I wrote this post a couple of years back but I still get a lot of questions about it so I decided to repost it here on my new blog for you DIY’ers.
I have been dreaming of this project for a very long time, but because M and I are renting a home here in Reno, I have put virtually $0 into home decor. It’s just not my house and I haven’t felt like putting too much effort into the house that we could potentially move out of at any moment. I love decorating, though, so I have really been wanting to frame some new photos. I think personal photos are the best way to make a house a unique home (outside of paint color). I love looking at other people’s photos in their homes when I visit. I want to make sure (especially as a photographer) that I have enough up of our lives to tell our story a bit.
So, I just decided that it was time to put together a gallery wall with some of our favorite family photos. I also decided I was going to go big. This is exactly what I had in mind when I set this project in motion:
The wall leading up the stairs in this house is big, it’s high, and it’s bare. It’s also painted the grossest color of not-quite-white-and-not-quite-cream. The dude that owns this house was clearly not on the swiss coffee train when he picked out this color (he also doesn’t understand that different rooms require different sheens as evident by the touch-ups he did around the house, but that’s a different post). I decided that colored frames was where I was going to start. This foyer and staircase need some color in a bad way.
I love the look of scalloped frames. Going big on framing can equal big money, though, so I was sure I’d have to settle for only one shaped frame and just go square for the rest. I did a lot, i mean, a lot of hunting around. We’re talking months and months worth.
I started with Organic Bloom, Poppy Tree, and Zin Frames. All amazing frame companies. They make an amazing product. I would have snapped up the frames from these companies in a heart beat except one thing…it’s out of my budget for a home decor project right now. Like, way out. I wanted my center frame to be 20×30 (yea, big, see?). I’m looking at $100+ on that single frame alone and that’s not including prints.
So, it’s DIY time.
Enter Cut It Out Frames. $35.99 for the largest frame? Now that, I can handle.
I ordered 8 frames from Cut It Out. All of them were unfinished so I knew I had some work ahead of me.
Instagram: This is what they looked like out of the shipping materials. They were in perfect condition. Well done, Cut It Out!
I got the following frames:
The total cost? $128.92. Yea, that’s right, people. What I was going to buy 1 frame for, I got 8. I am so drinking the Cut It Out kool-aid.
Problem: I won’t lie, because this place is so rad, they’re busy and it took my frames a long time to arrive. Like, a month and a half. Worth. The. Wait.
As soon as they came in, I took inventory of what I was working with and I took the quilt I made for the living room to Michael’s Craft Store to grab some paint colors. I am trying to keep these colors consistent throughout the entire downstairs. I ended up with these colors:
I should have gotten 2 bottles of each color (especially the orange because that seemed to take 17 coats), but I like to make projects harder than they should be by getting only one and taking a second trip to the craft store. It’s just how I roll. At $1 a bottle (coupon) I spent $7 on paint and $2 on foam brushes.
Problem: There’s no glass in these frames (just a cardboard backing). So I had to go on a little hunt for glass.
I started at the dollar store for glass. Here I got my 4×6, 2 5×7’s and 2 8×10’s for $5 total. I then went to Wal-Mart for the 11×14 piece of glass for $5. I just threw out all the cheap frames and kept the glass. For the larger pieces (16×20 and 20×30), I found THIS PLACE. If I had found it before running around looking for large glass pieces, I would have just ordered it all from Glass4PictureFrames.com to save myself the trip to Wal-Mart (I hate this store). The 16×20 is $7.28 and the 20×30 is $13.65.
Next, I picked the photos that I wanted to add to the wall and edited them. I converted them all to black & white to make the frame colors pop. I also created a little sketch showing the frame size, the photo in the frame and the color of the frame for future reference.
Instagram: my photo order and gallery wall sketch
Let’s talk about photos. This is the place where I did not cut corners on cost. I ordered all of my prints through a professional lab, with the linen texture, mounted on board and coated with the non-glare coating. These pictures may well be in my house and on my walls when I’m old and grey. They will last this long. The board keeps them from warping in the frame, the coating keeps them looking beautiful. My mom had a mounted and textured photo of my brothers and I on her walls with no glass covering it for 25 years and it still looks as good as the day she hung it up.
You can see the linen print texture in this photo. Also notice how it’s not reflecting too much light because of the coating.
Photo quality is not the place to skimp, in my opinion. If you had your photos taken by a professional photographer, order your wall prints through them. The professional labs make a HUGE difference (even in black and white photos). I promise you won’t be disappointed by the color and quality you get over non-pro labs. I would recommend Mpix to you guys if you’re not printing at a pro lab. Please, please, please don’t do Target, Wal-Mart, Costco or Walgreens. Please. The colors are just so different. Get your photos (at least the large ones) mounted. They’ll last forever. If you are interested in having your photos printed at a pro lab and are not a photographer, please let me know and I can give you my pricing list so you can have that option. I’ll even edit your photos a bit for you. It’s important.
Finally, I had a selection of my instagram photos printed in a collage from Paper Coterie. This print is the center 20×30 frame and the only one that is in color. It’s HUGE. I am in love with this part of the project. The collage is printed onto self-adhesive (and removable) fabric, so it matches the linen texture of all my other photos. It is amazing quality is very, very reasonably priced ($29.00 for 20×30). I simply peeled the backing off and stuck it down to the cardboard frame backing. Easy. Super cute.
Tip: I used the website www.instaport.me to download all of my instagram photos, pick the photos I wanted to use, and then upload to the Paper Coterie website.
Then, I painted all the frames with at least 2 coats of paint (some more than others). Once the painting was done, I went over the edges of the frame with some dark brown ink from an ink pad to add some contrast. I put the photos in the frames and voila, done!
I love how it came out. It really brightens up the foyer and brings some great memories to our walls.
What do you think? Are you going to do it too? I feel like I got more than enough “bang for my buck” with this project. It makes a big statement and the price was not as much as a piece of furniture…by far. I’m really happy.
Love it!!! I am excited that we will be looking for a place of our own soon and now I have some new ideas for decorating!
Ahhh I love the collage!! Thanks for the idea. I too have a family photo wall on our stairway, but would like to update it. ❤️
Love, love, love the photo collage, but it looks like Paper Coterie has gone out of business. Are you aware of any other companies capable of printing a collage this size?
I love this! We painted our walls a neutral gray so we could accessorize with color. Right now I just have pics in boring frames. I’m totally going to add this to my project list! Once again you are an inspiration!
5 Comments on Get Your Frame On: a DIY gallery wall project