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{Living Room} How to Hang A Picture Frame Gallery Wall

Update: Kim sent me a picture of the picture frame gallery wall at Panzur and I inserted it below.

Oh my goodness! It has been so fun to see everyone come through from Our Fifth House – thank you for your sweet emails! I have gotten so many great ideas from all the comments on Carmel’s post about our kitchen lighting dilemma. For today’s post, I’d planned to show you the project I did this weekend in the kitchen, but a reader noticed our the picture frame gallery wall in this post and asked about it – it’s a post I’ve meant to do for a while, so since that project preceded the kitchen project, let’s start there! 


To start at the very beginning, a few years ago our favorite restaurant put in a new installation where they hung empty picture frames layered on top of each other along a whole wall. I LOVED it – Kim is super creative and artisitc – and hoped to do one of my own someday.  


To start, I knew I’d need some cool, vintage (read: old) picture frames. In anticipation of moving into a bigger home, we spent a fair amount of time last summer poking through flea markets and little local antique stores. Well…I would actually call them picker or junk stores because they’re not fancy curated antique shops, which is perfect because things are a little more dusty, beat up, and inexpensive – exactly what I wanted! It was funny because most of the sellers couldn’t believe I wanted old beat up frames and would give them to me for free or just a few dollars. My favorite find was this turquoise frame from Mexico, part of a great day’s haul from a big flea market (see what I did with the antique scale here). 


After painting the whole loft, stairwell, and entry/living room, I was determined to get a few decorations up before our Second Thanksgiving feast. That morning I got out all my old frames and knew I’d need a few smaller ones to offset the three large ones I’d picked up. I’d bought a bunch of distressed white and light blue frames from Michaels (or HomeGoods…I think it was HomeGoods) a few months before and thought they’d fit in the with old frames. I removed their glass and backing which I stored safely in a box in the basement for if/when I wanted to use the frames for actual pictures. Tip: pick frames with similar colors to pull the wall together – in my case I went with antiqued blacks/grays and turquoise.

One lesson I learned when Jesse helped me with my first gallery wall was to lay out your whole plan on the floor, before you commit to holes in the wall. That’s the kind of planning that would never cross my mind and I use it all the time now! So, I laid them out in a few different patterns on the floor until I got the arrangement I liked. Then, I took a picture so I could reference it once I started hanging the frames.


To hang them, I started with the two largest frames that were to be flush to the wall and used little picture hanging nails (one or two nails depending on the mounting hardware the frames came with). Because they’re empty, the frames are super light, so I didn’t worry about finding studs (insert TimTheFarmer saying, “Plus you already found one.”). To hang the pictures the frames that were floating, I used longer picture nails which I only hammered in a little (enough to hold the weight, but far enough out to keep the frames off the wall). To keep them from getting wonky, I put a nail in behind the floating corners of the frames to keep them off the wall and fairly level/flush. The frame just rests on the nail in the bottom corner. Finally, to keep everything fairly level since there’s a fair amount of balancing going on, I stuck 3M mounting strips between the frames to hold them all together. I checked the straight lines both visually and with a level, and then accepted that they might be a teense off in places (let your OCD go, folks). I made a handy dandy nail (in pink) and 3M strip (in green) map below. The curvy arrow is the floating support nail. Let me know if it’s helpful or super confusing!


I’m not a big fan of whoever placed that darn thermostat in the middle of the wall (which we’ve since replaced with an even bulkier one I have to work around…but it saves us heating oil!), but I did take that into account when working on the layout. 


Also, I picked up the vintage ironing board and metal pot at one of those junk stores and the white table at a garage sale. I love all the old stuff you can find living on the East Coast! The metal buckets are from our wedding (from JoAnn Fabric) and the flowers are from Michaels.


