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Helpful Hints for Displaying Family Photos on Your Walls

When it comes to decorating your house, do you carefully arrange vignettes on tabletops and shelves? With a little patience and some strategic planning, each surface can become a mini-stage for your decor. Some people even revel in the joy of coordinating each design element, refusing to introduce pieces that clash with the style at hand. It is often these folks who are the most stumped when faced with the task of displaying family photographs.

The art of hanging pictures

There’s no way around it–displaying pictures presents many challenges! Photos are taken at different times in people’s lives with different cameras that reflect various levels of technology. In other words, the pics don’t all match! Some photos may be in color while others are in black and white. Then there’s the task of framing the pictures in a way that flatters them. How do you display family photos with style? We’ve collected an assortment of ideas to help you answer this very question!

Plan your arrangement before you hang the photos

When you’re going to be putting a multitude of nail holes into the wall, it’s a good idea to have a plan! And if you’re renting, your landlord will thank you! Some people prefer a more hands-off approach and are satisfied with making pencil marks on the wall to represent nail holes, then hoping the rest falls into place.

However, many advocate a more involved approach, such as tracing the frames onto inexpensive paper (like wrapping paper), cutting out the tracings, then using painter’s tape to adhere them to the wall. With this approach, the paper can then be moved around until the perfect arrangement has been found, and the nails are hammered right through the paper. Remove the paper, and all you have to do is hang the photos! For pictures of this process and ideas for wall gallery arrangements, check out some helpful tips from Woodrail Dr. [image from SAS Interiors]

For another amazing picture hanging tutorial that includes the painting of unfinished frames, check out this blog post from Jen at Tatertots and Jello, who used adhesive strips to hang her pictures rather than nails. [from Tatertots & Jello]

Group black and white family photos

One of the most consistently popular photo gallery choices is using black and white pictures. Not only does a black and white finish make the images seem timeless, it unifies the photos, creating a clean, classic look. And when you’re trying to group a variety of pictures from different time frames, uniformity can be a great solution! Below we see a spread of family photos in a hallway, a very popular gallery spot for the home. [from Pewter and Sage via Your Decorating Hotline]

Even old color photos can be reprinted in black and white, and new pics can be easily turned to black and white thanks to digital camera and photo editing technology. The image below shows an additional display option for black and white photos–a precise grid formation. [from Brooklyn Limestone via HomeSav]


Purchase Matching Frames

Another popular technique for creating a cohesive gallery of family photos is buying matching frames! Even if pictures have different looks, the uniform outlines created by framing can tie them together. The affordable frames below were painted black after they were purchased, so don’t assume that matchy-matchy equals pricey-pricey. [from Stone and Rose]

If you’re looking for a light and airy solution, try framing the pictures in white! This strategy is particularly striking when using black and white images. Check out the white picture frame/key holder below, which sets the tone for the entire spread. [from Mrs. Hines Class]


Select frames of the same color, but vary the design

So you have pictures in a variety of sizes and you wonder how you’ll ever find matching frames… Have no fear! If you’re looking for frames of the same color, let go of style restrictions but hang onto your color of choice. Below we see a grouping of photos in black frames. Some are thick, some are thin, some have double mats, some hold two pictures. Do these differences matter? Absolutely not! In fact, they add interest to the vignette. Not to mention, a can of spray paint can easily convert frames of a different color to your hue of choice. [from The Klooftique Showroom]

This next spread of family photos also showcases the power of the black frame. Thick and thin borders combine to create a delightful display. [from Robeson Design Studio]

If choosing different types of frames, stick with black and white photos

So you’re looking for a little diversity on your wall… Who says all of your frames have to match in any way, shape or form? If you aren’t up for a complicated framing project but you want some form of consistency, consider the photos themselves. HGTV suggests keeping the pictures in black and white or sepia if mixing different frames. [photo by Jennifer Kesler]

In a vignette from Pottery Barn (shown below), we see a variety of frames and mats unified by black and white photos. Mixing white, metallic, grey and black is especially pleasing when choosing black and white pictures.

Add interest with antique frames

For some wall gallery creators, the display is every bit as important as the photos themselves. Using antique frames to surround prized pictures can add intrigue and create a sense of history. In fact, some of the best antique frames used to be mirrors! In the image below, note the double outlining achieved by the strategic placement of one frame inside of the next. [from Kasey Buick via The Inspired Room]

In the spirit of antique finds, try using an antique window frame to spotlight your pics! In the next image, we see a window frame cleverly converted into a six-picture showpiece thanks to Go Mama Go. Whether you’re highlighting artwork or family photos, the effect will be equally charming.

Strategically insert pops of color

Many of the wall displays above are intentionally devoid of color. Who says frames need always be black, white or metallic? The gallery below incorporates bold red frames for a touch of vibrancy. (Also note the yellow artwork at the base of the grouping–a wonderful complement). For a full tutorial, including planning the position of the arrangement, check out The Avid Appetite.

A pop of color here and there is one way to go bold, but sometimes color repetition is the answer! The next wall gallery celebrates blue (paint color: Valspar Backstroke, to be exact) with an assortment of bright frames. Pictures  are optional! [from All Things Thrifty]

Anchor the arrangement with a wall letter

One of the most popular family photo wall gallery themes today is the use of a wall letter in the arrangement, almost always the first letter of the family’s last name. It’s playful, it can look vintage, and it breaks up the monotony of photo after photo. On her design blog, Emily A. Clark shows how a letter “C” and a mirror can add personality to a picture vignette. [image from Emily A. Clark]

In the next display, we see a monogram letter and a number in the midst of charming family photos. [from Blissfully Ever After]

Some of the most innovative wall gallery ideas come from blog posts that feature DIY projects. Inspiration from magazines is a wonderful thing, but the creativity of the people around you can be a great motivator. The next time you’re at the home of a friend or family member, observe their family photo display techniques. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and “do it yourself” when it comes to painting frames and planning an unforgettable gallery wall!


Kate Simmons

Kate Simmons is a freelance writer and design blogger with a love of all things decor. She spent her childhood writing stories and working on interior design-themed DIY projects. Kate’s published writing reflects her special interest in how design has changed through the decades. Her blog Mirror80 ( http://mirror80.com/) explores the fashion and [...]

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