Gallery wall courage in nine mostly painless steps

My husband doesn't have many requests when it comes to our home decor. He mostly trusts my judgement (after a year of power struggle when we were first married because men and change and ugh). His one request has been to include more family photos into our home. I struggle with this. Mainly because our house is on the small side and I don't want to clutter it up with picture frames on shelves. Also because I am constantly fighting my own urge to clutter it up with thrifted objects. I do want our house to feel cozy and homey with photos capturing the fun moments of our lives but I always wrestle with balancing that with pretty. Alas, the gallery wall.

I love a photo gallery wall but it's an overwhelming process that I push to the bottom of my list because it takes some time and patience. After tiring of our uninspiring hallway, however, I decided it would be the perfect spot to give it a try. Here's my step by step to photo gallery wall success. 

1. Purchase the frames. It may seem counterintuitive to start here but if anything motivates me (and probably you) it's shopping and Target. They have so many pretty frames right now so I went on a little black Friday spree (buy 1 get 1 free). 

Match or don't match – there are no rules. I do love the look of matching frames (like this wall) especially when all lined up – I just think it's too sophisticated for me ;) Our home is eclectic so while that probably would have helped to polish our space, I wanted it to be more fun and in character. I bought a variety of sizes and styles. Brass, white, black, wood, marble, etc. 

2. Select your photos. For the purposes of our gallery, I wanted to stick with photos only and include everyone in our immediate family. I started with a few photos that I knew I wanted to use (the big one of Henry hangin' on our bed zoned out watching Thomas and the other large one of Mike and I on your average Tuesday  - see below). With those two in mind, I tried to select mostly candids as my theme but it gets tricky when you only have posed shots of some people. I'll share how I still made this work in step 3. 

3. Edit your photos. If you're printing new ones, there are a lot of free sites for editing. Since I wanted my photos to feel more candid, I added a filter to some and changed the lighting to others (brightness and highlights help a LOT). It helped to soften them a little so they look more natural. I like PicMonkey for this but also just use my phone photo editor and then airdrop them to my computer. For me, it's fast and easy and that wins every time. PS - I am aware this can be done directly in Photos on my computer but I'll admit I haven't tried it. 

4. Purchase your photos. I printed most of mine at Walgreens for about $35 and they were ready the same day. Walgreens will print up to a 24 x 36 poster if you're feeling crazy or have a giant house.

5. Place photos in frames and arrange/layout on the floor. If you don't have an eye for this, search gallery wall layout on Pinterest for tons of ideas. I just sort of go with my gut here. Spacing is not too close or too far (about 2-3 inches apart). Your highest picture should be centered at 57 or so inches from the floor so keep that in mind when arranging. This is the average human eye height and also so your photos don't seem as though they're floating too high on the wall, separated from other decor in the room or space. 

6. Take a photo of the layout as a reference for when you go to hang your frames.

7. Measure and use your level. Do yourself a favor and take the time for this or suffer a frustrating round of whack-a-mole on your wall. You can cut craft paper templates to the sizes of your frames, measure off where the nail holes should be and tape to the wall as a guide. Most larger frames come with these templates so don't throw them out. Smaller frames can usually be eyeballed. Again, highest at 57 inches centered (meaning the top will be higher than this) and work around according to your layout. 

8. Hang and adjust, if needed. If you're off a little here and there, don't sweat it. Move your nail over a smidge and spackle if you need to. If your paint is light enough you won't even need to touch it up. The spackle alone will hide most nail holes. 

9. Admire.

I really do love how this turned out (and so does Mike!). The only thing I am sad about is that I procrastinated for so long. This spot has brought a warmth to our home that I really didn't expect. Our sad hallway is now a fun tribute to family and the times we've spent together. And the best part is there's room for more!