Spruce Up Your Home With A DIY Family Photo Wall

Hi everyone! I love a good decorative find at Home Goods as much as the next person, but even better than a wrought iron chicken, decoupage mirror, or 1/200 scale Eiffel Tower planter is a wall of snapshots. Who doesn't love seeing your smiling loved ones as you go from room to room? A wall of photos is trickier than it seems. Do it the right way and it adds personality and warmth to your home.Do it the wrong way and it turns into College-meets-IKEA decorating. Here are some tips on how to make a perfectly imperfect wall photo collage.


This is a companion piece to our original series: How to Store, Organize, and Display Your Zillion Baby Photos. 

But first, don't forget to check out the grand opening of My Gym in Dobbs Ferry. Come play for free this weekend and next weekend. Check out the schedule below. 


1: Choose a spot

I love putting photos on staircases because there’s tons of unused wall space that’s typically uninterrupted by windows or trim, and you can make the area really busy without the rest of the room feeling overwhelmed. And since most of the photos will be hung at eye level, you can get close to your favorites without needing to make huge prints to see from across a room. If you don't have a staircase that works, look for a wall where your eye can linger for a bit. Entryways aren't ideal because it's awkward to stop and look in the middle of coming in the house and putting stuff away. A wall too close to the TV can be distracting. But a wall across from the TV in the living room, an upstairs hallway, facing your bed in the bedroom, or a far wall in the dining room are perfect.

2: Buy the frames

Unless your style is very modern, don’t buy all the same type, color, and size of frame. If you aim for a mix-and-match approach, you can add to the wall as your family grows without any one frame sticking out. I had good luck at Kohl’s and Home Goods finding well-priced, pretty frames in sizes 4x6, 5x7, and 8x10. Using frames of different sizes will help the wall feel whimsical. Unless you have a huge or tall area, it’s a good rule to have only one 8x10 for every three or four 4x6 or 5x7. You’re looking for a mix of frame styles, but they all don’t have to be completely different. If I see a frame I like, I'll buy the 5x7 and the 8x10 size, or buy the same frame in two different colors. Then I just make sure not to put those two right next to each other in the collage. Having a “twin” helps the collection feel cohesive.

Keep in mind a color family for your frame collection. My frames are several different colors, but they all live in the muted family of grey, grey-blue, brown, black, and a few off-white for contrast. You could do pastels, metallics, jewel tones, etc., but they should feel of a piece. Also, the style of the frames should have a similar feel. Almost all my frames are thick and wooden, so a thin shiny black or silver frame would be out of place. 

But don't be afraid to add an element of surprise! I included one strategically-placed collage frame of 12 smaller photos to anchor the grouping and stand out in the sea of single photo frames. It let me put a bunch of snapshots that are memorable but not "Top 20 Wall" perfect. If you're going to throw in an element of surprise, it's fun to pick a topic that's not covered on the rest of the wall. A collage full of baby photos on my wall would be more of the same, so for our 12-photo frame I used photos of my husband and me (gasp!) pre-kids, showcasing all the great places we travelled before "Let's take a trip" meant "Trader Joe's or Stew's?"

And this is probably a Duh! point, but make sure that the frames you buy have wall hanging hardware on the back. Not all of them do. And some of them have such a large easel backs that when you hang them, they stick out a little. You can cut off the easel backs, but it's an extra step you can avoid if you shop smart.


3: Print the photos and load up the frames

Once you have your frames, lay them out and see how many photos of each size you need. I like to start with my 8x10s, since those tend to be my favorites. Even if you think you know exactly what you want at each size, print a few extras at different sizes for backup. When it becomes time to places the photos into the frames you might find a particular photo is not a good match for the frame, or a print looks too dark. If you have a few extra prints you can keep your options open. (Not sure how to figure out which photos to print? Read Part 2 of our original series.)

4: Lay out the space

How are you going to figure out what goes where without making a zillion holes in your wall? Meet your new best friend: tracing paper and blue painter’s tape. Here's how to make it work: First, grab some sticky notes and number all your frames. Then get a pad of paper larger than your largest frame, and trace each frame onto a sheet, numbering each sheet to match the post-it, then draw an arrow to indicate which way is up. Cut them out, and now you’ve got light, unbreakable, moveable versions of your frames to play around with.


5: Hang the frames

Attach some painter's tape and affix the papers to the wall. Play around with placement and spacing until you have a collection that feels natural and fun. You’re going for a random look, so try to keep the distance between frames varied. Mine range from one to four inches. Don’t worry if there is an empty spot here and there. The point is to be able to add on to the collage as you make more memories with your family, so those empty spots at the top or sides will soon come in handy. Once you have all the papers set in place, sub in the corresponding frames, and you’re done!

That's it for this week! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And as always, check our website for events and our easy-to-navigate chart of every weekly kids library program in Westchester.

See you next time!