Gallery Wall —How to unify a mishmash collection of frames

When you host big parties do you feel desperate to finish every last project on your To-Do-list before the big event? I am awake early this morning worrying about just that. The Professor and I are preparing to host an open house for our son before he heads out to the Philippines for the next two years.

It’s human nature to be motivated when faced with a deadline. And hosting parties on special occasions often provide the best motivation, or kick in the pants needed to get things done. With a couple of months—or at least couple of weeks—warning, it seems perfectly possible to tackle a multitude of upgrades that you’ve been longing to get done.

Once you hit the “a few weeks to go” mark, however, its best to put the tools away, focus more on individuals and the occasion, and worry less about the house. Oh, it pains me to even write that sentence. How I’d love to open a can of paint, rip up old carpet, and what house doesn’t need more pot lights? Making holes in the ceiling is so much fun … No, no, no—focus!

Instead I am going to make what I have done thus far in the house sparkle as much as possible. That means some extra cleaning factored into my schedule—yuck! But its true, I am most in love with my home when it is clean and tidy. Trends come and go, but cleanliness never looses its charm.

In order to restrain the urge to do more. I am going reflect on what I have done most recently. And put my energy into only one, significant, purely aesthetic upgrade: a gallery wall in my newly renovated Powder Room …


The professor helped me come up with a clever way to adorn the walls using images from old books and magazines. Which serves a dual purpose: finding a use for items long since tucked away on basement shelves (those books and magazines) or in random cupboards. In particular, a stash of picture frames collected over the years. I think the results make a fun statement … WIN, WIN.


Most of the images were found in copies of National Geographic the Professor “rescued” from the cottage years ago. I threatened to toss them out many times but he assured me he was holding on to them for good reason. In fact for this very purpose.


In addition to the ads from the magazines, a couple of the images came from this little gem above. I don’t know where we picked the book up. I will tell you that wit and humor have changed a “little” in the last century. Many of the editorials in it could not be considered feminist friendly. Regardless, the carefully selected illustrations offer a visitor something to smile at as they dry they’re hands, while standing at the washstand.


Once the images and frames were sorted I played around with the layout. My dining room table is roughly the same dimension as the wall space I needed to fill, so it gave me a good tableau upon which to experiment with my arrangement.

Once the layout was fixed, I gathered the frames to be sprayed a gloss black. When using a mishmash of frames to create a collage of pictures, spray paint becomes the great unifier. The room already has a lot going on with the wallpaper, lighting and washstand details. Two of the frames had a gold finish. I left them as is to break up the black and to tie the gallery back to the brass accessories in the room.


Then I got side-tracked, with who knows what, and the frames sat for weeks before cutting the mats and assembling the pictures. This was a big time waster. When I got back to the project I had forgotten which images went in what frame etc. Lesson learned: make better notes (you have a camera in your cell phone silly) if you have to set a project aside and then come back to it at a future date.


Eventually, I got around to cutting the mats. You need to measure both the inside dimension of the frame and your desired “window” opening. By cutting the mats myself not only did I save quite a bit of cash but it was the best way to make use of my garage sale collection of frames. Each mat was custom cut.

I used a Logan Mat cutter, a large straight edge, two C-clamps and some rudimentary math skills to complete the job. It takes practice to get the feel for it. But like most DIY tasks it can be learned if you are willing and have the patience.


To avoid marking the fresh walls, I hung the frames with 3M Command Picture Hanging Strips. They work brilliantly. One word of caution however is to press each strip to the wall individually for a full 20 seconds. This is a bit tedious but worth the effort as all the images will hang perfectly straight forever after.


For me the results were worth it. I have a gallery of images unique to my home, to my taste and to my sense of humour. Come visit my Powder Room and enjoy the reading on the wall. Now back to cleaning. If I get my chores done early I still have a few “tiny” projects I’ll do just for fun. Shh! don’t tell the Professor.

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