A Modern, Kid-Friendly, Family Gallery Wall in the Dining Room

I knew once we freed up this wall in the dining room by changing the barn door into a pocket door, it would be the perfect place for some family pictures. However, when I mentioned the idea to Chris–especially the part when I described it as a 9 frame grid taking up the wall floor to ceiling–he was a little hesitant, “I don’t want it to look cluttered.” Maybe I should have left out the “floor to ceiling part”–Ha! But his concerns were valid. To the right of this wall, we have a dark accent wall with a large wood-cut print and to the left of this wall are our black kitchen cabinets.

Before starting, we put our heads together and came up with a few must-haves that we both could agree on for this gallery wall. It was important for it to be:

1. Light. Keeping this wall looking non-cluttered and light immediately nixed darker frames, but I wasn’t letting go of a floor-to-ceiling look just yet.
2. Kid Friendly. Because we have small children, having glass-front frames low to the ground immediately puts up a high-alert flag–something we try to keep our home free of when decorating. We’ve seen a few friends swap out the glass in lower hanging frames with acrylic pieces, which sounded like a great option for us. The other problem to solve would be frames constantly being knocked off (or taken off) the wall by little hands or people walking by this high-traffic area of the house.
3. Interchangeable. Lastly, I wanted to be able to easily update the photos. Our family is growing right before my eyes, and since this was going to be a limited grid gallery of nine frames, I really wanted to have the option to swap out photos on a whim.

I’m happy to say that we came up with something that checked off all of our marks and then some! Here’s how that wall looks now:

We ordered the 16×20 Acrylic Frames with brass standoffs from an Etsy shop called Highland Hardware. They have a bunch of sizes, thousands of sales and lots of good reviews, which helped us trust the quality of the product, but it ended up being the perfect thing for what we wanted. Each “frame kit” came with two, individually wrapped and coated pieces of pre-drilled acrylic, the hardware for hanging and the brass bolts (you can also choose stainless steel).

While I worked on peeling the protective paper off the front and back of each piece of acrylic, Chris started putting the brass bolts into place on the wall, attaching an anchor first. This may seem like a small thing, but having the back bolts in place first, made me so happy knowing that swapping out the photos would be even easier down the line because they location of each frame will always be lined up and straight!

I sorted through a bunch of candid family photos (and one or two more formal ones–like our last family photo we had taken) and gathered a good group of 9 vertical shots and had them printed in black and white 8x10s at Walgreens. After I picked them up, I mounted them on white, standard-sized cardstock so there was a small border around each one (with a larger border at the bottom like you might see in a printed polaroid) to help them pop off the wall a little bit more since there is no mat with these frames.

Once the bolts were in place and the photos were mounted, it was a breeze to screw the front brass bit, through the acrylic and into the back. I did use a small rolled piece of scotch tape to attach each photo to the back piece of acrylic so they would stay in place while I was hanging each one.


One other thing I was mindful of when laying out the photos was the grayscale. Some black and white photos are mostly gray, some have a lot of white and some have a lot of darks. I tried to make sure each row and column had only of each–or you can just space them out if you aren’t interested in playing photo Sudoku.

We’re so happy with how this project came out! That the frames aren’t going anywhere, that they’re acrylic and not glass, that the whole thing still feels light and airy, but most of all–the pictures of our family make me smile, without fail, every time I walk past.

 

SOURCES

Acrylic Frames | Dining Table | Plastic Molded Dining Chairs | Dining Room Chandelier (similar) | Black Windsor Dining Chairs | Wall Color-Benjamin Moore Hazy Skies | Large Tree Rings Print | Wood Pocket Door 



67 Comments

  • Reply June 22, 2017

    Melissa

    I’d love to see a photo of the wall at a different time of day. This may help reflect a true picture of the space, without so much glare. Many have said the frames make the wall look cluttered, but possibly a picture with less natural light will show how light the frames really are.

  • Reply June 5, 2017

    Susie

    We did something similar in our living room a few months ago, and I love that they are so kid friendly! So when the inevitable happens (like a toy being thrown), you don’t have to worry about a glass mess!

    We were told not to clean the acrylic with ammonia based (windex) cleaners because it will cloud the surface, although I haven’t tested that theory out because I was too scared, lol.

    http://www.tinyhousegiantlife.com/diy/simple-stunning-affordable-art-frame/

  • Reply June 5, 2017

    Morgan

    This post really inspired me! Over the weekend, we did our own DIY version! It was a lot cheaper, but man, drilling thru that acrylic has quite the learning curve!!

    I’d love for you to check it out >>
    http://www.charlestoncrafted.com/2017/06/05/diy-knock-off-wall-mounted-acrylic-frame-gallery-wall/

    • Reply June 5, 2017

      Julia

      It turned out awesome!!!

  • Reply June 4, 2017

    Meagan

    This looks fantastic, love it!!

