Gallery Wall For The Design Commitment Phobes.

Taking a break from the series on recommended baby registry items, I wanted to share one thing that has changed in our house lately.

Turtle, Not Hare.

I am always a litte jealous of people who move into a house and make it look just like a home in a week. Their boxes are unpacked and frames on the walls, dishes washed and put away, and everything looking like it’s been there for a year.

That is not me.

Since we moved, I have put up very few items on the walls in our home. It isn’t that I don’t want to make our house reflect our personalities, but it’s that I am very PICKY about things that go up. Like a turtle that wins the race, I take my sweet time. Granted, it doesn’t make me feel like the winner. But it’s how I function.

Why? Because I don’t like punching holes in the wall unless I KNOW I want something there, and I want to do it right so that I don’t drive myself crazy with regretting how it looks or worry about it falling down on our kids.

I hate hanging curtains or pictures. I want it done perfectly, and perfect picture or curtain hanging is not something I have not mastered.

So what tends to happen is that I leave my walls blank for a while until I find several things that I really love and know I can commit to putting on my walls, then I call Lanier Mitchell, a sweet man from my hometown, who hangs curtains and artwork for a living, and I pay him to hang it all for me. He makes it look easy instead of like the pain in the rear it is when I do it.

So let’s get to it.

For years, I have looked at gallery walls online. I’ve pinned photos and tried to decide what my favorite layout would be. I’ve wondered where in my house I could possibly cover a wall in photos without having them knocked askew and smudged by dogs and children non-stop.

Then, we moved, and I started trying to figure this out again in a new house.

So when I saw this picture ledge from Ikea, I felt like I could put as many picture frames up high on a row or two of those as I could on entire wall with a gallery layout:

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The one I liked the most is the Mosslanda picture ledge from Ikea for only $10-$15 depending on the length.  You can see them here. 

This is a great item for people like me who want to put something up but not be stuck with a layout which they cannot change and that riddles their wall with holes.

Print what you want to preserve.

^That sentiment is one that my wedding photographer says a lot, and I agree with her. We live in an age where so many of our pictures are digital and stay that way. Tom and I have not been great about printing out or ordering pictures, and we tend to just let our shared pictures scroll on the television via Apple TV like a screensaver. I wanted more than that.

I love the idea of displaying both current photos and old family pictures of my grandparents and Tom’s when they were young. My grandparents and all but one of Tom’s have passed away, and being able to see their images and talk about them is something that matters to us. We want our girls to feel like they knew these wonderful people they missed out on and to know how fortunate they are to know the ones they have met.

And it happened. As soon as I brought the pictures, in, Piper asked me “who is that??” while pointing to a high school picture of my Papa. I told her, “he’s your Papa’s dad. MY Papa.” Her response? “I wish he could hold me.” Me too, baby girl.


I also want to be able to show pictures of our little family.

So I ended up collecting frames for over a year. All different styles so it would look more organically collected (as it was) than as a set. Most were from consignment sales for a few dollars. I decided to paint them all white.


And guess what? Turns out that even 3 cans of spray paint was not enough to cover them all without having some of the color underneath show through. Oh joy. I get to take some back down and repaint later.

So if you do this, I’d suggest a ridiculous amount of spray paint or simply using chalk paint instead. (Ignore the non-frame objects at the bottom of the picture. I’ll explain those in a later post.)


I was going to let it dry overnight, but rain rolled in, so I brought them inside around 1AM, when I finished up what I was doing (which was wrapping 14 Christmas presents and an enormous birthday present).

But I am a night owl with a serious problem of staying up late when there is something crafty or pretty to work on. Instead of going to sleep, I started cleaning the frames up, reassembling them with mats, deciding which pictures go in which frames, and before I knew it, it was past 5AM. Because who needs sleep when you have two small children to care for all day? Oops.


A short 4 and a half hours after I shared that picture, Mr. Lanier showed up to help us get some stuff on the walls, including my ledges. The wall was not perfectly flat, so the ledges don’t line up seamlessly. Because I know how good at his job he is, I could accept that without frustration. If it was me doing it, I would have kept trying uselessly to fix it until I had such an enormous hole in the wall, it wouldn’t hold the ledge at all. Ahh, the joy of giving the worst jobs to a pro.

So here is what it looked like when we got done (it may be a tad dark because I didn’t turn the hall light on, and it was cloudy outside, blocking some of the natural light):



It’s not completely finished- there are some pictures that don’t properly fit their frames, some frames that need replacement glass, and I still don’t have any old pictures of Tom’s grandparents, so I will have to add more frames later when I do.

