I am a pretty task-oriented, efficient, get-things-done kind of person. But there is one thing that I have always procrastinated on – and that is putting up framed photos in the house.
From selecting photos, printing them, placing them in frames, and hanging them, it just always seems like a massive headache and super COMMITMENT to forever displaying these photos and frames exactly where I put therm. I don’t know. It’s just a thing. Because of this hassle and weird fear of commitment, I always have been procrastination-prone in this department for sure.
However, greater than my procrastination is my desire to never back down from a bet or a challenge, and in December my husband said “Mika, I bet you can’t get these empty frames up by the end of the year.” (I had bought the frames and left them leaning against a wall in our living room) “I bet you $500.”
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED and two days before the end of 2017, I successfully placed a gallery wall up in our dining room – and became $500 richer.
I documented the results on Instastories and got a ton of questions, so I put up a poll “do you want me to do a tutorial/how-to on this?” According to the poll 99% of you said yes, so this post is dedicated to the 400+ of you who voted that you wanted to know more.
Here you go, guys!
S H O P T H E P O S T
F R A M E S
I used 9 14″ x 18″ frames matted to 8″ x 10″ and used 9 total in a grid pattern. The finish of the frame is a brushed neutral gold and the mat is a neutral white, not too yellow or blue.
I purchased 3 of these last summer in-store after seeing them online and thinking they’d be perfect for our new house. There were only 3 in the store at the time so I figured I’d buy those now and get more later. Well, turns out others people were also totally into these frame because for months I’d never see them again in stock at the stores. So after we moved, I went online and bulk ordered 6 more for in-store pick-up, which is my new favorite way to shop at Target!
Target? Yes. These frames ARE FROM TARGET.
A neighbor of mine told me she has these and also ones from Restoration Hardware and like these frames much better. I’m telling you, you will not regret these frames – they’re beautiful.
When I go to Target these days (which is often. And by often I mean basically daily) I check their stock every now and then and still, they are often totally sold out (especially of the 8×10 sizes.) So I highly recommend ordering them in advance for pickup in store!
P R I N T S
While I love color images for Instagram or in a smaller scale, for a large gallery wall I like to use black and white. Our home’s colors are pretty monochrome with some warmth throughout, so a black and white look with a warm gold frame I thought was the perfect, subtle and classic look for this gallery wall.
I decided to go with MPix because they had free shipping for orders over $20 for the holidays (normally ships for free on all orders over $50) and the shipping was also fast, I think it was 2-3 days (remember, I was on a deadline for the end-of-year bet!) The reviews for their quality was good so I went with it!
I used a mix of images I took along with family and newborn photos our photographer, Marisa Grabowy, took over the past couple of years. I wanted them to be of us as a family, in locations that we love where we were having fun (in Belize, in Paige’s nursery, on our couch, in California, etc.) There is one photo in the center that is a little more “family portrait”-ish where we are all looking at the camera. Because where other than a formal gallery wall would you use those, right? All the others are much more natural and most of the kids aren’t even looking at the camera but are standing in such expressive ways that it just makes the photos.
It definitely took a WHILE to decide on which shots to use because:
a. I needed to have all vertical shots
b. I needed to ensure all 3 children were represented equally and fairly (when you have more than one kid, this is something you have to think about!)
Most of the photos were in color, so rather than editing them to black and white inside Photos, I just used the blanket black and white filter directly on MPix’s site and applied it to all. Black and white seems simple enough to do, but there’s actually sooooo many variations on the tones and contrast, but the one they had turned out great.
One thing I found out while uploading these photos onto MPix was that I could actually use photos that were taken in landscape orientation and crop them into a portrait orientation as long as they were not too close up. For example the photo of Maddix, Reese and Paige on the couch is one where it was taken horizontally but I cropped it to vertical. That was really helpful so that I could use some favorite shots regardless of their orientation.
M Y T W O S E C R E T T R I C K S
So the biggest question on got on this gallery wall was “how did you measure and hang everything?”
Don’t hate me on this, but I just pretty much eyeballed it.
I definitely have always, always had a discerning eye for things being even. I don’t even own a leveler because I can tell when things are off even just by a hair. Maybe it’s because I’m a balance-driven Libra, but I have always been able to hang art and shelves and everything by eyesight.
