
If it sounds like a huge project that involves words like “aspect ratio” and “bevel”—it’s really not. Got that hammer?
Here’s how it works.
Step One: Collect some stuff you like. (It doesn’t have to be pictures.)
Most guys with bare walls say the same thing: “I don’t own any art.” But a gallery should be made up of things that speak to you—whatever they are.
We’re talking concert posters, maps, doodles, team pennants, even those “brilliant” ideas you wrote on cocktail napkins.
You need one or two focal pieces, But beyond that, get creative. You can put postcards in little frames—or ticket stubs in big frames, with big mats.
And who says everything has to be framed? Add a few Polaroids. Tack up coasters. Hang a cool bottle opener, an air plant, or antlers. The only rule is variety: different sizes, different materials, different stories.
Step Two: Black frames, white mats, can’t lose
If your walls are white, black frames are your friend. Choose ones that have slim fronts and about an inch of depth to the wall.
Add white mats to create a margin, or go with the natural margin already printed on some posters and photos. Any number of sites will let you order custom frames and mats to your dimensions—Framed and Matted even lets you try it out with a photo of whatever you’re framing.
Bonus move: Mix in accents, like a vintage frame, a gold frame, or a mirror. Uniformity looks tailored, but breaking the rules here and there keeps the eye moving.
Step Three: Start driving nails
Common picture-hanging advice says to lay everything out on the floor first and “envision” how it fits together. But you’re not hanging your stuff on the floor. Why not go straight to the wall?
Place a nail or picture hanger. Hammer it in. There, that wasn't so bad, was it? You can always move things around, and spackle if you need to. When you finally get the layout how you like it, you’re done.
Step Four: Start with the focal piece, then fill in around it
Presumably there’s an item—one of the bigger ones—that you’ve been meaning to hang for a while. (It’s the poster you had leaning against your wall, framed, for the past year.)
Start by hanging that at eye level, which means its center should be roughly 56 inches off the ground.
Then fill in around it. You could follow a rule, (all pieces level with the base of the first frame, for example) but it’s more interesting to let the arrangement be organic. Vary the heights, and the spaces between frames—just don’t exile any one frame to the middle of nowhere.
Think of them hanging in a constellation, and level them as you go.
Step Five: Live with it
It’s tempting to futz with your gallery all afternoon. But like most things: when hanging pictures, your first instinct is the best one.
The best results come from getting out of your head—like when you throw everything on the wall in the 15 minutes before people are coming over for drinks. (Seriously, give this a try.)
Tell yourself you can rearrange in the morning. And you can. But our prediction is you won’t have to. Until it’s time to hang more stuff.
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