To summarize the tips:

1. Gather your supplies: empty frames, 1 and 2 inch picture hanging nails, 3M mounting strips, hammer, and level.

2. Lay out your gallery wall on the floor, rearrange until you get a layout you like, and take a picture.

3. Start with hanging your largest pieces first that will be flush to the wall. Hang with smaller picture nails. 

4. Float your next round of frames by using longer picture nails that will keep the frames off the wall. Hammer your nails in enough to hold the frame, but leave enough extra to be above your first level of frames. Add a second nail in the wall at the bottom corner of your frame for your frame to rest on to keep it floating.

5. Take a step back and then use a level make sure the frames are generally level. Keep the frames from sliding on each other by sticking them together with 3M mounting strips. 

6. Cross your fingers that you’ve secured everything well enough that the teenager and dogs running through your house don’t make the frames wonky (luckily I did!).

Have you tried a picture frame gallery wall? Any tips to add?


Flat Roasted Lemon Chicken

FRlemonchickenIt’s Monday – how did that happen?! We had a busy, but productive weekend. After hosting an open house for students on Saturday, I drove all over the county picking up thrifted finds. I snagged a TV at the northern-most end of the county and then drove an hour south for two armchairs that I hoped would finished out our living room. I have a love-hate relationship with Craigslisting. Every now and then I score, like the time I found the weekenders clearing out their country home and picked up a ton of Pottery Barn furniture for $150. Usually though, I find allllmost the right thing. Like this weekend, the armchairs should have been perfect, but I didn’t realize when she said she was halfway through finishing a project, that she had actually painted the fabric. I guess if you sand it down, it’ll end up feeling like suede, but for now it feels like crunchy paper. Add that to my project list. But, they do finish the room out, so we’ll call it a draw.

Yesterday was great though – we made a lot of progress on setting up the house. I prepped the guest room for my parents’ visit this week; did the furniture shuffle to try to get our living room in order (i.e. moved the couch 3 times), set up the beginnings of the kiddo’s man-cave in the basement, hung the mirror and pictures in the guest bath, put hooks on the back every door I could get my hands on, and the kiddo and I are in a showdown for who gets to use this awesome picture in their decor. We also had one of our family’s favorite recipes: flat-roasted chicken.


The first Christmas I spent with TimTheFamer and the kiddo, they gave me this book. Aren’t they funny?? 


This book has awesome recipes and we’ve been eating the flat roasted chicken for years; it’s quick to get in the oven and amazingly juicy and flavorful. It’s also great because while this is cooking, you can make the rest of your side dishes. I made a couple slight tweaks to ensure we’re not cooking with vegetable fats. Make this tonight. Seriously!


Flat Roasted Lemon Chicken (Paleo)
Serves 4
Quick and easy whole roast chicken
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 min
  1. 1 whole chicken
  2. Coarse salt (pink Himalayan sea salt is best)
  3. Freshly ground pepper
  4. 4 tbsp butter
  5. 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  6. 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  7. 2 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
  8. 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 400*F.
  2. Using kitchen shears, cut the backbone out of the chicken. Place it skin-side up on the cutting board and push down on the breastbone with both hands to flatten it out.
  3. Season both sides of chicken liberally with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat 3 tbsp of butter over high heat in large ovenproof skillet (cast iron is best).
  5. Add chicken, skin side down and allow to brown for 3-4 minutes (don't move it!).
  6. Using two sets of tongs, turn the chicken over and transfer skillet to the oven.
  7. While chicken cooks, whisk together the olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt and pepper and 1 tbsp of lemon juice.
  8. Cook for 40-45 minutes until chicken is brown and cooked through. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part should reach 165*.
  9. Remove the chicken to the cutting board to rest.
  10. Return the skillet to the heat and add remaining lemon juice and butter to pan and swirl around.
  11. Cut chicken into pieces to service and drizzle with pan drippings and lemon garlic sauce.
  1. The sauce is key. Don't skimp on the sauce.
  2. DON'T grab the pan handle without an oven mitt when it comes out of the oven. Trust me on this one.
  3. Freeze the bones to make broth or stock.
Adapted from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn
Adapted from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn
Isn't That Grand?