Very rarely do we build, renovate or decorate a personal residence without incorporating a family ‘wall of fame’ photowall. These special collections of photographs always make a house feel like a home (it’s one of the first things we do if a client has moved into a new space and has anxiety about the property not yet feeling comfortable or personalized) and more often than not, we get an overwhelmed-with-emotion reaction when we install these walls for our clients (cue: happy tears!). We all have photographs from our childhood, our travels, old black and whites passed down from our family, and current photos filling up our smartphones – but it’s hard to know where to begin putting together a medley of images, in one collection, displayed in a creative and beautiful gallery wall. While they often look casual and haphazardly-placed, there is a science to creating a harmonious photowall. The secret is finding the perfect balance between frame styles, photography and spacing. Here’s how!
Relax… Have fun. It’s just drywall.
Measure your wall, determine how many frames (approximately) you’d like to display – I typically fill my wall 2/3 covered.
Begin collecting your frames – this can take several weeks as you hunt your favorite local design stores, thrift shops and galleries for the perfect frames that speak to you. Take pictures of frames as you purchase them, so you can easily reference whether a new frame will be a good fit with the rest of the collection. I always keep my matting the same color (watch out for bright whites vs. off-whites) even if I am varying the frame color or texture. I usually vary the frame sizes and shapes. Designer secret: The best photowalls always have at least one, but not more than three, non-frame items included in the mix. This adds an unexpected visual twist and creates movement. Think about using wall sculpture like big, wooden flowers, Chinese calligraphy, antique sconces, ceramic birds, or metal vintage signs. Get creative and ensure the art objects speak to your home’s décor palette and the vibe you want your wall to emulate (ie: romantic, heritage, lively, whimsical, or edgy)
Gather, edit and print your photos with the intention of showcasing an entire “picture” of your life from beginning to current – where you came from, what you went through and how you live today. Your images should include those who matter most to you. Candid, natural and emotive shots are always best, and high quality images will print the clearest. A balanced mixture of solo, double and group shots will create the most dynamic collection. I personally prefer using all black and whites (easy to edit on your smartphone prior to printing) as I find it looks the classiest. Designer Secret: Have the images on the outskirts of the photo wall contain people looking ‘into’ the wall so that your eye is drawn into the center of the collection ie: the photo hung on the far right of the wall should be an image of someone (or people) looking right as if glancing towards the rest of the photowall. Don’t get hung up on picking the 100% perfect pictures – we often curate our photographs depending on the time of year, who’s visiting (nothing makes a relative or friend feel more special then seeing themselves included in your treasured photowall), and when our next great photo is taken – we switch it out! Your photowall should evolve, as your life does.
There is truly no right or wrong way to hang a gallery wall – the most important element is balance and harmony. Start with your largest frames in the center and work your way outwards. Try keeping the same amount of distance between each frame. If you’re hanging a frame directly above or beside another one – use a level and a tape measure as inaccuracy will throw the eye off and look sloppy. Don’t go too close to a baseboard or crown molding. Use chalk or kraft paper if you’re nervous about your layout or simply hire a pro – having a professional create a family ‘wall of fame’ full of precious memories and chic artwork would be the perfect Mother’s or Father’s day present for any home!