Help me make a photo wall.
July 14, 2010 6:09 PM   Subscribe

How can I decorate my living room wall with lots of photos without framing them or tacking each one up individually?

Photos of my family and friends make me happy. Our living room is a basic white box in a 1950s house with huge casement windows, so we get lots of natural light. We like Dwell and Eichler homes, and want to keep our minimalist look going while also incorporating bright pops of color.

I would like to decorate one area by creating a big arrangement of color photos. I would prefer something that doesn't require me to individually frame and hang each of these photos, as that may be costly and vexing. I also do not want to just tack them up to the wall and wait for them to curl in the aforementioned beams of natural light.

Can anybody recommend a strategy for creating a photo wall that looks polished and grown-up? Is there a cost-effective "finishing" technique to avoid the photo curling -- like laminating, but without the shininess? I like the look of this, if it helps. But ideally I'd like to feature a lot more photos, and perhaps photos of different sizes.

posted by chummie26 to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Those are framed photos.

Are you near an IKEA? They have a photo frame section with lots of extremely cheap minimalist frames. If you have drywall, you're 90% of the way there.

If you don't want to hang them on the wall, there are shelves and rails that one can get to lean or clip your framed photos to. IKEA may have them, or you could also try something like The Container Store, Crate & Barrel, etc. You might even find them at Target.

Unfortunately, you really only have two options when it comes to 2D art in your home. You can be a grownup and frame it (and there's quite a range of pricing options there and plenty of shortcuts to be taken), or you can not be a grownup and just tape/tack/clip things around willy nilly. There is no magical shortcut that is neither of those two options.

If you want to take the "not really a grownup" option, you could always get a flatbed scanner and tack up copies of your beloved family photos, so it doesn't matter if they get ruined.
posted by Sara C. at 6:15 PM on July 14, 2010

Well, I've seen photos hung on small lines with very small clothespin. It looks very tasteful and delicate, but you may still encounter the warping problem.
posted by k8lin at 6:39 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

The clothesline thing is a really cute way to display photos you don't intend to frame. I've also seen variations with bulldog clips. There are pre-assembled systems you can buy, or you can just make it yourself with string and clothes pins (or wire and clips, or whatever).

However, yeah, the photos will warp and get damaged by the sun. Also, it's not much more sleek and grown up looking than using a bulletin board. It's like half a step better than just tacking things to the wall.
posted by Sara C. at 6:43 PM on July 14, 2010

Perhaps a slightly polished "not grown up" approach? Get a box or two of photo mounting corners and drive thumbtacks through them. Slip them onto the corners of your photographs (which hide the tacks), position on wall and push in.

You might also get a roll of self-adhesive laminating film to protect the pictures and aid in preventing curling. If you wish, you could sandwich the photo between a layer of 120 lb. card-stock and the laminate sheet, with the card serving as a matte.

If all your pictures are the same size, you can rearrange the order of the collage without removing the tacks.
posted by EnsignLunchmeat at 7:14 PM on July 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Creative solutions with photo corners is a really neat idea. I hadn't thought of that. [makes mental note]
posted by Sara C. at 7:27 PM on July 14, 2010

You can also check out magnetic options, such as this option from PhotoJojo.

I like the idea of the photo corners, and may steal it for my office.
posted by kellygrape at 7:42 PM on July 14, 2010

Get some long straight, thin pieces of lumber, and a whole bunch of clothespins.

Paint both clothespins and strips of wood your desired color - you may have to disassemble the clothespins to get good coverage.

Glue the clothespins to the wood - make sure they are evenly spaced and perpendicular to the wood strip. Mount wood strip to wall.

You now can display photos, drawings, postcards, etc. by clipping them into the clothespins.

I think this idea would be particularly dramatic when applied over one entire accent wall with several horizontal pieces of wood.

Here's a photo.
posted by Ostara at 7:55 PM on July 14, 2010

I reiterate that ANY photo display method wherein you use clips to hold the photo in place, no matter how fancy, no matter how nicely painted, no matter how well plugged by PhotoJoJo, is definitely going to cause fading and curling. Only do that if it's photos that don't hold personal value or disposable copies.
posted by Sara C. at 8:07 PM on July 14, 2010

Idea: Get a whole bunch of the small IKEA frames, some tiny cup hooks to screw into their top and bottom surfaces, and some chain from the hardware store, light enough that you can cut it with wire cutters, to connect the cup hooks. Hang the top one and let the rest dangle. Do several columns of these, either all at the same heights or with some variation. You might want to get some of that removable 3M doublestick foam stuff ("Command" brand, I think) to stick the bottom frame of each set to the wall so they don't sway in the breeze.

