get framed…
creating a photo wall

Traditional Staircase by New York Interior Designer ILevel

The photo wall… whether you’ve got a lot of family photos, or you snap lots of travel pics, or just have a wide range of framed post cards, posters and other finds, a classic way to display all of those goodies is a big photo wall. It’s also a great way to dress up and decorate what can otherwise be an awkward space like a stairwell, narrow hall or odd niche or corner. Design sites are full of inspiring images of stunning photo galleries, but the prospect of a DIY photo wall can seem a bit intimidating. So many photos, so many frames! How high do I hang them? In what order? What about… The best part here is, there really is no “right” answer. There are a few guidelines, and then it’s all about what works for you and your space.

It starts with selection

  • Select your space – maybe it’s your stairwell, maybe it’s above your mantle. Wherever it is, define exactly where you are planning to put your photos and then measure out the usable space.
  • Select your photos – from family images to art prints, or a mix of everything. Decide what images you want to hang. Maybe you’ve got a theme wall, or perhaps it’s seasonal and you’ll change the images out regularly.
  • Select frames – here’s where it starts getting fun. Create a unified look by using matching frames and mats in various sizes. Alternately, try an eclectic mix of all different frames. Another option is to use one stand-out frame surrounded by simpler matching frames. Or mismatched frames all painted the same color.
  • Select format – it’s the age of digital images, you can go color or black and white with the click of a button. For the best look, all of your images should be the same format – all black and white, or all color.

Layout planning tips

  • The center of your photo display should be at about eye level (usually 60” to 66” from the floor). Use a level and place a line of tape at that point (or use a chalk line).
  • Mix it up, incorporate signs, shadowboxes, or other interesting wall décor. Get really brave and add in three-dimensional elements or a mirror. Make templates for these as well.
  • If going up stairs, use the diagonal and center your display on an eye-level line that climbs the stairs as you do. You want the bottom of your display about two feet above the stair treads; readjust every second or third stair.
  • Go by size – large pieces first to create a focal point, then the next size down and so on. Fill in with the smallest frames.

Get creative

Now that you have all of your materials, it’s time to figure out layout. Trying to arrange and rearrange frames can be a challenge, so make it easier.

  • Frame ‘em up – place your photos in their frames and organize them according to size. Create a template of each frame size out of paper (be smart, reclaim yesterday’s newspaper!) Make sure to create one template for each frame you have.
  • Tape ‘em up – use painter’s tape (so it pulls off easily) to layout your templates right on your photo wall. This is a lot easier than laying your photos all over the floor (and a lot more pet friendly, too!) and gives you a much clearer image of what the final project will look like.
  • Move ‘em around – arrange and rearrange the images until you really like the look. Leave the templates in place (and don’t worry if they’re not straight).

Get hanging

  • Use a level and straighten your templates, then mark where to hang each frame.
  • Hold each frame up in place to double check the mark, then tap in your nail or photo hanger.
  • Remove your templates and hang your photos.
  • Stand back and admire your work.


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creating a photo wall

  1. Pingback: drab to fab… making a rental feel like home | inspired habitat

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