7 unexpected and creative things to hang on your walls that aren't prints

Empty walls are full of styling possibilities. But if you're feeling less-than-inspired by prints and framed art, here are some alternative wall decor ideas

creative things to hang on your walls that aren't prints
(Image credit: Studio Duggan / Studio Keeta)

While prints and framed artworks have long dominated wall decor ideas, there exists a myriad of creative, alternative pieces to hang on your walls that aren't prints.

When it comes to decorating with art, we all tend to picture paintings, prints, posters, and photos as our main options. But there are so many more options out there that go beyond two-dimensional, mass-produced options. So what should you hang on your walls instead?

Whether you’re an avid plate collector, a music enthusiast, or a proud mom, your walls should be a space to showcase the things (and people) you adore. We've curated 7 unexpected ideas, with a little help from the experts, to show you how to take your gallery wall alternatives from simple to stylish. Here is their very best advice.

7 Wall Decor Ideas That Aren't Prints

modern space with vintage artwork, wall sconce and a large 3D sculpture hang on the wall

(Image credit: Studio Keeta)

The beauty of being able to decorate your home is the freedom to decide what you want to look at every day. Is that a display of family photos? Your collection of vintage vinyl? Or perhaps something as simple as a wall of mirrors?

'Anything and everything can be art! Do not limit yourself to flat, two-dimensional pieces,' says Kristina Khersonsky of Studio Keeta. 'There really is no limit to what you can hang on the wall – consider your wall your personal canvas.  If you see something that catches your eye and sparks a feeling, consider it art. We’ve hung large antique wooden forks, hand-painted ceramic fish plates, colorful masks, crumbled canvas, etc. Even a wall vase or planter can be considered art and will elevate your space!'

From the curated display of your children's art to the exploration of vintage finds, below are seven creative ideas for wall decor that go beyond the traditional, for something truly unique.

1. Display a light-bouncing collection of mirrors

Bedside table with gallery wall of mirrors

(Image credit: Matt Clayton)

Giving you so much more than a place to check your reflection, decorating with mirrors can make a room feel larger and more open, as they amplify light around the space. 

Interior designer Kathy Kuo suggests 'when looking to mix up your wall decor assortment, start with bringing in a great wall mirror. Wall mirrors add light and depth to a space and allow you to tie in your room's design style subtly through the mirror's frame detail. Plus, it's often super-practical to have a mirror on hand!'

Consider strategically placing a group of mirrors opposite a window to bounce natural light throughout the room. This not only brightens the space but imparts a sense of openness. Experiment with an array of shapes, from classic rectangles to whimsical sunbursts or asymmetrical designs, and look to vintage pieces for timeless charm.

Bethany Adams agrees. 'A mirror is an obvious choice, and a Japanese folding screen is a more exciting one. A lovely piece of textile art or even tilework could be really interesting too,' she suggests.

2. Look for sculptures and statement 3D art

neutral coastal living room with a sculptural bead 3d art hanging

(Image credit: A. Naber Design)

Art should encourage conversation and reflect personality. Whether it's an abstract metal sculpture, a vibrant ceramic installation, or a custom-designed piece, statement 3D art is a loud and proud alternative to typical wall decor.

'Art doesn't have to be limited to just a flat print or painting,' says designer Linda Hayslett. Using 3-dimensional objects or sculptures and masks placed like a gallery wall hanging can inject character. Or having some fiber art on the walls can make any space feel more interesting and curated.'

Designer Abbie Naber of A. Naber Design, who designed the space above, is also a fan of fiber art. 'Sometimes working with more of a dimensional piece of art can provide an added bang for your buck, especially when the walls are massive and overbearing,' she advises. 'These pieces can add a sculptural element to a space and create layering in a room when 2D art can fall flat.'

Choose pieces that harmonize and elevate your overall design, whether that's sleek and contemporary or richly textured and eclectic. Consider clustering smaller sculptures together or placing a large, commanding object as the centerpiece of your space – and don't forget to think about the way light will fall on these tactile pieces. A picture light could be the cherry on top.

3. Try an on-trend plate wall

white and blue dining room with vintage blue and white plate wall

(Image credit: Alexandra Kaehler / Photography Aimée Mazzenga)

Why hide your best china away when you can show it off? For an unusual take on gallery wall ideas, try showcasing a collection of unique or heirloom plates on your kitchen or dining room wall. They can be the focal point of your dining area or a delightful surprise in a cozy breakfast nook.

But let's be clear: this isn't a place to hang your everyday, plain white plates but rather an opportunity to bring color, pattern, and texture to your walls with a curation of unique ceramics. Try to choose a variety of plates in different shapes, sizes, and origins. Don't be afraid to mix and match; think new and old, round and oval, big and small. 

If you're concerned about how to hang plates on a wall, you just need a simple wire plate hanger from Amazon or even command strips to safely keep your plates on the wall for good. Arrange the plates on the floor first to experiment with different configurations. Play with the placement until you find a design that feels balanced.

