The Secret to Making Your House a Home – The Family Photo Wall

There’s nothing that makes a house a home like family photos.  But scattering them around on all available walls and table surfaces can junk up the place.  This week I spent a morning hanging a few things for one of my clients – her cute dog looked on as I worked:

notice that the dog matches the chair


We had decided to create a family photo wall for her back stairwell – it’s in the entrance where most family and friends enter the house.  She pulled out tons of photos for me to arrange and hang.  Believe me, that can be a bit overwhelming!

 photos and more photos

We decided which photos were most important to include (mostly her decision) and which sizes, shapes, and orientations we needed (mostly my decision).   My client had done her homework and spray-painted most of her frames black to unite the grouping I intended to create.   Here is the stairwell – I typically start in the middle.

 the family photo wall to-be


The idea was to create a grouping that could grow over time.  She can add a photo here and there as time goes on.  A couple of hours later, the family photo grouping is complete (for now).

photo wall

 Stairwell Family Photo Grouping


The trick is to create a grouping that appears random, but actually has some planned structure to it.   There’s definitely a balance between the art and science of hanging art or photos.

how to hang photos

 Making Family the Focus


By the way, this stairwell was previously painted a darkish gray-brown that felt a bit depressing to my client.  I helped her choose the colors you see here on the walls and ceiling – these colors flow through into a large office area at the top of the stairs, as well.


hanging family photos

 Finished Family Stairwell


This makes me happy just looking at it!  Family memories make a house a home, and family photo groupings can also make it truly beautiful.  Click here on The Decorologist FaceBook page for the paint colors for these walls and ceiling.

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14 thoughts on “The Secret to Making Your House a Home – The Family Photo Wall

  1. Linda Franchi says:

    Thanks for the inspiration. I’m redoing my house room by room and definitely want to include a photo grouping. I have a similar color in my foyer. Can I ask what paint color you used.

  2. Sheila Zeller says:

    You hung all those in just a few hours? That’s pretty incredible on its own, but what you’ve done is pure genius. I love family galleries on a stairway wall, and you’ve nailed this one! Awesome job!!!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      The age-old question, Lesley . . . as for the science part, I try to 1) unite the grouping via the frame colors – like here, black, 2) keep the spaces between the pieces fairly consistent and close together so that it reads as a whole, and 3) follow the general shape of the space where I’m hanging – like here, loosely mimicking the rise of the stairs as I go. As for the art, I want it to look seemingly random – but not too random. So I like to throw in a few frames that are a different finish, space a few pieces a bit differently, and follow my gut as I’m working on the whole collage. I hope that helps!

  3. Libby says:

    I would just love to do the same…but my photographer husband says all the photos will, in time, be ruined by the light…how do you all feel about that? The color pictures especially will fade to nothing. I’ve seen this happen with our wedding picture that my Mother had out for 25 years and now its almost unreadable (no negs available…). So…. we have very few pictures on tables, but none on walls at all! I wish…….

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      That’s easy, Libby – just photocopy the pictures and hang the photocopy on the wall. No one will know the difference. And tell your husband: what’s the point of having photos or anything for that matter if they have to be shut away and can’t be seen or enjoyed?

      • Mary Ann Einarson says:

        Agreed!!! Photos should be out where you can enjoy – and share – them each & every day. Having that friends & family gallery on the wall can give you a little smile every time you pass.

        (Today’s digital prints are pretty darned archival, and you can upgrade to UV-blocking glasses for really special prints.)

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