THAT BEING SAID, there are two tricks I use that make it super simple to eyeball it and hang frames.
Secret #1: I use pushpins, not nails.
Yes, pushpins! I’ve been using these for probably over two decades ever since decorating my teenage room, to my dorm room, to my first apartment and house. I think it started because I didn’t HAVE any nails or maybe even a hammer at the time, so I grabbed pushpins and, well, there you go – a method was BORN.
They are easy to push into the wall, have a ledge for the frame to hang on, and I have never, ever in those two decades I mentioned ever had a frame fall off a wall using this method. I am telling you, they WORK.
Secret #2: Don’t use the designated nail holes.
To try to match these up and everything is painstakingly challenging and no one has time for that. What I do place the frame ledge directly onto the pushpins basically however I want – like they are resting on top of them. You can then slide the frame across the two pushpins side to side if you want, even, which makes adjusting the frames that much easier as you create your gallery wall. Make sense?
If you WANT to hang them using the nail holes (I don’t know why you really would knowing you don’t have to, but just entertaining this idea) the pushpins actually usually fit RIGHT INTO them. In fact, they are round and almost exactly the perfect size for pushpins!
H O W T O :
You will need:
- 9 framed photos
- 18 pushpins (2 for each frame)
- Measuring tape (for determining equal distance between frames if you would rather not eyeball it)
- Masking or painters tape (which I used only for the top three frames)
- Step ladder
Here’s how I planned out and hung the gallery wall:
- Once the photos were in the frames, I laid them out on the floor to plan placement. I took into consideration who was in the photo, the darkness vs. light in the photo, the composition, closeup vs. distant, etc. to ensure it was balanced. I do this with with my Instagram feed a little bit – I like things to look very balanced in all areas of light, color, subject, and feel of the photo.
- I started with the top right frame and this was the hardest one because it took trial and error trying to gage how high I actually needed to go. I wanted it to be a tall, big gallery wall so in the end I lined it up visually with top of a nearby window which gave it the perfect height. (This is definitely the one that ended up with a couple of extra pushpin holes in the wall behind the frame as I adjusted how high I needed it to go. But I’m keeping this gallery wall up indefinitely, so you’ll never see those little holes again anyway!)
- One I got the top right frame, I went next to the one below it, lining up the right edge of the frames. To determine the distance between the frame above it, this is just where I eyeballed it but you could measure it if you wanted to.
- Then, I took one pushpin, placed it on the top of the frame, then moved the frame away still holding the pushpin, and moved the pin down by about a quarter of an inch to accommodate the top of the frame, and then placed the pushpin there.
- To place the second pushpin and to ensure it was even with the other one, I used the top of the frame to create a line for placing the pushpin.
- To then hang the third frame, below it (creating a line of all the three frames on the very right) I measured (yes, this is where measuring came in!) to measure the distance of the top frame and the middle frame, and create the same distance between the middle and the bottom frame. Then I repeated steps 3-5.
- For the second top frame, this is where I used masking or painters tape to create a line. However, I was doing this alone and found that creating a straight line that high up with tape was challenging, so in the end I kept the tape up for a very rough guideline but ended up eyeballing it, and it worked. If you have someone helping to hold and place the other side of the tape evenly, I think the painters tape method could work really well.
- I followed the rest of the same steps 3-6, and then adjusted the frames left to right a bit as I stepped back and looked at it for evenness. Having them hanging on the ledge instead of the frame’s nail hole allows for flexibility afterwards in adjusting frames left and right which is AWESOME.
And there you have it – a gallery wall!
To reference back to my fear of commitment of hanging photos, I realized that once a simple, classic gallery wall is created, you can just SWITCH OUT THE PHOTOS whenever you want, super simple! Especially with an easy online ordering system like MPix that mails quality photos directly to you so you don’t even have to go anywhere to pick them up (which, IMO I find photo counters poorly staffed and increasingly frustrating places to be.)
This gallery wall will be growing with us as our family grows, travels, and make memories together, and I can’t wait to see how to the photos in them change over the years.
Happy gallery-walling! (new word?)
S H O P T H E P O S T