Friday, January 9, 2009


OK, for all you Marthas out there who like to do everything just exactly right, you can watch Pottery Barn's tutorial for creating a wall of photos. Yeah. Like I'm ever going to do it that way. Even if I did, I would still screw it up, I promise you. Oh, and they came out with these really cool Frame Risers this season, too.

Alright, I'm glad I got that said for all of you who are into that kind of work. Now, without delay, here's how I made my family wall, lazy style...

Here's what I always do, when I'm pulling a large group of frames together, for a wall, or for a staircase:

1.Decide on my photos first. What do I want to display? Family? Pets? My kids' artwork? Fabric? Patterned paper? Random things? I order the prints and find the best frames for each- the right picture in the right frame is important to really showcase your photos. You don't have to make things match perfectly. Find one common ground between the framed photos, and you'll do well. Color can be mixed with black and whites etc. if you do it well- and that can be tough, but it can be done. Instead of choosing all the same frames, decide on a few different colors and get them from different places- I love dark brown and gold, and so I went with that warm, muted palette for this and mixed in clip frames (frameless) as well, along with a little cream to match the mats for this project. I wanted something that would blend in and work throughout the seasons.

As long as you have one common thread in photos or frames, you can go all out and have many different types of frames, and it can look really cool. Unless you want a super clean and modern look, it's going to look more at home if it's a mix of sizes and types, giving the impression it's been added over time. It's your house and your memories. You can do whatever you want.

2. The frames usually just come from my house- by moving things around, or from a box of spare frames in the basement. I change things a lot, so there's always a bit of a treasure chest down there of currently unused frames. I get frames at garage sales and secondhand and from clearance aisles all the time, not always sure where I'll use them- but I always do.

In my entire house, maybe only 5 frames I can think of were purchased at full price, other than all the ones (over 100, actually) I got from the Dollar Tree- those were full price...but they were cheap! I just make sure when I'm buying thrifty that I only buy frames that will look cohesive with the rest of the house. I am not in any way snooty about where my frames came from, or if they are made extremely well, or if they just "look" like they are. So far, no one's tried to check. My random frames from thrift stores are really my favorites.

I don't even have glass in the frames always- I actually like it when they're sans glass- there's no glare, and there's no chance my kids can shatter it. Many frames you'll find in thrift stores may have cracked or no glass, and that's great- just go without. Unless you're framing something you really want to protect, don't worry about it. No one will care or notice. One of these pictures on my wall has a big crack, but I wanted the glass, or the photo just didn't sit right in the frame. It bothered me as I was putting it up, and now today, I had to go look and try to find which one it was, I completely forgot about it and never, ever notice.

3. After I've placed the pictures in frames, I lay them all out on the floor and see how they might come together-

Decide which ones you want to stand out- What one will be the center? (It should be one that stands alone well and that you love, because it will be a focus and carry the rest of the display on it's shoulders.) Which will hold up the corners?I also create balance- Some pictures will be darker, some lighter. Some will have subjects that are dead center, some will be to the left or right. I just use my eye to judge a nice placement that looks even and highlights the detail of each picture properly. Balancing the frames is also important, making sure they look right as they "fit" together. Try to find a way to balance them so that each picture is making the others around it look their best. I don't know exactly how to describe how to do that, it's just achieved by moving them around and staring at them, then looking away, then looking back again and movin' them around.
I think it's best and easiest to NOT try to make them all equidistant. That way you won't break out the expletives due to your extreme frustration, trying to measure and level and such. You can also add odd things in later over time without much fuss.

4. When you get it how you want it, take a picture of it (it'll last longer) so you can remember exactly how you want it to go together. That's the beauty of digital pictures. Then, if you forget something along the way, just consult the image in your camera to remember how you did it just right.5. Now, I take the center picture out of it's place and put it on the wall...
Then, I follow my pattern on the floor and add each piece one by one, making adjustments as needed once it's up there.

I only use those tiny little silver finishing nails at my house, unless I'm hanging something particularly heavy, which is almost never. When you only use the tiny nails, the holes are nearly indistinguishable from any distance later, say, if you move your frames around. If you do see a hole and it bugs you, just fill it in with a tiny dab of paint (I always keep my paint cans where I can get to them in the basement for future touch ups over the years- but very rarely need them for nail holes- more often, frames accidentally scuff the walls.)

I like to use little rubber dots (you can find them at any discount store in the hardware/frame depts.- very cheap.) I put them at the corners of frames that just won't stay straight. They stick right on and keep them from moving around (which is useful on this wall, which is near an entry door, so over time the wall shakes them crooked slightly). Also, I had one frame that just would not stay straight, little dots and all, so I finally just made a loop of duct tape and stuck that baby to the wall. Whatever goo I have to clean off in the future will be WELL worth it to have that problem solved. Here's how it looks now, the final product, post-Christmas.
That dog always ends up in my pictures!
I kept Grace's verse from Christmas- people in darkness see a great light all year round, and I love it, so it stays. I just realized you can't even read it in this picture, but you get the idea.

Woo Hoo! It's the weekend!


Beth Cotell said...

This looks awesome! And thanks for the "lazy" instructions. Seems like everything I do these days is the lazy way or not at all.

Jenn Boerger said...

Love the tips - especially the little rubber corner thingys. I'm in desperate need of some straightening, and this will be great! Thanks for sharing - as always!

Jackie said...

Love the wall! Someday when we own our own house I plan on doing the same. Have done it at other houses (to a smaller and less successful extent) but always love having my favorite pics in front of me.

Have you tried blue painter's tape instead of duct tape? I love that stuff! I use it on everything, even to roll and close up bags of veggies in the freezer - peels right off but always sticks again.

Jane said...

Sweet! Your photos are stunning by themselves but really special grouped this way. Loved your 'tutorial'

Mandy said...

Thanks for the tips. I actually have a small wall that I want to do something like this on...but I want a sign and I need someone to make one. You know a nice country painted board and I want it to read: You do what you do because you want what you want because you think what you think. Hmm...someday I'll have it done!

Elizabeth Byler Younts said...

soooo much work, isn't it. i have a smaller version of this technique on one of my walls too. :-) love it.

i didn't know you had a westie! i have a westie...her name is fiona and she's 7 years old. i LOVE her!

Shelby-Grace said...

Your pictures look great! I have wanted to do a wall of pictures like that...thanks for the tips on how to do it!

Keri said...

Pretty! I must have something similar in my house now. Thanks for giving me another project :P lol

Annika said...

Great tips! I love the frames raiser. Very neat.

Grammy Staffy said...

The picture wall looks great!!!
Clever girl!!

I have one more idea that my friend taught me to use. I lay the pictures on large sheets of newspapers taped together to equal the size of the wall I am doing.

I put each picture on the paper, arrange them and design the wall. Then I draw a line around each picture on the paper.

I tape the paper to the wall and hammer in the nail I will use for each picture in the pattern that I drew when it was on the floor. Then I tear down the paper. The nails are all in place and all I have to do is hang the pictures in their proper place. This works really well for me.

Have a wonderful new year.

A Crafty Mom said...

LOVE it. I'm so going to do this as one of my next "projects". I'm totally excited. Awesome tips (as always). And I adore the rubber dots - I use them for EVERYTHING!!!!!