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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! 

GalleryWall1

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.  

Panzur

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). 

ThriftingFInds

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.

WallPlan

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!

WallNailMap

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. 

GalleryWall2

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.

GalleryWall3

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?