Today I’m going to switch gears a bit from my own dining room redecoration (what do you mean, is it because I’m behind on my next project?) and talk instead about some progress going on in my parents’ dining room. Specifically, an awesome new family photo wall that they just completed!
Pretty, right? Yes, they learned a lot of tips and tricks along the way that you can use to make an awesome photo wall of your own. And, yes, this does also mean that you’ll get to see a picture of me as a baby in this post.
But let’s get into it.
Family Photo Wall Tips
You’ve seen this room before as part of my “eco decorating” tour of their house, which uses a lot of sustainable and environmentally friendly materials and products. (Also see here, here, and here.)
The room is basically a big bay window flooded with light.
The photos were destined for the long wall that runs between the kitchen on one side and the living room on the other, with a console table beneath it (basically right behind the camera in the photo above).
It’s a lot of real estate! The open space on the wall is about 12′ x 3′ and could be totally filled with photos. Still, they had to be really selective with the photos, which brings us to our first tip:
Tip #1: Be Realistic About the Number of Photos You Can/Want To Fit
In this 36 square foot space my parents could only fit about 40 photos. That seems like a lot, until you realize that they weeded it down from literally thousands. It was quite a project in itself just going through and organizing them all!
They were able to fit this many because they had a huge wall and because they went with relatively small sized photos. This also worked for them because the rest of the room was calm and uncluttered, with light colored walls and not a lot of busy elements and art. However, if you have a more cluttered room, you might do well to go with fewer photos that are a bit bigger. Photos add a lot of busy!
Tip #2: Decide who/what Qualifies
Narrowing it down is hard, so it will help to have some guidelines about who “makes it on the wall” vs. not. It can also make the whole wall make better sense – it would be strange to have a wall of mostly vacation photos, and then throw in one shot of your great-great-great aunt looking cranky in a severe dress.
Some ways that you can narrow it down include:
- Historical or current? (I.e., does it include photos of people living now at their current ages, or does it look back only at times past?)
- Ancestors or family memories? (I.e., are you trying to trace the family back as far as possible, or are you capturing the people you know now?)
- Direct relatives or extended family and friends?
- Do you want equal representation or will you select good quality photos/ones that you like? (This is especially important to think about for more distant ancestors, where there may not be a “good” photo to include.)
My parents decided that it was a historical wall that would try to trace the family back as far as we had photos for. That means there are no current photos: people on the wall have passed away, or are in a historical photo as a child. Current family members will go on a different wall elsewhere in the house!
Tip #3: Chose Some Consistent Visual Elements and Stick With Them
Photo walls will get busy fast, so it really helps to have some unifying themes.
My parents chose to have all black and white photos, and even got some photos that they had reprinted to go along with this theme. They also chose to go with all silver frames, but to use a variety from many different sources so it would look more organic, including some antique ones that were original with the photos. My mom also advises looking on Etsy, particularly if you need options in non-standard sizes!
They also mixed in a handful of more casual photos/poses where they could, which prevents all the black and white from feeling stiff.
Keeping these things consistent helps the busy wall “hang” together. (See what I did there?)
Tip #4: Plan Out The Layout and Make it Meaningful/Interesting
Take the time to get the layout right, and try to group it in a way that makes sense.
My parents set it up so that each of their families started with the oldest photos at the far ends, and then came together to more recent photos and then photos of our nuclear family in the middle. This makes for a cool “coming together” effect!
They plotted it out in the basement for a long time, and got photos reprinted in different sizes so that the layout they envisioned would work.
I’ve also seen photo walls grouped by event, like as collections of photos from different weddings or at different locations, or by family units for larger families.
Tip #5: Use a Paper Template for Planning and Hanging
Some people do gallery walls by taping up cut-outs of different pictures on the wall to play around with layouts, but with the number of photos you’ll typically have in a photo wall that will get really hard to manage.
Instead, my parents made a paper template of the exact measurements of the wall (even marking in where the lamp would go, and where the light switches and thermostat are). They set it up in the basement where they could move the photos around over time to find the exact right positions.
This allowed them to trace the frames and make a small puncture exactly where each hook should go, and they could then use that to easily mark the wall for hanging!
Of course, still take it a few at a time and make sure the pictures are going up how you imagined it…
While this was a longer and more involved project than they thought it would be going in, it ended up really awesome!
Doesn’t it look great? The layout is orderly enough to look planned and under control, but there is enough variation to prevent it from looking stiff. Matching the style of frame to the age of the photo also helps it feel personal and authentic.
Also, by keeping some of those elements consistent, with all black and white photos and silver frames, they were able to fit in a lot without it being too busy. With the calmness of the room overall, this is an eye-catching feature that doesn’t overwhelm the space.
So where am I in all this? Look right over the plant:
I hope the tips were helpful, and that you enjoyed seeing the update to this room!
Do you have a photo wall, and if so, did you make the same or different choices on these elements? Are there important choices that I missed capturing here? Other tips?