By Cassie Johnston
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I’m kinda a little bit obsessed with gallery walls. I love eclectic collections of mementos, and I think a gallery wall is such a fun way to show things off that might normally be relegated to a box in the basement.
When we were planning JuneBug’s nursery, we knew we wanted do a small gallery wall above her changing table. We liked the idea of being able to include lots of prints, photos and keepsakes that had meaning. And we liked that the wall gives us the ability to change things out, switch it up and make it different in the future as she grows up.
This isn’t our first gallery wall rodeo. In fact, we have two gallery walls (one above the bar in our living room and one in our main floor hallway) that we absolutely adore. And we managed to do each wall for less than $20!
The key to doing gallery walls on the cheap is (a) being okay with mismatched frames and (b) thrifting your little heart out. All the frames for our gallery walls come from the thrift store! If you’ve never hit up the Goodwill’s photo frame section, you’re seriously missing out. For less than $1 each (and most of them are $0.25 or $0.50) you can get perfectly good frames that are wall-ready after a little coat of spray paint. Just ignore the art inside and the colors, and pick out the shapes, sizes and styles that really speak to you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Goodwill with less than 100 different picture frames stashed in a corner.
For the nursery gallery wall, we spent less than $10 to get all these frames.
First up, after a quick wipedown to remove any dust or dirt, we set all the frames out on a drop cloth, sans glass, and gave them a few good coats of white spray paint. We like that the white helps bring together all the mismatched frames and make them feel like a “set.” Plus, the white really lets the artwork and mementos shine.
Once the frames were completely dry, I put the glass and the backs in, and then started figuring out the layout. I do this by using a big piece of paper – you can get poster paper or kraft paper at most stores, or, do what I did, and just tape together newspaper. Just roll it out about the size you want on the floor, then arrange your frames until you’re happy with the layout.
Once I was content with the layout, it was time for the really fun stuff—figuring out what to put inside! You could, obviously, shell out some cash and put some nice pieces of art in there, but we went the affordable route and used what we had on hand. We put in some old greeting cards we’d saved, old photos we had, and other keepsakes and mementos. I even designed a few simple pieces, printed them, and hung them up. I tried to keep the colors in the theme of the nursery, but mostly just put things we liked in there.
Once the frames were full and in a layout I liked, I traced around each frame on the paper, and then measured where the hanger was on each frame, and made a corresponding mark on the outline where the nail for each frame should go. I also wrote on each outline what item I wanted placed there.
Then, I hung the paper template up on the wall above the changing table, using a laser level to make sure it was straight.
And got to work hammering and nailing! I put a nail straight through the template into the wall at each of the nail mark spots.
Then, I tore the template down, and what was left was a random-looking pattern of nails. But not random, at all! Oh no!
Now that the nails are in the right spot, it was easy to start hanging the frames in their respective positions.
Once all the frames are up, it ends up looking a little crazy pants because they’re all teetering on one nail each. Not only does it not look so great, but it also isn’t a very secure setup for a child’s room. Don’t worry, I can fix this!
To make sure the frames stay straight, and are also very secure so none of them accidentally drops on Baby J while she’s getting her diaper changed, I used super strong mounting tape pieces at the bottom of each frame.
These suckers aren’t going anywhere. In fact, I used this same tape on our other gallery walls, and especially in the gallery wall in the hallway, we bump into it constantly, and not a single one has budged in nearly two years (or even thought about budging). These do really stick to the wall, so if you’re living in an apartment or some place where you don’t want to chance damaging your walls, I’d recommend figuring out another way to secure them.
For each frame, I leveled it before sticking it to the wall. That way, everything would be nice and straight once the whole wall was finished.
All done! Ain’t she a beaut?
Curious what all is in the wall? Here’s a handy-dandy little chart:
And here’s what we spent on it:
We had the newspaper and nails on hand, but even if you had to buy some kraft paper and nails, you could get up a gallery wall for less than $20. And I think it makes a big impact in the room!
I love this project for two reasons. First up, the obvious fact that we filled a wall with art that is meaningful. It makes us so happy to look up at these frames and know that each and every item represents something special to us. Secondly, I love that this project is entirely upcycled. Not only is upcycling good for the budget, but it’s also really good for the environment. Knowing there is such a good collection of frames just asking to be loved at a local thrift shop makes me never want to buy new picture frames ever again!
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I love it! I’m planning out two gallery walls in our living room and hallway, but I was struggling to figure out an arrangement and how to make it not suck. Thanks for this helpful post! You’re really super crafty and graphically talented, which adds a really awesome touch! I love love love the moose and the berries!
I also love the look of white frames. We have white walls, though, so I’m stuck trying to decide if I should stick with black frames, or do an assortment, or what. White walls are blah.
And here I thought I was awesome for framing square cork boards and hanging them to pin the boys’ artwork to, haha.
I actually think white on white looks AWESOME. That’s what our hallway gallery wall looks like: http://www.brokenplowblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/IMG_1556.jpg
Oh, that looks way better than I was imagining! I think I prefer white frames to let the artwork/photos pop, too! I think black frames might be a big overwhelming.
And inspired by this post, I went through some little things we’ve saved and found a cute South Africa postcard that I’m going to frame to add to our gallery wall. :)
This is great! I have a gallery wall in our bedroom and have been meaning to do one on the first floor – thanks for the inspiration!!
I love your little gallery wall. Some of the prints are super cute. We did a gallery wall in our house using goodwill frames too! I think ours is probably double the size of what you did and it probably cost us around $30 total (including pictures). It’s such a great project and really brings a wall to life. We get so many compliments on it now.
Someone at your Goodwill needs to come talk to my Goodwill because ours have suddenly jumped up to overpricing just about everything.
I do love your gallery wall :)
I love this! My house has nothing on the walls – so this is something that looks easy enough that I could do to spruce up the boring walls in my house.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!! My frugal self and bare living room wall need this!! :)
I go to the thrift store too when I need frames. It’s so much cheaper than getting new ones, and with a coat of paint they look like new.
Genius! Pinning and I will definitely be referring back. I just set up my daughter’s room and we’re still working to get it perfect, so this will come in handy!
This looks amazing! I love the look and the ability to change them out as she grows without having to redesign the whole wall. Speaking of changing the pictures out, how do you go about doing that if you used the super strong mounting squares on the walls? Do you pull them down and then just put more mounting squares on them when you put them back up (but in the same spot so it doesn’t matter if there’s a little damage to the walls)? Or is there a way to change out the pictures while leaving the frame up? Just curious! Thanks!
Yup! Exactly what you said. Just take it down, and then replace it in the same spot!
Getting the frames at Goodwill is so smart! I have been wanting to do a gallery wall above my couch in the living room and the thought of buying expensive frames was holding me back. Now I know I can make it so much cheaper!!
This is a great idea that I’m going to do in September while on vacation. I only wish thrift stores in the bay area had inexpensive frames. At Goodwill the frames started at $3.99 and went as high as $19.99 for larger sizes. :(
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