organizing family photos: You Asked I Answered

Personal photos can make a house a home. They add comfort and joy to a room. However, too many photos, dated/heavy frames, and poor placement can take away from a space, make it dated, and get little attention. I received this great question on Facebook regarding displaying family photos:

Ashely wrote:

How do you feel about family pictures in public spaces (dining room, living, etc.?) In researching, opinions seem to be split; however, more and more decorators say the idea of dark hallway and staircase family pictures are a thing of the past. I have an awesome grouping (three medium fr…ames with pre-arranged collages) that I absolutely love, and that my girls are proud of. We do have options of the traditional staircase or downstairs hallway; but it seems like a shame to “hide them” where most people would never see. They are professional dance pictures of the girls; however, most are fun and whimsical. What’s your take on family picture placement?


I began to address this by stating: Your photos sound very special to your family and should be hung where YOU like them. The ‘feeling’ you have in a space is more important than any rules for design. Now, photos and frames can look dated, or date a room- so consider how you display them. I’d like to share more on this.


So, more on this…Hallways and stairways can be can be overlooked, dull areas. However, you can stylize them with the appropriate layout and lighting.  I do have a long hallway that leads from the main living space to a guest bathroom. This is where I have a traditional line of 8X10 photos of my boys and a hanging rod gallery frame in the adjacent wall. All the frames are black with white matting. The key for the hallway is good lighting. We have recessed lighting which really illuminates the photos. It’s a high traffic hallway, so it works for us.  Now, I also keep framed photos on built-in shelves in the main living room. I do not prefer photos in all rooms of the home, but in designated areas and in groupings. I believe that photo placement depends on the scale of the pictures and finding the appropriate wall.  A couple of things for you to consider:


  • Personal photos should be flexible. Photos become dated when they remain in the same frame and in the same location. They become forgotten and should be swapped out periodically as your family grows. You can eventually move each of these to their bedrooms and create a special memory wall that’s unique to them.


  • Not all photos need to be hung. Placing them on shelves adds casual interest, dimension, and provides an updated impact. You may want to consider two shelves (top and bottom) with the frames spaced separtely, overlapped with individual photo pictures, and paired with vessels, or other decor items. Take clutter caution!


  • Your challenge is to give a collage set of frames deserving attention. They can be busy and loose photo focus. You may consider keeping collage frames in a play space or girls’ room and take the favorite ‘star’ pictures of your girls and create a wall gallery. This could include a mixture of photos, places, trips, and objects; such as, a mirror or a shadow box with their first pair of dance shoes.


  • Consider keeping meaningful family photos in a location your family can enjoy daily; such as, above a landing zone, entryway, or vignette. This adds warmth, and showcases your adored photos.


  • Whether it is a dining room, hallway, stairway, or family living space, gallery walls are updated, modern, and make a strong impact. By grouping photos on one wall, you create purpose and add a focal point to your space.


  • Consider this- if it seems obvious, is it interesting? Step outside of what you might normally do. Your home should be a symbol of your family and their artistic personalities.


There are numerous ideas on my Pinterest Wall Galleries Board; however, I selected some inspirational examples so that you can think creatively for your space.


photo gallery with shelving


add style and focus by displaying photos on shelves


by overlapping photo, you add dimension and style very clean and draws attention unified and clean


creates lots of interest, focus, and has decorative lighting modern and amazing


simple frames and clean lines keeps this light and attractive gallery over entry or landing zone


If you choose to do a wall gallery, here are a few easy tips for creating a template: (1) determine your layout and then lay the photos out on the floor face down (2) take a roll of wax paper or craft paper and trace each frame (3) trace each location for the nail (4) tape the paper in place on the wall (5) hammer the nails into the template and tear away the paper. You’re ready to hang your frames.  You may have to add proper picture hangers, or wire to the backs of your frame, or use a picture hanging kit for heavy frames. Heavier frames may also require drywall screws- know before you hammer!


I’ve included a sample of optional gallery layouts.  You can use this to get you started and then play with it to fit your personality and space.



Your home is your space of peace and serenity. Enjoy mixing it up and loving your memories for a long time to come. I hope this inspires you and gives you confidence in your decision. Thank you for being a part of You Asked I Answered!


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