Home » Family » I Was Framed! – Creating a Memory Wall

I Was Framed! – Creating a Memory Wall

Jeff Linamen

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You’ve made some great memories over the years and would love to share them with others. Vacations, family events, great times with friends… and you even managed to get some great pictures of the occasions. Sure, it’s easy to store and look at them on your computer… share them on Facebook… maybe you even have an actual photo album. (Old school!) How often do you look at them though?

When we bought our house, there was a cinder block stairway going from the first floor to the basement– required when the house was briefly used as a restaurant. On of the first things we did was cover the walls with oak paneling and stain them. An improvement– but we still had these big empty walls.

So I started a memory wall.


Looking down the stairway at our memory walls.

Our memory wall has old and new photos alike. Friends, family, vacations, our pets– are all featured on those walls now. We have a mass of photos– large and small- posed and candid snapshots intermingled.

It’s a giant collage of beautiful memories.

If you have the space, this could be the perfect way to relive happy memories– daily; every time you pass by.

Most people only display a few pictures in their home that aren’t art. If they are pictures of the kids or a family photo– then the tendency is to try and keep them updated with current photos, which isn’t always easy to do. Posed photos can be nice but don’t really represent you the way you really are. So why not create a wall you can add to– instead of taking down old photos and framing new ones?

This obviously isn’t a new idea. One of the reasons I did it, was because this type of collage was something commonly done in Victorian houses over a hundred years ago. So I thought– in keeping with the period of the house– we could build a fun, wall of memories over time.

Whether you have an old house or new; and whether you have a large space or perhaps just an empty wall at the end of a hallway– this might work for you.

Here are some ideas:

There are unlimited styles of frames to choose from.

There are unlimited styles of frames to choose from.

Frames. From the beginning, I planned to use all different sizes and types of frames. This makes it easy to shop for, and you only have to buy what you need at the time. If you want a more modern, contemporary or symmetrical look; you’re better off buying all the frames at once. Even if this means many of them will sit empty in a closet until they are ready to use. Stores change the frames they carry, frequently. You won’t likely be able to purchase more of the same exact frame in, say, five years.

I watch for sales and clearance throughout the year and have picked up some great deals– many 70-90% off. After the first of the year, I’ve noticed many stores will clearance frames– sometimes whole product lines. This holds true for both contemporary and classic-style frames.

Matted Photographs or Not? This is a matter of taste. I have a combination of matted photos and those that are not. Matted photographs can definitely create a richer or more uniform look, if that’s what you are going for. If you shop with this in mind, you can find some really nice frames with the mattes already included. You can also buy mattes in a variety of colors or have them custom made to your size and color specifications at a frame or hobby store.

Getting Your Prints and Enlargements. There are so many available options for printing and enlarging photographs today. The quality definitely varies from store to store. Many local stores let you order online but sometimes you can’t view what the cropped or enlarged photo will look like ahead of time. You can end up with an important part of the picture being cut out that you really wanted to keep. Different sizes will have a different amount of the original frame (not the entire original image)– few are full frame.

Many of the local drug and department stores don’t have people running the equipment that will know how to fix any problems that might come up. Many are completely automated. I ordered a print enlargement where they cut off half the subjects face. Another time, the quality of the black tones were blue; and the clerk wasn’t able to fix the problem and reprint it. Local places may be inexpensive but the quality can be hit or miss.

I prefer to use Shutterfly.com or Snapfish.com for the majority of my photo reproductions and enlargements. Both have frequent sales, sometimes free shipping, you can preview the photo ‘crop’; and the quality, in my experience, is always reliable. Service is usually quick too. (Within a week.)

If you have prints done locally, don’t be afraid to ask for help– or refuse them, if they are unacceptable. If it’s not what you expected, you don’t have to pay for them.

Framed photos ready to hang.

Framed photos ready to hang.

Framing Your Pictures. When you frame your pictures, make sure you clean both sides of the glass.

I open the frame, take out the backing and matte, if there is one. Clean the inside of the the glass, making sure there are no streaks and it’s wiped dry. Then, put the matte in (if you’re using one) followed by the picture. If you use a matte, make sure to line it up and tape it in place with an archive-safe tape so it won’t damage the photo over time. (Many of the transparent (magic) tapes qualify. Never use masking tape!) Put any filler (sometimes there’s cardboard) and the backing back on the photo, making sure the hanger is in the right direction, the picture fits snug; and seal the back. Flip the frame over and clean the glass. Many times there are stickers that leave adhesive on the surface that comes up easily with a little glass cleaner. If you have trouble, try Goof Off— but then you’ll still need to clean with glass cleaner because it leaves a film.

Arranging Your Wall. There’s no wrong or right way to display your photographs on your wall. Keep in mind, if you place them in rows, it’s probably a good idea to make sure your wall and picture line are straight. That is, unless you want a crooked row of pictures.

I hung pictures in groups leaving space to add more over time.

I hung pictures in groups leaving space to add more over time.

If you aren’t doing rows and want a more collage-style like I used, there are a couple things to consider. Laying out your photos this way is easier than placing them in rows. If you are starting a collection that you’ll want to add to over time– Try groupings of photos. Take into account the open spaces; leaving room for a framed photo between groups that you can fill in, when you are ready, at a later date. Translation: Don’t leave a space for a 5×7 frame if you think you’ll want to put an 8×10 there later. Don’t forget that the frame is larger than the print! You may need a 13×20 space for an 11×17 photo, or a framed and matted 8×10. Frames come in all different sizes, there is no real standard thickness to the frame itself. Because of this, I leave varying sized spaces between pictures as well.

I should also mention that if you want to tell a story with you framed photos– chronological order, for example; you need to plan this in your layout.

At the bottom of the stairs, I have a section dedicated to theatre.

At the bottom of the stairs, I have a section dedicated to theatre.

In my hall, I have groupings on three walls that have grown over time– but still have plenty of room to add more. I started with smaller grouping and just add one here and there when I’m ready. My collection is random so it’s easy to do. If I add pictures to the walls a couple times a year– I may add one to this wall and three to that wall. Seldom placed together (the new ones) to keep the randomness.

I hope that makes sense.

My hallway is one on my favorite places because it is filled with wonderful memories.

Guests always like to stop, even briefly, to glance at the photographs. It’s always fun to see if they can find themselves, if they are framed there too.


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