How to Design & Hang a Plate Wall Display

How to Design and Hang a Plate Wall Display via

I love to collect pretty plates, tea cups, and vintage linens. At few years ago, I finally had enough small plates to hang my first plate wall display.

How to Design and Hang a Decorative Plate Wall by

When we bought our new house, I knew that I wanted to hang my decorative plates between my dining room windows. I also knew that I would need a few uninterrupted hours to make this happen, so for weeks the box of unpacked plates sat against the kitchen and I kept re-writing “plate wall” on my to-do list as I turned the page of my weekly planner. Then one evening last week, we were cleaning up after dinner and the kids wanted to watch a little TV before bed. I had had a cup of coffee a little too late in the day and felt ready to take on a late night project, so Phillip took the kids upstairs and I unpacked my plates and grabbed a drill.

I have received several questions about my first plate wall, so this time around I snapped a few photos so I could share my process with you.

To design and hang your own decorative plate wall, you will need the following:

How to Design and Hang a Decorative Plate Wall by

  • Plates (I will talk more about choosing plates in a minute.)
  • Adhesive Plate Hangers (You will need to attach them to the plates 24 hours before you hang them.)
  • Drill
  • Screws
  • A Tape Measure
  • Masking or Painter’s Tape
  • Pencil and Paper
  • A few hours of uninterrupted time because you will need to put your brain to work.

Let’s talk about plates first.

I have been collecting small plates for many years. My  plates are from thrift stores, yard sales, World Market, and even Wal-Mart. (Have you seen The Pioneer Woman’s kitchen collection? Beautiful!) All of my plates are either salad plates, dessert plates, or saucers. I do not have any dinner-sized plates or platters on my wall, but there is no reason you can’t. My home is very colorful and eclectic and so are my plates. I have also seen people use all white plates or plates that have a specific color scheme.

If you are going for an eclectic look like mine, try to make sure each plate has at least one color in common with another plate. For example, I have a solid lavender plate on the wall and and two other of my plates have small touches of lavender in the design. One of those plates with a small touch of lavender also has a touch of navy blue in the design, coordinating with several plates that have strictly blue and white coloring schemes. So while it looks eclectic, there was some thought that went into the plates I chose. Because of my colorful and eclectic plates, I also chose to go with white lace curtains. Partly because a 1910 Victorian home needs lace curtains somewhere, but also because I wanted my plates to be the focal point of the wall and not have to compete with the curtains.

After you have collected enough plates, you will need to attach adhesive plate hangers. You can find them here on Amazon.

To apply the adhesive plate hanger, you wet the glue side with a small amount of water and move it around with your finger, making sure the entire back gets wet, especially near the hanger. Let it sit for about 5 minutes for the glue to thicken up before attaching it to your plate. I always make sure the hanger is slightly smaller than the back of the plate (you can cut them down if you need to) and that the hook is positioned at the top edge of the back rim. Some plates have an allover design so there is no top or bottom, but some have a specific design with a bird or flower, so make sure you pay extra attention to these when you are placing the hanger, so your design won’t be crooked when you hang the plate. Once you apply your adhesive plate hangers, you need to let them dry overnight.

Note: This will be the third house I have hung plates in using these adhesive plate hangers, and I have only ever had 2 plates fall off the wall. One of those was on a sun porch where it got really hot, and the other was on a plate that I didn’t allow to dry overnight.

Designing Your Plate Wall

When I am designing my plate wall, I use masking tape to lay out a design space on my kitchen table or floor that measures the same as my wall. In this case, I simply measured the distance between the two windows and put down two strips of tape the same distance apart on the floor. I wasn’t really worried about how high or low my display went, but you could always measure that out as well to give yourself boundaries.

How to Design and Hang a Decorative Plate Wall by

Although my layout looks random, I have a few plates that act as anchoring plates for my design. My focal point plate is the one I just found a Wal-Mart, and I started off my design my hanging it perfectly centered between the two windows with the top of the plate just skimming the bottom of my dining room chandelier from my eye-level.

How to Design and Hang a Decorative Plate Wall by

(Sorry for the bad lighting in these photos. It was a late-night project.)

I then moved the plate to the center of my design schematic on the floor and began placing plates around it until I found a layout I liked.

I tried not to put two plates of the same color or design scheme right next to each other. I struggle with true eclectic arrangement because my eye always leans toward symmetrical, but I knew that a symmetrical design would leave no room for error when it came to measuring and hanging, and also would make it difficult to add other plates later if I wanted to.

So although this happened at some point during the arranging…

How to Design and Hang a Decorative Plate Wall by

I moved them around to achieve this. (Even though this still isn’t where I ended up, which I will take about later.)

How to Design and Hang a Decorative Plate Wall by

Once I had this design laid out, I made sure my furthermost right and left plate edges were the same distance from their windows, acting as additional anchor points for a centered eclectic design.

How to Design and Hang a Decorative Plate Wall by

Once I was happy with the design, I started making measurements of how far each plates center point was off of the right or left window, depending on which one it was closer to, and also how far each plate’s edges were from the two plates it was nearest to. I was going back and forth from the wall to the floor at first, but then I came up with the idea to measure them all at once and draw a schematic.

How to Design and Hang a Decorative Plate Wall by

Ready to Hang

To help me mark where I needed to place the screw, I used the pencil to rub lead on the hook and then hold the plate to the wall and press the hook to the wall to make a small mark.

How to Design and Hang a Decorative Plate Wall by

When I drilled in my screws, I made sure to leave them far enough out for the plate hook to hang on securely.

How to Design and Hang a Decorative Plate Wall by

Once all my plates were hung, I took a good look at them and then swapped a few that were similar in size because I realized I wanted a stronger color at the very top which had a domino effect on having to move a few other plates so that similar colors and styles wouldn’t be right next to each other. I was pleased with the arrangement when I went to bed, but then woke up and took another hard look at it and ended up repositioning  a few plates (as in re-drilling screws) the next morning.

Note: I wish I had taken a little more time working with my layout on the floor before I started hanging the plates, but it was late and I went with the first layout I liked. Even though I am happy with how my plate wall turned out, I keep wondering how a more abstract design would have looked.  Next time I hang plates, I will try two to three completely different layouts and photograph them to compare and choose my favorite before I start hanging them.

How To Repair Walls

Luckily, when Phillip taught me how to hang things on the wall, he also taught me how to repair the walls after removing nails or screws. Smart man! Here’s a quick lesson.

How to Design and Hang a Decorative Plate Wall by

  1. Lightly hammer a small dent into the wall where the screw hole is protruding.
  2. Fill the dent with spackling. I like to use this pink spackling that turns white when it dries.
  3. Scrape off the excess spackling. (I used this but should have used one of these.)
  4. When the spackling is dry, lightly sand the area and then touch up with matching paint.

Knowing how to touch up nail holes takes a lot of the fear out of hanging art on your walls!

Don’t Overwork It!

Even though you now know how to patch your holes, at some point you have to stop tweaking your display. If you stare at it too long, you are surely going to find something that continues to look off and before you know it, you will move every plate. So fix the ones that bother you most and then walk away, because every artist has to do that at some point. Just remember…

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. ~ Myquillin Smith

Here is my perfectly imperfect eclectic plate wall and I love it! (As long as I don’t stare at it too long and overanalyze it. Right?)

How to Design and Hang a Plate Wall Display via


I wish you all the best with your own plate wall display. If you have any questions, please leave them for me in the comments.





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