Family Walls: Turn Your Family Photos into an Art Gallery

family walls

Family Walls: Turn Your Family Photos into an Art Gallery

Some people believe that art has to be exclusive or one-of-a-kind. Others choose art that is on trend. We believe that the best art is meaningful and makes the viewer feel something. There is one type of art that fits all of these descriptions: family

Your family is your greatest work of art, so put it on display. Family walls are not only on trend, but they are exclusive to you. No one else will have a photo of your brother napping in a wheelbarrow or your grandmother looking like a movie star on the beach. You have marvelous art sitting in boxes and albums or stored on your computers or cellphones — why not use them?

Victorians displayed family photos in their parlors. Having these photos was a sign of affluence and respect. In the years that followed, family photos slowly started moving upstairs until the trend became to hide them from visitors. Today, people are investing in photo shoots to capture gorgeous shots of engagements, pregnancies, kids playing in leaves, and more. The focus is shifting back to families, and this is resulting in some beautiful framed projects.

Ready to create a family wall but aren’t sure where to start? We’ve got you covered.

Tell Your Story

Copying an idea from social media is like pushing a square peg in a round hole. Instead of limiting yourself to their formula, start fresh.

Take all of the photos that interest you and have the most meaning, and spread them out over your table. Find the photos that have the best stories attached to them. From there, look at what anchors your family for you. Is it your grandparents wedding portrait? Your son’s baby photo? Is it an image of you and your brothers blowing bubbles in the yard? Whatever it is, set that photo aside and start to pull other images that relate to that anchor to build your story. 

You’ll start to come up with a theme as you sort through the images. We had a client who wanted to create a wall and tell the story of one family member. Another client wanted to display only wedding portraits of everyone from their grandparents to their grandchildren. Unless you know what you have before you start sorting, it is better to let the photos reveal the theme.

Start the Design

There are a few items to keep in mind before you start framing:

  • Take account of  your walls.
  • Evaluate your personal style.

You may have seen a gorgeous display where people have 4” of matting with black and white photos that look art gallery worthy.That style, however, may not fit your taste or you may not have room for something so large. It’s important to have a realistic view of your walls and your style. You only have so much wall space, and while you may love the ultra modern look you saw online, you may find that you’re a classic, colorful, tone on tone or antique lover at heart. 

Once you appraise this, you can start to choose framing. Gallery walls succeed when something is consistent. This doesn’t mean that every frame needs to have the exact same moulding or be the same size. You can have fun with your design and play with the moulding and mat combinations as well as the image size. Mary Lou recommends keeping one thing consistent for visual impact. This means that:

  • Your frames can be the same color or style (the same exact frame versus a variety of one color) OR
  • Your mats can be the same on each piece OR
  • All of your frames can match perfectly in moulding, mat, and size.

The beauty of this is that nothing has to be “matchy matchy” unless you want it to be. If you want to play with sizing, you’ll want to evaluate the photos themselves before committing to anything. Remember that you can work with your existing antique frames. Just because an image is in its original oval frame with convex glass doesn’t mean it can’t be flattered with today’s designs accompanying it.

Originals vs Copies

An original photo in great condition is always a home run on a family wall. A qualified framer can work with an original and make sure it has the microenvironment it needs to stay healthy on your walls. However, if your original has damage, is faded, or if you’d like the photo to be a different size, you’ll want to think about making a reproduction. Photo restoration includes repairing the damage, restoring vibrance, and printing at a specific size. This also allows you to use borrowed photos and share copies with family members as well as including them in your framing project.

There are photos that have limits to how large or how small they can go. It’s safe to say that an out of focus Polaroid from 1950 will not look fantastic printed as an 11×14. On the other hand, a large family portrait of 30 people will be hard to appreciate as a 4×6. It’s important to understand and acknowledge the limitations of your photographs as you work your way through your family wall design. Your viewing distance will hep determine placement of large and small pieces.

A Few Tips

  • Don’t be afraid to call your family to see what they are willing to share. If you’re looking for a specific photo or want to know what options are available, reach out to them. The worst thing they can say is “no.”
  • If you want a family wall, but aren’t sure of what you want, don’t worry. Knowing what you like or don’t like gives you a starting point. A pro can work with you to help share ideas and experience to take your design to the next level. 
  • Started a wall with a frame, but now it is discontinued? A custom frame shop can often find a frame that matches and can sometimes find the frame itself. Limiting yourself to box store frames on a shelf can stifle a family wall.
  • Embrace clean space. It can be tempting to fill an entire wall with photos, but restrain yourself. We’ve worked in hallways that allow for a long design with plenty of space on the sides, and we’ve designed walls with cathedral ceilings that give you more room on the top and bottom of the design. That clean space gives your eyes a break and prevents you from feeling too overwhelmed. You don’t want this to be too busy.

Family walls are always a fun project, and it is rewarding to see the end result. Our clients are so creative and have come up with some beautiful arrangements over the years. All it takes is one photo, and you could build your own art gallery out of your family’s stories. 

Looking for custom framing inspiration? Check out our custom framing gallery for new ideas.