Alternative: Instead of the chain, you could get long lengths of wide ribbon and affix the backs of the frames to the ribbon at your desired intervals with a staple gun or tiny nails. Maybe too country though.

If it's the placement of the pictures on the wall that's daunting you, it might work to use a pad of easel-size Post-It paper marked like graph paper. Cover the area with sheets of that (use a level, of course) and figure out a standard interval, then put your nails right through the appropriate intersections. I haven't tried this myself but it seems like the easy way.
posted by lakeroon at 8:52 PM on July 14, 2010

how about these fotoclips?
posted by pinksoftsoap at 10:33 PM on July 14, 2010

Buy lots of frames for next to nothing at thrift stores, then create a wall where the vast variety of different frames and sizes and tones is part of the magic.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:56 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think these magnetic photo ropes may be exactly what you're looking for. Zero work, works well with color photos and much cheaper than buying a ton of frames. I absolutely love the look of these - am thinking about getting some myself when we finish our family room.
posted by widdershins at 6:03 AM on July 15, 2010

Oh, and I wouldn't worry too much about the pictures curling in the sunlight - assuming that you have the digital pictures stored somewhere it's no big deal to just print out a new copy if the old ones start to look bad.
posted by widdershins at 6:05 AM on July 15, 2010

Seconding harlequin, my last place I got a LOT of thrift frames of varying sizes, mostly small. But I didn't put photos in them in the usual sense. I just put up all the empty frames on the wall in a pleasingly crowded jumbly arrangement that I liked, and then tacked photos inside of the frames, 1 to a small frame, more to a bigger frame. A little warpiness, yeah, but not bad and it kind of added to the charm. Plus I could change them around easily or add or subtract. It looked pretty cool.
posted by umberto at 6:23 AM on July 15, 2010

This is barely framing, not expensive and only slightly vexing: I use Ikea Clips frames (cheap cheap cheap - four for a dollar) to frame and hang my vintage postcard collection. They only seem to come in 4x6 right now, though. (The slightly vexing part would be getting the clips on them without instructions - so here's how.)
posted by jocelmeow at 1:34 PM on July 15, 2010

Many labs will deliver them mounted for you. A step up from that, though not at all thifty, is canvas, which can look very grown-up. Done right, it makes photographic images look rather like a painting. But you really need to calibrate colors and get black point right, or you can end up with canvas prints that look muddy or otherwise not right. Find where the local wedding/portraits pros go to get their canvases done. That lab is may have a tech who can work with you in person to get the canvan print to look as you envision.

(Mpix is the consumer division of Millers, which is a pro's lab/finisher. They do their top-of-the-line work on the Miller's orders, where the clientele is very demanding. But I did a test run of Mpix and it wasn't terrible. I've gotten orders filled by EZ Prints' lab, via the pro service SmugMug. They were nearly as good as Millers, and have more variety of high-end options that Mpix.)

I've also seen prints to metal, and boy do they look minimalist, slick, and modern. Though I'm pretty sure the ones I've seen were printed by experts. You'd have to ask a pro lab who offers that. I don't think it's common.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:53 PM on July 15, 2010

You might check out this thread I started a while back.
posted by pollex at 8:27 PM on July 15, 2010

I saw a system in a small historical museum that I really liked.

A length of copper pipe was attached to the wall using conduit mounts. Holes had been drilled into the bottom of the pipe. Picture hanger wire was suspended from the holes, knotted at one end so that they didn't fall through. At the end of the wires were old school binder clips. Matted photos were suspended from the clips -- one clip for the left and right top corners of the mat.

Grip clips were also attached to the bottom left and right corners of the mats. Picture wire was attached to them, leading down to another row of photos.

I think they had three or four rows with six or eight photos across. It looked really cool.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:57 AM on July 16, 2010

My previous roommate did something totally awesome that I do not have a photo of. She found a stack of loose windows, (actually, not a difficult things to do in the alleys of Chicago in the summer, and mounted a photo inside each of the panes and hung those on the wall. They were 6 paned, wood and glass windows and already had a vintage look to them. I'm not sure how she mounted the photos to the glass- modge podge or something similar might work, but only on photos that you had duplicates of.... Anyway. Then with some hardware store hooks and strong twine, mounted them to the wall as you might one large painting. There were four of them on our walls, and it was always something that we received compliments on. Definitely an undertaking of a project, but the result was really stunning and unique.
posted by emilyclaire at 6:06 PM on July 16, 2010

Thank you all so much. You've given me so many ideas to think about. I really appreciate it!
posted by chummie26 at 7:08 PM on July 19, 2010

« Older Help me dye my hair red.   |   Nip Gyp in the Bud Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.