We’ve been on a mission at our house to integrate more family photos into our space. It was easy to start with photos of the kids (because they’re so darn cute!) but that is only part of our story. So we’re dusting off the old family photo albums and enlisting other family members to help us on our mission. And it’s fantastic.
I’m sharing this DIY because the process of building a gallery wall to display your family photos will ultimately lead you to so many positives. You’ll dig through old boxes and albums and look at all those memories you hadn’t thought about in so long. You might call a few family members and reconnect to help gather more photos or tell you the story behind an image you found tucked in a drawer. And in the end, you’ll proudly display a visual depiction of where you came from, celebrating a host of heirlooms that would otherwise be forgotten.
The best place to start is by gathering your content. Dig out those albums and see what you’re working with here.
I was fortunate to have a ton of photos that had been passed down to me, but we actually started this project with the long, panoramic photos you see in the center of the wall. Shane’s grandfather had these hanging in his wood shop at the farm, so he asked his Granny if these were something he could have for our home. Thankfully, she said yes.
If you don’t have a lot to work with, that’s OK too. Give your family members a call, I find there is generally at least one person that is the historian of the family and they’re always a great place to start if they’re willing to give up a few things to help you out.
As an aside, take in all the details of these treasures as you’re going through and gathering. I loved looking at the handwriting, studio signatures and text on these military photos and I wanted to ensure these details would be celebrated in our final display.
MAKING YOUR SELECTIONS
I like to keep a very open mind when working with heirlooms because ultimately you’ll find something that you really connect with and all of a sudden your project will take an entirely different turn.
Laying out all of your photographs and picking your favorites to narrow the field will quickly help you see what you have. There are a few ways to go about this process.
Think about family members that you have the strongest connections to – maybe someone you were close to during your childhood, your namesake, or someone who shared a hobby or job that aligns with yours now.
Look for common themes. Because we were starting with the military grouping shots and we had a lot of photos from both sides of our families from when they were in the service, it was a natural theme for us to go with. Find yours.
And sometimes a photo will just be so visually interesting that you fall in love. Put those into a pile as well and see where that takes you. We also stuck with all black + white photos, even though there were two images that could have worked but were in a toned color so we decided to table them for the greater good of the outcome.
PLAN YOUR SPACE
As I mentioned, sometimes your project will take on a new form so be open to being nimble with the ultimate goal of finding the best home for your treasures to be celebrated for generations.
We were working with a few factors here, but the biggest being that I really wanted to decorate our main floor powder room. It’s a small space so I felt we could make a big impact easily in there with these oversized panoramics. I decided to stick to focusing on a single wall, again for a greater impact.
Depending on how many photos you are looking to incorporate and the size of your space, I’ve found there are two great ways to get a gallery look. Either go big and do the standard symmetrical, evenly spaced frames to add consistency. Or, go small and do lots of little frames of different shapes and sizes but oftentimes pushing them more closely together in a cluster will give you a better look when taking this route.
I’m not a measure + hang kind of girl so my husband generally does the actual hanging part. But the beauty of shiplap is that I can pretty much get my hammer and nail and hang anything anywhere I so please. Pros + cons my friends, pros + cons.
THINK OUTSIDE THE FRAME
We were so fortunate to have another amazing component to our gallery wall story. As I mentioned, Shane’s grandfather has a woodshop at the farm that remains nearly intact and his treasured, handmade projects from over the years are scattered around the homes of all of his family members.
The wooden frames we used for this project were all handmade by his grandfather in his shop – amazing addition to this beautiful story. The little triangle spike nails and perfect corners just give nod to his craftsmanship and we were so thankful to incorporate these into the project.
By thinking outside of the frame, I simply mean think of ways you can bring your gallery wall to life beyond just the photo. Storytelling is one way of doing this. Make sure you do your research and learn everything you can about each photo you are displaying. The ability to share the story of what was happening in the scene and who is in the photo will help serve your storied home.
Another thing I love about bringing old photos to life is finding objects that somehow relate to the photo and using them in the room or on the wall. A great example, we could have gathered a handful of the military medals or pins from our family members in the photos and made a grouping of them in the room. Seeing a “US” pin on the shoulder of my grandfather in the photo and then having that actual pin there right next to it is an amazing way to connect to the heirloom.
Other ideas might be a chair or home decor item that was in one of the photos, a pennant or hat. The possibilities are endless.
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I’d love to see how you’re displaying your own family photos and the stories behind your own collection at #HEIRLOOMED.