  • Reply June 4, 2017

    Cait

    I LOVE this! Its eye-catching, I do not see it being cluttered at all. It’s simple and modern. (My guess is some people don’t realize this wall is between 2 rooms, lots of openness going on!) The brass flows so nicely in your home with all your other brass accents! Now I need to find a spot in my home for at least one of these beauties!

  • Reply June 1, 2017

    Annika Miller

    Hi Julia!
    FYI from a professional photographer: The pro photo lab that I use also owns http://www.mpix.com, a printing lab geared towards consumers with super affordable prices and top-notch quality. Although I can’t tell much about the printing quality of your photos here (you are happy so that’s what matters!) as a general rule Mpix prints outperform Walgreens and Wal-Mart prints. It is simple to order from their website and they ship to your door in record time. You can also make books, holiday cards, and family photo gifts in addition to prints. I always refer clients to mpix when they’ve purchased digital files and printing rights. While I’m sharing this because I truly believe in the company, this link should give new customers $5 off their first order http://i.refs.cc/4CaILkYO

    Acrylic frames are so classy. I’ve been eyeing them lately, too!

    • Reply June 1, 2017

      Julia

      Great tip! Thank you! I’m mediocre on the print job from walgreens. Some of the contrast is a little harsh, so I’ll definitely check Mpix out!

  • Reply June 1, 2017

    Martha

    This reminds me of something I might see on the wall of The Gap advertising clothes.

  • Okay, I’m utterly obsessed with this gallery wall and am already scheming where to recreate the look in our own home. Also, what the heck is wrong with people these days?! Major eye-rolling happening at nearly half these comments – ridiculous!

  • Reply June 1, 2017

    Libby

    Looks beautiful! Any tips on hanging anchors, etc on the wall outside the pocket door “pocket”? We tried once and didn’t measure well/pay great attention… We poked a hole in the pocket door while it was pushed back!! Now I’m scared to go for it again… (Hope that question makes sense!)

    • Reply June 1, 2017

      Julia

      Ahh!!! We were so worried about that, too and probably checked a dozen times during the process. We were just super mindful about the length we got.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Laura P

    BEAUTIFUL gallery wall C+J! I’ve been pondering what kind of frames I would like to put behind our dining table wall- it’s big, blank and blah. Thin gold, one large frame… they all seemed too bold and not minimalist enough for the space. Until now! This is spot on for what our home needs! Definitely will be saving for this project :).

    Ps- I’m so sorry about the blog shaming that’s happening on this post. How sad. It’s never enough for anyone to be polite anymore. Loyal reader here since the beginning, and I’ve loved watching this blog, your business, and your home evolve. That’s what it’s all about, right?

    Loved this post, and the final product. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Julia

      Thanks so much, Laura. xo

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Kimberly

    What a polarizing post this has become! I don’t fault you (or the Etsy shop selling the frames) for using such high end things. The ones you chose look well crafted and high end!
    This post opened my eyes to a kind of mounting I’d never seen before and though I won’t be using the exact product you did a quick search provided lots of options via Amazon and others. I actually already have cut acrylic I meant to turn into frames but couldn’t decide how to fasten it together. All that to say, good job. Sometimes your posts are something I can do and afford and sometimes, like today, they are beautiful inspiration to diy my own something.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Molly

    Some people commenting are really salty! Geez. I think it looks awesome- we have artwork hung similarly at my work and I love it! I think your wall looks great!

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Devin

    Looks wonderful, great job! Do you mind sharing the source for the picture light to the right? Been looking for a good one!

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Julia

      It’s linked in the bottom of the post! It’s from Minted!

      • May 31, 2017

        Devin

        Sorry, I meant the actual light above it :) although that artwork is beautiful as well!!

      • May 31, 2017

        Julia

        Oh sorry! That’s from ATGstores, which I think now is called shop the mine?

      • June 1, 2017

        Tiffany

        It’s called “The Mine” :)

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Maggie

    Thanks for sharing this post. I’ve been eyeing acrylic frames for a while. Question though – how do you feel about the glare/reflection. I’m worried it would end up like a giant mirror where you could not even see the photos, only the reflection.

    Love your blog + family! Thanks for opening up your life :-)

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Avit W

    I agree with other commenters… $800 for a simple gallery wall?!?! I used to be obsessed with this blog – you guys seemed relatable and your home/projects seemed doable. Yet I’ve become extremely turned off by the level of consumption and wastefulness (i.e.: redesigning a girl’s nursury to be turned into… another girl’s nursery), not to mention pretentiousness. I realize you get plenty of these products for free, so I doubt you paid for those frames (or discounted), but this is just getting ridiculous and, quite frankly, sad.

