Way back in our very first house, we had a long landing at the top of our stairs. It ran the length of the opening and the wall was a big expanse of nothing. Proving that a tiger can’t change its stripes, I had decorated the downstairs and left the upstairs with, let’s call it, a fresh palette. I feel like gallery picture walls were just beginning to grow in popularity. Pottery Barn might have even created their gallery wall frame collection around then. I remember seeing an article in Martha Stewart where they ran a tape line down the center of the wall and placed frames above and below it. A gallery picture wall. So modern.
I thought it was brilliant.
So out came the painter’s tape and my level. I ran the tape down my long dark red wall. (Are you getting a feel for the time period?) Next, I collected frames and began hanging them. So. Many. Frames. A few had old pictures in them, but most were the stock photos from the store. Now hit the fast forward button 3 years later, and it’s moving day. I never filled those ding dang frames. Ever since then, I have avoided the gallery picture wall epidemic like the plague.
Yet here I am. A decade older but still up to my same old tricks. Our walls tend to lean toward the naked side. The truth is I get frozen. I can never decide what I want to hang and where. Also, the truth is I just get lazy. When you look at the same thing every day, you start to not see it. Can anyone relate? Minimal apologies for the yellowish trim and not for the thermostat. This is my real home…we all have thermostats.
Lately, though, mostly due to realizing I have lots of cool stuff to hang, I decided to just do something. And in a bout of inspiration, I uploaded over 600 photos to Ritz Pics. Seriously. Have I mentioned that I’m an all or nothing person??
By the way, that is an affiliate link but I didn’t even know they offered it until I ordered my millions of photos. They just have good print quality and had a great deal at the time. I also am a fan of the white border option that I think makes snapshots feel special. In full disclosure, I spent about 100.00 bucks…on over 600 photos. That’s pretty incredible, especially since I printed 7 or 8 large format and tons of 5 X 7’s.
Ok. So. Looking around at all my walls, I realized a few things. There are few underlying principles, if you will, in the things I have up. And I thought I would lay it out in case it helps you make decisions about how you will decorate your own walls. The items I have displayed on my walls have one of these three characteristics.
WALL DECOR MUST HAVES:
This is pretty self-explanatory but can mean things like photos, memorabilia, family heirlooms, art, or even items that evoke nostalgia in me. I have my great grandfather’s fedoras on our bedroom wall and a black and white painting from a trip to Haiti in the kitchen. Both are personal to our family.
Unique or out of the ordinary
I have been a vintage and antique dealer off and on most of my adult life. I love the unique and different. Hanging unexpected items is one of my favorite wall treatments. An example of this is the giant ship flag that hung from the ceiling to the bottom of our stairwell wall, in our old house. I swear it’s going up in this one too. Another is the wall with giant letters from old signage in our kitchen. I love the dimension that objects bring to a wall.
Purposeful or useful
For me, this is the calendar in the kitchen, the baskets that collect papers hung by the stairs, or the hooks in the boy’s rooms. They are functional, but attractive, as well.
Here are the things you won’t find on my walls:
- Mass produced art.
- Fine art. Not opposed, just too poor.
- Kitschy or trendy sayings. I’ll hang something inspirational…maybe. Elliot’s quote by his namesake hanging in his room is an example of this.
Note that NONE of these are bad inherently, they just aren’t for me. I’d suggest if you get frozen by naked walls, come up with your guidelines. What criteria does your stuff have to meet? What will you not hang? Rules are made to be broken, but these guidelines are helpful for moving forward.
Let’s jump into the project!
- Dress the naked hall.
- Something a little out of the box.
- Display multiple things. Photos and kids art, specifically.
- Can be easily changed.
I searched and searched for some kind of creative frame solution. Acrylic…too expensive. Plastic sleeves…too cheap. Actual frames…not exactly what I wanted.
Finally, when buying Bret some legal pads one day, I raced past these and doubled back.
8 ½ X 11 sign holders. Six bucks off a piece. Just over $3.00 each. I quite possibly heard some singing, and impulsively grabbed 18. Again. All or nada. I chose 9 vertical and 9 horizontal since I wasn’t sure where I was hanging them. I was SURE I’d find a place. Over a year later…I did! Slightly embarrassed sigh.
This week, armed with my sign holders and newly printed photos, I finally did it. And I’m so pleased with how it turned out. It’s unique and eye-catching, but also fits in with the unexpected vibe you find in places around our house. I can easily change out the photos and rotate the kid’s art through. I smile every time I walk by and wonder why I have been stubborn about hanging family photos in the house.
The process was so simple. Here you go.
- 9 clear plastic sign holders
- Copper nails-I used these because there’s a chance the frames are moving to a different room. In 2 years, ha! Here are some others, and I love the idea of brass washers with screws.
- Level-I have this Accu Mark one and I love it, especially when hanging large, framed items. I also used a small one for the each frame.
- Hammer-Or drill if using screws
- Pencil-Not a pen, gotta be able to erase mistakes…see clear frames.
- Tape measure
- Painter’s tape
- Photos and art to fill the frames
- Remove the inserts and put your photos in the sign holders.
- Lay out your photos until you like the arrangement. Pay attention to light and dark, and then distribute in a way that doesn’t feel lopsided or heavy.
- Using the painter’s tape, tape the inserts you removed on the wall in order to find a placement you like. This helped me decide how many I would use and where they would go. I ended up with about 5 inch spacing on the sides and 4 below. In hindsight, it would be easy to just pick the same for both. You don’t have to lay these exactly to the measurements, it’s to help you decide.
- Mark the edges of the top left insert and being hanging the first frame.
- Level from the side and top and then mark the holes for the nail placement.
- Hammer in the nails
- Hang the frame
- Move to next frame placement below.
- Measure out your predetermined space from the frame above.
- Hold the new frame up and use the level to line up the left edge of both frames. This will make sure everything is straight in line. Mark the holes.
- Nails and hang. My nail heads were small enough to slide the frames over them.
- Repeat 7 other times. Remember the level is your friend. It will ensure straight lines and a precise grid.
Now. Step back and enjoy your work. Which I did. And realized something was missing. Now you get to meet Great Grandpa Stubby’s hats. Ahhh, there.
This was so simple, I felt silly for waiting over a year to do it. It’s cheap, easy, unique, and adjustable. A personalized update on a gallery picture wall. All of my needs met.
Note, keep your eyes peeled for deals on these plastic frames, I do see them periodically. I think the possibilities are endless. In the meantime, what are the home decor decisions that paralyze you? I’d love to help come up with solutions!