4. Curate your children's artwork

living room with armchair and childrens self portrait art displayed

(Image credit: The Misfit House)

Beyond traditional artwork, your walls should serve as an expression of those who live within them, showcasing sentimental pictures, drawings, and objects that tell the story of your family. And nothing will do that quite like a scribbled sketch from a budding little artist.

'I love mixing in children’s pieces in a gallery to create this balance between serious and ornate versus playful and simple, but if a gallery isn’t an option, I love the look of little one’s self-portraits drawn on card stock with a sharpie,' says Monica Stewart of The Misfit House, who designed the cozy reading space above.

Finding creative and stylish ways to display your children's art so that it doesn't disrupt your interior design style is a big ask. Children's artwork is a pure expression of their creativity and incorporating it into your home design it not only fosters a sense of pride for them but also creates a unique piece of wall art for you. Be sure to get creative with your framing and try to get your kids to stick to pens in your chosen color palette... good luck!

5. Let your hobbies take center stage

music room with guitars hung on wall and mid century modern interiors

(Image credit: DATE Interiors / Photography and Styling Louisa & Fyodor)

To lean into a truly person vibe, deck out your house with all the things that bring you joy. Skateboards, instruments, movie posters - anything goes! Let your hobbies and passions inspire your design; they are an integral part of who you are, and your home should reflect that.

'Traditional framed artwork is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to objects you can adorn your walls with,' says Molly Torres Portnof of DATE Interiors and designer of the music room above. 'We love incorporating musical instruments, including guitars, in our designs. They add a playfulness and they're also beautifully crafted.'

Raili Clasen of Raili CA Design, advises you to 'include pieces that are typically not considered art but add so much personality. At our surf ranch project, we added skateboards, sun hats, 3D maps, and macrame to the photo walls, and in our own house, we have a hand-painted axe to go along with the surf art.' 

Whether you're an avid collector or simply passionate about vintage vinyl records or antique cameras, turning your walls into a gallery for your treasured possessions tells a story of who you are.

6. Search for vintage paintings, objects, and oddities

forest green living room with a sentimental gallery wall with knickknacks and a racket

(Image credit: Alexandra Kaehler / Photography Aimée Mazzenga)

Decorating with vintage and pieces with a storied past into your design brings a layer of nostalgia that cannot be replicated with new items. Whether it's a weathered painting, an antique clock, or curiosities, each piece carries a narrative that adds a story to your home decor. And it can be sentimental too.

The designer of the green living room above, Alexandra Kaehler, filled this gallery wall with art that the client had collected over the years, reflecting the places they had lived and their interests. 'When creating a gallery wall like this, I think it’s important to create a space with different textures, shapes, and sizes,' she advises. 'The variety is what creates interest. It’s important to give each space a little breathing room, 2” - 3” minimum. But you still want them to be close to each other, feel related, and purposeful.'

Navigating through antique shops or flea markets allows you to unearth hidden gems, an idea shared by Kristina Khersonsky, founder of Studio Keeta. 'The trick is to look for local artists or head to the local flea market to dig up one-of-a-kind finds,' she advises. 'And if you’ve set out to create a gallery wall, the secret is to incorporate a mixed array of mediums for the most visually appealing look.'

7. Think functional in the kitchen

chopping boards wall decor in a contemporary light green kitchen

(Image credit: LH.Designs / Lauren Taylor)

If you love the look of your wood breadboards or have a collection of antique bowls you’d be remiss not to display, use them as decor. From little hooks to hanging poles and open shelving, your kitchen wall decor ideas should offer up a storage solution too. Functional decor in the kitchen should be as thoughtfully designed as any other aspect, so consider what you're putting on display wisely.

'Common items in the house can also make for great art,' says Linda Hayslett, who created this fun display in a modern kitchen, seen above 'Using fun cutting boards from the kitchen to display up when not in use is a great way to have a unique one-of-a-kind art piece.'

Your everyday kitchen essentials can be elevated to art, turning practicality into a design statement. Hanging pots, pans, and utensils not only maximize space but also add an industrial or rustic aesthetic, depending on your pots. Alternatively, a
chalkboard wall allows you to jot down recipes, grocery lists, and daily reminders, giving you extra practicality to your kitchen walls.

Remember, your home is a reflection of you, so use these ideas as a starting point for getting your creative juices flowing but anything goes. Embrace the extraordinary, curate your space with intention, and let each piece on your walls tell a story. Whether it's the vintage treasures, a gallery of everyday objects, or some cherished artwork created by little hands, have fun with your alternative wall decor ideas.

Charlotte Olby
Content Editor

Charlotte is content editor at Homes and Gardens, having joined the team the week before Christmas 2023. Following a 5 year career in Fashion, she found herself working at many women's glossy magazines including: Grazia, Stylist and Hello and most recently working as Interiors Editor for British heritage department store Liberty. Her role at H&G fuses her love of style with Charlotte's passion for interior design, and she is currently undergoing her second home renovation in Surrey - you can follow her journey over on @olbyhome