Decorate with Photography

You’ve seen them in all the furniture catalogues. The ubiquitous picture wall. A perfectly hung wall of a beautiful “family” in professionally shot photos at the beach or wherever with lovely white frames against a robin’s egg blue wall. You know this wall? And why do all of the catalogues feature this wall? Because it’s awesome. Because it can exactly reflect who you are and what you love. And, bottom line, pictures look great big and framed.

Many years ago, before I even had kids, my husband and I spent eight months traveling around the world. We thought we had taken a ton of pictures because this was back in the days of film and we had about twenty rolls (these days I would go through twenty rolls in about a week). We developed everything when we finally arrived home and quickly put them in an album (pre-photobook days). About six months later we were reminiscing about this wild and crazy trip and decided, let’s blow up some of these photos and put them up so we can have an everyday reminder of that wonderful period. We chose our ten favorites and enlarged them to 5x7s. I bought a variety of frames, all in black to keep an element of uniformity, found a wall with nothing on it (that was the easy part) and hung them up (less easy). It’s probably smart to measure and hang each photo so it’s lined up with something else but boy does that take a lot of effort and time. So I just hung them up willy-nilly. Even without precision, it gave us just the effect we wanted.

I made sure some of the frames were square because I think it helps to give the grouping an artistic feel. The same is true for black and white photos, sepia tones, and detail shots. And I never even bothered cropping the pictures. Each one is just taped in place and I let the matte do the cropping for me.  I think the key to a lovely photo wall is to have one or two elements that unify the grouping. In this case, it’s the black frames and the fact that they are all obviously travel shots.

Many years later I did another smaller wall with pictures of our kids. This is in our hallway, which is pretty short so I used just three enlargements side by side. I ordered 8x10s of three favorite pictures and put them in 12×12 frames (with two inch mattes). Again, I let the matte do the cropping and taped the pictures in place. The best part is that I can easily rotate the pictures. Every six months or so I pick new pictures to feature so the wall never feels outdated.

Now it’s your turn. Have you decorated your home with memories? Have any tips for doing it right?


  1. Earl J says

    I’m in my office as I comment on your blog. I painted a wall about a year ago and on that wall have 8 matted and framed 11×16’s and an “anchor” matted and framed 16×20 – usual wonderful quality from Shutterfly and reasonable in price, especially with the 30% off print offer I subscribe to. I find lately that I take more and more verticals and so now I need to redesign the wall to accomodate them. The plain black frames (except for silver on the 16×20) come from Hobby Lobby and I buy them when 50% off. Thanks for your tips.

    Shutterfly Gallery Guru

  2. says

    I have a wall in each of my kid’s rooms with 5x7s of our group shots at Disneyland. We have been traveling to the Magic Kingdom every year for the past few years. Each year we take a group shot with Mickey and other various shots with other favorite characters. Each child has there special photo of the that year and we add it to their wall groupings. It has turned out to be really fun and a great family tradition. In addition, I can get these great 5×7 frames at Wal-Mart for $1.50 each.

  3. Joey says

    I was looking for a new idea for above my couch. I really like the idea of blowing photos up and displaying on a wall. Looks very artistic. Hobby Lobby has great deals and thats the place to go.
    Thanks for these awesome tips!

  4. says

    I have a short hallway that leads to our masterbedroom. I wanted to display my wonderful 12X12 Shutterfly books out in the open and not just on a coffee table or on bookshelves. I found a wonderful plate rack at Homegood for $19.99 that would actually hold three of my large books horizontally. I then found inexpensive word art from Steinmart that states “We Will Have These Moments to Remember” and placed it on the way over my plate rack. I can now rotate out my books as I want and my wall is a changing work of art. I feel the cover of your book is the most important as it leads you into the story or idea of your book and it’s the first thing to grap your attention. Like Ann we travel to Disney frequently (ok I’m a Disney Nut) so I continually change my books out when a new Disney book arrives.

    Shutterfly Gallery Guru

  5. Joey says

    Love that idea Cynthia. Right now my photobooks are on a bookshelf, but I love your idea of displaying them on a plate rack and I love those Word Arts.
    So inspiring!

  6. BarbaraJ says

    I like to decorate with my photos also. My staircase is small and I have photographs of my husbands deer lease. Sound funny but the hill country in Texas is just beautiful. Windmills, cactus with blooms, old stick fences and beautiful running streams are all located on some beautiful country roads. This is also a keepsake for my husband. He is no longer on this lease of 27 years. He enjoys the photos as we go up and down our stairway. Also I have a few of my 8 x 8 photobooks on easels in my dinining room or den. An idea for a bathroom are birdhouses, outhouses or old family pics for viewing. Also we have frames on the wall with our grandbabies as they grow and change. Great ideas out there.

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