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Natalee

      I wouldn’t go so far to say that this is sad, or too consumptive, because this is your line of business! But there is the difficulty of staying true to what has made you popular in the first place (authenticity, ability to replicate high end things on a budget) in spite of the blog’s success – which can lend to inauthenticity and alienating your original audience via $800 gallery walls. It is a tough one. I think you have tackled it well with always doing High and Lows when you have been given the high end items, but today seemed a miss, and that is why the “salty” reviews. I understand “if you can’t say something nice…” is such good advice to live by, but should it apply to blogs? Do bloggers (business people) really want to live in a vacuum where they aren’t getting honest feedback? I noticed Emily Henderson went through the rounds with this over the weekend too. You are in a tough business where your most of your audience doesn’t want to know you are in fact a business, and the other part forget that you are still a human with feelings. Hugs.

    • Reply June 7, 2017

      Jeanna

      For heavens sakes, do you begrudge people nice things?? They both work hard for their income I’m sure, and they also DIY a great number of things……………..your post reeks of envy. And I have never, ever thought any post was pretentious.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Kates

    I love this idea. I have a narrow hallway that I have been wanting to add frames too but haven’t because every frame looks heavy and cluttered. This would be perfect for it!

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    cd

    I love this, but, I have to say, I don’t love it in this location. There’s a lot going on along that wall – I think maybe a vertical arrangement of 3, larger pictures with less blank acrylic maybe? I can see not wanting one big piece when you have another big piece near it. But this is lots of dots and reflections and lines when you’ve got paneling and doors and cabinets and lines in the chandelier and a stickwood chair. Just, a lot. But like I said, in isolation, love the idea.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Emily

    I love this! You’re style is always spot on (I think you’re my style spirit animal?!). I’ve never thought about using acrylic frames, but grouped together like this looks lovely. Such a wonderful kid friendly decor option, too. Our kids (1 & 3) love to look at family pictures so having some at their level is an added bonus.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Kari

    A quick question unrelated to your new wall (which looks lovely btw)…where oh where did you get your beautiful chandelier? I saw your link to a similar one but it is no where near as fantastic as the one above your table. Can you share your original source or at least tell me that sadly, it just doesn’t exist anymore so I can stop my searching… ha! Thanks so much.

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Julia

      Gah! It doesn’t exist anymore. :( It’s from Lamps Plus. I did put a nickel version of the same light in our Shop Our House page so you can check it out there, but again, not this exact fixture. I have no idea why they stopped making it!

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Allison

    Is the glare as prominent in person as in the photos?

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Sarah

    I mostly like what you do, but this looks dumb.

    A gallery wall with picture frames would be fine but all that platic…hmmmm

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Julia

      Hahaha, wow. Thanks for letting me know, Sarah.

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Cara

      Wow, you probably should’ve just refrained from commenting Sarah.

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Cathy

      “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

      Good grief.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Debbie

    Looks Great!!!! ever thought of adding the location on the strip at the bottom or writing somewhere on the photo what the occasion was for the photo? you know, like on a real polaroid? Just a thought, it looks great though!

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Julia

      I actually thought that same thing! Maybe the year and location? I may add that. :)

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Jaimee

    Dude! These are great and just the answer to the space above our wainscoting!! 🙌🏻🙌🏻 Thank you so much for the stream of inspiration!!!

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Jaimee

      Although pricey I contacted the shop and they are offering 20% off (ends tonight) score! I think you could most likely DIY most things but if you’re like me and have two small babies and NO extra time or energy it’s kinda nice to splurge 😉

      • May 31, 2017

        Julia

        Oh, I’m so happy they are extending the coupon for you!!!

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Kristen

    Love the look of your new gallery wall! It’s so nice to have family photos displayed in your home.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Elizabeth Reynoso

    Looks amazing!

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Erin

    I’m so tired of finding the right frames! loving this modern, clean solution, but I wish the price of these particular frames weren’t so high.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Amanda

    They look awesome but WOW that Etsy kit is $$$$. The hardware is $10 on Amazon and the acrylic is a few bucks at a hardware store why are the kits $90 a piece? I am usually not a DIY’er but $800+ for a gallery wall is steep!

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Julia

      If you tackle a DIY version, we’d love to see!

      • May 31, 2017

        Elaine

        I’ve tackled a giant DIY version (it’s a 40″ x 55″ frame) that ended up being about $150 (having the print I wanted framed in a traditional way was $400+ so this seemed really really reasonable) and I love it. Gray Malin’s blog had a guest post last summer on the topic with links to all the supplies. If anyone is interested. The acrylic was definitely the most expensive part but it looks awesome sooo shrugs.

      • May 31, 2017

        Julia

        Good quality acrylic can be expensive, but yes! looks awesome and worth it!

      • May 31, 2017

        Jeanna

        Me too, if you do a DIY version I would love to see it!

