The History Keepers ::: Gallery Wall Basics

 Photographs.  The hallmark gold standard of history keeping for years and years (at least until the invention of video for the masses).  I still cling to photography as my favorite method of history keeping and feel there is something captured in the art of photography that video simply misses and glosses over.  

A photograph captures the history we feel but somehow can't touch without putting a freeze on life.

So I take photos.  Many photos.  I share them online, use them in blog posts, and I used to take them for clients.
You know what else I do with photographs?  PRINT THEM.

You know you are guilty of this mama.  There are files after files of beautiful digital photos on your computer -- perhaps they are even edited, but they are NOT printed out.  What happens when your computer dies?  When the internet eats your pictures?  When your backup harddrive collapses?  Please, please, please if you get nothing else out of this series, please go order some prints, ok?  Cheap prints are fine!  At least you have a 4x6 of THAT MOMENT.  Better yet?  Print a few copies and GIVE them to people in your family.  Lose your copy and the history is still not lost.  

By any means and all means, GET PRINTS.

Once you jump on the print bandwagon, those pictures in hand will start to call your name and before you know it, you are going to be wanting a gallery wall to hang all those photos.  I am here today to show you HOW.

This post is chock full of photography and design content that you will NOT want to miss, sponsored by Shutterfly.
Gallery walls have been a hot topic for a while in decor and for some might even be getting a bit passe. However, when you are a family photo aficionado, gallery walls are your new best friend.  They are striking and interesting and can fill up an ugly blank wall in a heartbeat!

The problem?  Gallery walls can be quite expensive and I did NOT have an expansive budget to work with.  They require a good amount of photos to make an impact, and even more cost prohibitive are the frames.  If you are purchasing matching frames for a full set, it can get extremely pricey.  The solution?  A mixed media gallery wall full of photos, art, canvases and more!  Join me today as I walk you through our basement stairway gallery wall!

The entrance to our basement is a basic stairway with these HUGE white walls extending up to the stratosphere it seems.  I painted the bottom half of the wall to break up the white a bit, but I still had a gigantic white space staring me in the face everytime I went down the stairs.  I knew that this would be a perfect place for a fun gallery wall.  The walls needed some life and it was a small, pass-through space that wouldn't overwhelm the eyes constantly.

I thought about the view going down the stairs, as well as the view going UP the stairs (see photo below.)  Consider all angles of your gallery wall as you start to place pieces, making sure the look is pleasing from all angles.

Now back to the budget.  Remember how I told you that I didn't have an expansive budget for this project?  I decided to use various mixed media, all in shades of black and white, for a cohesive look that cost less than a classic gallery wall.   If you decide to go the route of mixed media, pick a solid 2-3 color scheme and STICK WITH IT!  Otherwise, you will just end up with a hodgepodge of photos.

When combining pieces, I try to think in contrasts.  For example, the prints are small and "busy" for the eye to take in, while the charcoal canvas silhouettes (tutorial HERE) are large and utilize white space.  Combining the two gives a nice contrast.

Another way to save money is to spend it.  (Huh, what?!)  Instead of spending an average amount on everything, spread out your dollars unevenly.  By far, the most expensive piece is the large canvas pictured below.   However, it is by FAR the most striking piece of the gallery.

5 canvases this size would be cool, but that would cost a LOT.  Mixing a gigantic canvas with cheap prints (they cost pennies!) keeps the cost reasonable and the impact high.

I utilized the following:

To make the most of your "killer" piece of artwork, place it in the "t".  What is the "t"??  This is a classic design strategy that retailers and designers use when planning a space.  The natural eye is drawn straight ahead, up and to the front right and left  when you enter a space.  You typically ignore what is below, directly above and to your peripheral left and right.  So when planning a room design or art display, focus on that front and center "t" before moving on to less important areas.

In this stairway, my large canvas stands front and center where you cannot miss it, while smaller, less impressive prints are to the lower left.

See what I mean?

 In the photo above, you might notice a really cool product in the bottom left hand corner.  I had never seen these acrylic prints before, but I ordered one from Shutterfly just to check them out.  They are WAY cool.  Printed on plastic, the photos take on a shiny, almost metallic finish and the print is attached directly to the wall using the provided metal screw/bolts. (see below - they are easier than they look!)  If I would have known how cool they were, I might have ordered my giant piece as an acrylic as opposed to canvas.  Try ordering a small acrylic print to see if you like it and then splurge on a biggie (that's MY plan anyway!  Are you with me?)

I don't have the budget for huge canvases!  Help!

Another cost saving strategy is to use prints in unique ways.  Prints are so cheap that you can use them out in the open without resorting to expensive frames.  Order doubles if you are worried about losing your photos for eternity!!

I utilized several DIY display methods for my prints including an old crib frame (from ALL THREE of my boys!!), an empty frame with basic wire and clothespins as well as simple prints attached to the wall with washi tape.

My washi tape (a silver and white diagonal stripe to accent the black and white photos) held pretty well, 
but you can always place a tack into the photo and then cover with a decorative tape.  

I used a blue tack below for demonstration purposes:

So whether you decide to go with all prints to save a few bucks, or splurge for one or two grand pieces, remember to fill the "T" first, consider unique display ideas and keep those colors simple for a mixed media display.  I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Again, thank you to Shutterfly for sponsoring this post!  They were a pleasure to work with and I am more than impressed with the products provided (particularily those acrylic prints -- WAY WAY cool!)

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Quotebooks (If you make ONE THING from this series, make THESE!)

The Journals (yes, these are different than the quotebooks, but just as easy!)

Footprints and Handprints (CAPTURE those tootsies!)

A Gallery Wall (PRINT and DISPLAY those photos!)

Life Sized Cork Board (A solution for ALL those art projects!)

TBALL Photos -- A Better Way (I KNOW you are sick of them too!)

Book Canvases (...for the mom who needs some art motivation)

SCHOOL Pictures  (An improvement on tradition!)

Portions of this  post have been previously published on the Shutterfly blog. Some photo Supplies have been provided by Shutterfly. Without these supplies, these project ideas and craft ideas would not be possible, so THANK YOU to our sponsors!


Christina said…
What a great post!- love how you broke down how the eye is drawn to certain areas- love your diverse frames and displays too!
I have a gallery wall on my stairway too. It's pretty uniform with black frames and all black and white photos...but I switch the photos out and update them. It makes me smile every time I go up or down the stairs! I love the way yours turned out. Good job. :o)
Jenny Piirto said…
excellent tips! I'm pinning this!
Amy Renea said…
Thank u friends!!!
Thank you so much for this! I have a small wall space in the hallway, yet it's big enough that it looks really bare. Doing a smaller version of your awesome gallery would be perfect. I'm so excited to tackle this one! Do you think it would look to busy will color photos?
Amy Renea said…
No!! I think color photos can definitely work -- just try to keep a themed color palette. i.e. lots of fall photos can take on orange and yellow themes while summer and spring tend to be more green and blue just due to clothing/environment. Try to stick with 2-3 main colors and you should be fine...can't wait to see it Melissa!