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DIY Photo Gallery for Under $150

Remember last week when I confessed that in a fit of insanity I decided to repaint my entire downstairs five days before hosting Christmas?  Meet the instigator of my mental instability – my new photo wall.  I’ve wanted to do this for soooo long but the cost and degree of difficulty involved always seemed prohibitive.
Then last week the stars aligned and I stumbled upon a huge frame sale at Michaels (which is still going on) PLUS I got an additional 25% off coupon by email.  My husband and I knew that taking on this project would mean repainting the wall as well as hanging all the frames (the paint job was just too poor to survive the pencil marks and chalk lines).  And since we have an open lay out, painting that wall would mean painting every other wall (we had no idea what color the previous owners used and no idea how to perfectly match it).  But we also knew if we didn’t do it immediately, we wouldn’t do it at all.  (We’re nothing if not pressure performers – to the point that we can also be champion procrastinators.)  So we bit the bullet and dove in.
Why am I babbling on about all this?  Because along the way I learned that it can be really hard to recreate a perfectly square pottery barn-esque photo display and I thought I’d save you the headache by laying out the exact frames and method I used.  Remember, that sale is still going on so you can run out and duplicate this today if you want!  Ready to get started?  Great – click through for the details.

First off, let me apologize for not having the brand name of these frames.  I saved the info. in preparation for this post but it got tossed out with all the torn up wrapping paper somehow.  But don’t fret, these were the only collection of brown frames that included a matte that I saw.  So if you want to recreate this look exactly, it shouldn’t be a problem. (And they also have the frames in black if you prefer.)  Before the sale and coupon, these frames would have been well over $300 and I scored them all for less than half that!
The overall dimensions of this display is 45″ tall x 75″ wide.  You could easily space things out a bit more to cover a larger area but I wouldn’t recommend moving them any closer together – too cramped and cluttered looking.  You’ve probably noticed that I used my 16×20 inch canvas print in the layout.  If you don’t have one of those laying around, you can simply buy 3 of the frames that fit a 10×13 inch photo instead of 2 as they’re the same size as the canvas.  Here’s the layout exactly, the sizes refer to the size of the matted photo in the frame:
top row: 10×13, 5×5, 5×7, double 5×7, 11×14
center: 10×13
bottom: 11×14, double 5×7, 10×13 or 16×20 canvas, two 5x5s
And here are some general tips for recreating my layout or customizing one for your space:
  1. The best way to really see if you can get a bunch of different sizes to fit into one big square in an eye-pleasing way is to lay all the frames out as you plan to hang them.  I got a lot of funny looks when I spent 30 minutes staring at all these frames splayed out on the floor at Michaels but in the end it was worth it.
  2. Once everything is laid out and you’ve eyeballed that it will look OK, measure both the layout and the intended wall to figure out the size of your display.  On the floor, mine was around 74″ wide but my bookcase was 75″ so I decided to go with that.
  3. Once you have your dimensions, figure out how wide and tall all the frames are together and subtract to see how much space you have to work with between each photo.  For example, if the total width of all 5 frames on the top row is 69″ then: 75 – 69 = 6 so you have 6 inches of spacing to work with.  Since there are 4 spaces between the 5 frames, you may want to hang the 1st and 2nd frames 2 inches apart, the 2nd and 3rd 1 inch apart, the 3rd and 4th 1 inch apart, and the 4th and 5th 2 inches apart.
  4. Work your way from the outside in.  For this display I hung the bottom and top rows in this way and then simply centered the black and white wedding picture.  I did the same for the middle square photo of C on the beach.
  5. Finally, I really like the clean look of matted photos in the same frame but it can get a little too traditional for me.  To make it a bit more modern, I added interest by using the canvas, leaving out a matte on one of the photos, and keeping our wedding shot in black and white (plus double matting it with a colored matte).
I hope all of that was reasonably clear, if you have questions just leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.  Here’s hoping this will help a few of you keep one more resolution in 2012!
P.S. If you’re looking for a good place to get photos and enlarged prints to put in the frames, check out RitzPix.com.  We have no affiliation but the photographer that did our family photos recommended them and I’ve been blown away by the photo quality and affordability.  Plus they have deals going all the time, last week the were selling 11×14 inch prints for 5 bucks!


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