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Erin

      Pottery Barn also sells 16×20 Acrylic frames that are a bit cheaper ($79). I waited for a sale and got one for only $58. Shipping is free, but they do not come in brass. I’m guessing they could be spray painted though.

      https://www.potterybarn.com/products/acrylic-gallery-frames/?pkey=cpicture-frames&isx=0.0.2622

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Gail

      I used a similar method to hang a large piece of art (42″x54″). I had the acrylic cut at a shop (not a hardware shop, but a specialty plastics shop) and used this hardware to install it. https://www.amazon.com/CRL-Brass-Wide-Mirror-Clips/dp/B000KZWS2I/ref=sr_1_2?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1496254766&sr=1-2&keywords=CRL+Brass+5%2F8%22+Wide+Mirror+Clips+-+Set

      It was still pricey for the acrylic ($300 I think) but that’s because I was getting such a large size and I got the “non-glare” type for the front which probably wasn’t necessary. It was still infinitely cheaper than custom framing for something that size. I got 1/8″ thickness for front/back and that fit perfectly in this hardware, and holds the art securely. You also don’t have to worry about drilling any holes in the acrylic with this hardware which is another reason I went this route. Another thing to note, the place I bought from charged for the whole sheet of acrylic since it was such a large size I needed cut (the full sheets were 48″x72″). So instead of having a large rectangular scrap at the bottom, I asked them to make a few more cuts (which they did at no add’l charge) and leave me with three 16″ x16″ sets in addition to the large pieces I needed. So that $300 was actually for the large piece and the three smaller 16″x16″ which I used in other areas with that same CR Laurence hardware. One mount at top and bottom center worked on the smaller frames.

      • June 6, 2017

        gwen

        This is brilliant! I tried to frame a silk scarf using the standoff method and the acrylic cracked from drilling. I’m going to order these and try and salvage the project without having to repurchase acrylic (the cracks are small).

        Thanks, Gail.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Liz M

    Beautiful! Have to say the price tag was shocking though – $900 gallery wall. Did you find any more reasonably priced ones that are similar?

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Julia

      There are places that will cut acrylic for you, we went that route years ago when we framed a giant map in our first home. But, I will say, the acrylic was not as high of quality and we only got one sheet for a pretty penny (although we did get a pretty huge sheet) and we had to drill the holes ourselves–which can easily crack the acrylic. We also didn’t have the brass stand-offs. If you do a DIY version, feel free to share it–we’d love to see!

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Jenny

      I love the look of this and want to try it in my living room. I found these on Amazon for almost half the price…and free shipping! http://a.co/1QqsmrI

      • May 31, 2017

        Julia

        Pretty good alternative! Be aware, one reviewer said that one, the acrylic is very thin. :/

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Em

    Those frames are expensive!! A DIY version would be a great post. I know Lowe’s will cut acrylic to any size for you for super cheap…all you’d need is to add the gold stand-offs.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Allison

    Looks great!
    We have standard frames we put above our son’s crib (now bed) and we were concerned with him moving them around on his own. We just used the 3M velcro tabs behind each one on the bottom to hold them in place. Just a tip if you have any standard frames you worry about with the kiddos. :)

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Sara

    What did you use to mount the photos on to the cardstock? I have a few photos I’d like to mount, but not quite sure what to use. Yours look so good!!

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Julia

      I just used a small roll of scotch tape on the four corners. The acrylic pieces really pushed them together. In art school, we mounted photos using a light brush of rubber cement on the back of the photo and cardstock. Let it dry (a step I never knew beforehand) and then stick the two together and they will bond forever.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Christina

    I love it! Truly. But I am not sure you hit your goal of not cluttered. It looks busy with all the brass and edges, but I think you nailed it. :-)

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Sarah

      I agree, for me this would look more cluttered with the corner pieces- seems like 45 small things at a glance rather than than 9 large pieces (maybe with minimal frames painted them the wall color would have helped them recede further). But, they are so lovely I’m not sure it matters! This would be an amazing way to display cut paper art, hmm….

      • May 31, 2017

        Julia

        We love the little bling, and in person it’s so minimal–it just feels so light! You’re right–this would be so fun for art, too!

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Olivia

      I agree with Christina. The brass and edges make it look busy and distracting (my eyes shift easily to them and away from the B&W photos). Maybe because there’s too many? Or they’re too close to each other? Nice idea, though.

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Cathy

    Wow, simply wow! This is breath-takingly beautiful and couldn’t have come at a better time as I’ve been pondering about what to do with the large 2-story blank wall in our living room. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

    • Reply May 31, 2017

      Cathy

      Just saw the price on these..yowza! $900 is really steep! May have to try my hand at DIYing these. Good to know Lowes will cut these to size!

  • Reply May 31, 2017

    Amelia

    Looks fab, I was just looking at these today on Etsy as a way of making a frame for a massive print – good to know they work well and little fingers and large tails can’t dislodge them :)

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