The Salon Hang: what it is and how to do it

Gallery-wall, salon style, grid, triptych, column…
Framing artwork is, well, an art in and of itself.

Format was created to make fine art printing and quality framing accessible for all, so advice and conventions aside, remember to always take creative liberty. Hang, rest or position your prints as you please because, ultimately, they are there so you can enjoy your favourite artwork and photographs every day.

Though, for anyone looking for a little guidance or inspiration we’re exploring the age-old Salon Hang, what it is, and how to do it.

Gallery walls are prolific in modern design, however the concept is said to have originated centuries ago in Paris as salons displayed works from academic competitions - with so many entries that walls were filled from floor to ceiling.

This style became known as the Salon Hang. Unlike other more conventional and linear framing layouts, like Triptych, it’s characterised by clustered arrangement of works, frame sizes, and colours - a sort of beautiful, organised chaos.

In this step-by-step guide we explore how you can curate your favourite artwork, personal photography and momentos into your own Salon Hang wall at home...


1. Find a space

Consider spaces in your home or workplace that could use artwork.

Be it a thoroughfare, stairwell, narrow wall space or large expanse of wall, find an uninterrupted spot with a clean background (think a plain wall as opposed to wallpapered).

A Salon Hang can be done anywhere, though the size of your wall space will restrict the quantity and size of frames that you choose.


Format Framing Gallery Wall: How to Saloon Hang

All of these images were bought from Etsy as downloadable files and printed and framed for Diana Smith.


2. Source artwork

Unless you have a selection of pre-framed works at your disposal, it’s likely you’ll need to source pieces for your wall.

You could frame anything really, so here are a few suggestions:

  1. Photos of loved ones
  2. Wedding photography
  3. Family archives - scan and digitise old photographs, letters and momentos
  4. Pet photography
  5. Personal artwork or children’s artwork
  6. Editions direct from local photographers like Adam Gibson or Marnie Hawson
  7. Limited edition prints from collections like our Format Art Editions or Broadsheet Editions
  8. Commission a print from a favourite artist, like Francis Cloake or Fractured Flora
  9. Discover new artists on Etsy or another online marketplace


3. Curate your works

While Salon Hangs may exude a sense of organised chaos, beneath it all they are well considered and thoughtfully edited. 

Identify a theme and ensure the works you select fall within this.
Here are a few theme examples:

  1. Colour (e.g. neutral or monochrome)
  2. Nostalgia (e.g. old family photos and momentos)
  3. Travel (e.g. a selection of landscapes, maps and illustrations)
  4. Art movement (e.g. abstract expressionism)

Of course rules are made to be broken and there’s no reason you couldn’t put Picasso’s War and Peace next to your niece's playtime scribble - just ensure there’s some element of consistency.

It’s also important to incorporate ‘white space’. Allow your chosen works to breathe by balancing busy, full-frame pieces with more minimal items like fine illustrations.


Format Framing Gallery Wall: How to Saloon Hang

Adam Roggero chose vintage botanical prints as the theme of his salon hang. The bird is by John Lewin (1804) and the plants are by Harcourt Barratt (1883)

4. Blueprint your wall

Consider the dimensions of your wall and what will realistically fit (note: avoid overcrowding).

For your reference we have four frame sizes:

  1. Small - 20x30cm / 30x30cm
  2. Medium - 40x60cm / 60x40cm / 60x60cm
  3. Large - 60x90cm / 90x60cm / 90x90cm
  4. Extra large - 80x120cm / 120x80cm

For most of us it’s going to be hard to fit a series of extra large frames, so choose a selection of sizes appropriate for your wall space. Returning to the idea of ‘organised chaos’, a Salon Hang works best with a variation in sizes.

Once you have determined your quantity and sizes of frames, either blueprint your layout with a scale drawing or by cutting paper in the dimensions of your works and positioning these directly on your wall. The idea is to know your design and layout before committing.

When choosing the layout of your pieces, you position at random for an ad-hoc layout, though we would suggest a more linear approach whereby frames align with each other either vertically or horizontally with at least 5cm of even gaps above, below or to either side of each piece.

Always start with one larger frame and cluster smaller frames in its peripheries.


5. Print and frame

Once you have selected your works, planned an ideal configuration and know the quantity and sizes of frames that you require, it’s time to order!

Many artists like John Laurie and Derek Swallwell offer framed editions via their online stores.

If you are printing personal works or photographs, you could use a service like our simple online print and frame function and can have your pieces delivered to your door within two weeks.

To add more depth to your wall, you could consider using different frame colours. The same goes for any existing framed pieces you have - be it photos, ink on paper, or works on canvas.

Some of the best Salon Hangs both juxtapose and harmonise between frame sizes, orientations, finishes, the artwork and its mediums.

Format Framing Gallery Wall: How to Saloon Hang

Salon Hangs are an especially good way to montage personal photos so you can relive special memories everyday, like this series of photos framed by Sophie Jane from her recent wedding day.


6. Time to hang

With all of the ground work completed, you’re ready to bring your Salon Hang to life (with confidence when hammering in that first nail).

If you’re leasing or can’t commit fully to a Salon Hang, arranging artworks on a shelf makes for a good alternative.

Like many beautiful things a Salon Hang requires more consideration than meets the eye. Creating a balance from a mixture of artworks, frames sizes and colours is no easy feat, but the outcome can transform a space and is completely unique to your personal style.


Format Framing Gallery Wall: How to Saloon Hang

When you can't commit to a permanent Salon Hang, the same principals of curating a theme, selecting frame variations and playing with layout can still be applied to shelves. Here's an alternative to the Salon Hang with photographs from customer Kerri Wallace of Klaylife.