But that’s the great thing about this. I can change it, move things around, swap out pictures easily, update as the girls grow, even rotate pictures to go with the seasons. I’m considering the idea of draping it with a long, fresh cedar garland next Christmas. Can’t do that with a normal gallery wall! (Well, not without using more stuff to hold the garland.)

I love that these ledges are deep enough to hold multiple frames in the same space. Overlapping them is a look I like, and I’ve moved things around a bit since I took those pictures- it has frames 3 deep in some places now.

So was it expensive?

I hate the way money gets in the way of pretty. If resources were unlimited, I would go to town. But the reality is that we have bills and college to save for and want to pay off our mortgage, so sometimes (most times) decorating comes in low on the list. All the different pieces of a design project can add up. This project was fairly budget friendly though.

 I used 3 cans of spray paint, frames I already had and ones I bought consigned, 2 long ikea ledges, 4 short ikea ledges, and pictures that I got for free or on sale at Shutterfly (they had tons of freebies this fall, leaving me to only pay for shipping),  one picture that was given to me, and canvases I bought at on massive sales (they have those a lot). Other than what I paid to have the shelves installed, everything you’re looking at here totaled under $150.

That’s a lot of bang for a little buck, and it gave a big dose of personality to our house. It’s in the hallway off the foyer, which means that when you open our front door, you see this double row of mixed frames filled with pictures old and new.

Finding ways to get spaces that I like without killing the budget has become a must-do thing for me.

My family (the one I grew up in, not the one I’m raising) is a little weird this way: We all love a good deal and cannot keep it to ourselves. My mom likes to get a good deal and not tell you how much she saved, but my dad is the opposite- telling you how much he saved on what you wanted and received from him is almost as good as giving the gift itself. And my siblings and I fall somewhere in the middle.

I get so excited over a good deal, it’s kind of hard to not share the savings victory, even with the gift recipient. I have learned to not do that for most people (thanks, Mom!), though my sister and I pretty much always blab our savings to each other. (This blog lets me do a lifestyle version of that for my house!)

All that to say that my mom (and HGTV) taught me this pearl of wisdom- find out where you can save and where you can splurge- mix those items tastefully, and voila- it all comes off looking more expensive than it was.

If you can get cheap frames and paint them to look like you want, inexpensive but sturdy ledges on the cheap from ikea, and free or 90% off regular price pictures accumulated over a year, then you have successfully cut the cost of this project to about a third of what it would cost otherwise, which means you can splurge a little by having someone who gets everything just right come hang it all on the walls.

Trust me on this one- find good things for cheap, and put a little work into them so you can save your money for the things/services that never go on sale but that you desperately want. I’ve used this save/splurge mentality for Jo and Piper’s nurseries, big girl rooms for Jo and for Pipes, birthday parties, holidays, and more. It’s just a way of life now.

I’ve found that having a budget pushes me to be more creative. I have to find ways to mix what I’ve got and what I can make with what I purchase to create the beauty I want to see in my home in an affordable way. And I’m always prouder of something that stretches me that way than of something I can just buy.

Worth the wait.

Like I said, it took me a year to get here. Collecting inexpensive frames that I liked the look of took time. Other consignment shoppers would bypass a frame with potential in its pretty details because it was the wrong color or due to the boring or cheesy artwork inside it. I would pay a few bucks for it, rip the artwork out, pop out the mat, and spray the frame and mat a matching shade of white.

It also took time to acquire all the photos at a low cost. Freebies pop up on occassion, sales run all the time. I prefer free, of course, but sometimes a really great sale is also a good way to go.

End Result

It makes me so happy. Seriously, it’s hard for me to explain how much joy it gives me to FINALLY get a gallery wall after years of wanting one. And after a year of living in this house, we finally have some walls with personality! YES.

What do you think? Are you a picture ledge person or a gallery wall fan? I think they’re both beautiful, but I definitely love the flexibility these shelves gave me!


2 thoughts on “Gallery Wall For The Design Commitment Phobes.”

  1. I love the way the gallery wall turned out! Great job! FYI if you spray paint the frames with primer first and then use the white paint you won’t need as many coats.

    1. Thank you! The spray paint I used was primer and paint in one, which I why I bought 3. I figured the first can would prime it, and the next two would ensure good coverage. They just ran out more quickly than anticipated!

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