Collage photo walls are all the rage these days. Have you noticed this? You can hardly open Pinterest or read a shelter blog or magazine without stumbling on one. Everyone makes it look so easy-breezy-simple to take a bunch of crap you have in a drawer and throw it on the wall and, PRESTO!, insta-amazing-wall-art, for free!
Um, I hate to burst the internet bubble of perfect and cheap decor on this topic, but it was not really that simple or free for me. As with most projects, I insisted on over-thinking the topic and dragging it out for several months.
I have an enormous wall in my living room and ever since we moved into this house, almost two years ago, I have been absolutely flummoxed by the question of what to put up there. It's huge. The area I had to work with was almost 12 feet across and 7 feet high. HUUUUUGE. After ogling the Young House Love wall and then seeing Holly Burns pull it off, I decided to attempt some version of what everyone else on the internet was already doing. (I am very original like that.)
I had scores of baby photos of two children (that we'd paid hundreds of dollars for) and I hadn't printed even one of them over almost three years. I had our wedding invitation, wedding photos (also not printed or displayed) and so many things on Etsy just seemed like they'd fit perfectly on a wall in my house somewhere. And yet, The Wall was always too big and too intimidating to try and put a handful of things on. No, The Wall required something much grander.
I set to work collecting items and making purchases. I dove headfirst into the world of canvas gallery wraps and after creating a price and size comparison spreadsheet (oh, yes I did), I gave Costco a try. Unlike their prints, where the color always comes out more gray-blue than intended, the wraps kept very true to color, turned out BEAUTIFULLY, and were a heck of a bargain. (They must use a different vendor for the wraps than the prints because their prints really are AWFUL.) I bought a few things from Etsy and hoarded them in careful places out of reach from small hands.
When it came time to frame them I looked at my collection of frames I found that I didn't really have much that was useful. I had a few odd frames that I spray painted and wasn't at all pleased with the result. I had a handful of matching frames from Aaron Brothers, but it wasn't enough to do the whole wall. (I also decided a few months ago that I hate the frames from Aaron Brothers because I think they're not very high quality and they're kind of spendy, so I definitely wasn't going to buy more of those if I could help it.)
I stalled for a while. Buying prints from Etsy and canvas wraps from Costco, plus the prints and then the frames? Even IKEA frames? This was getting a little spendy. Hmmm. (At this point, I was under the dull impression that the project was supposed to be inexpensive. HAAAAA.)
I ended up spending a little over $100 on eight frames (with mats) from Pottery Barn Kids. Waaaaay less than I'd spend on the same from Aaron Brothers. I had previously purchased some of these frames for another room in the house and I'd been really pleased with the quality. (Unlike the Aaron Brothers frames, they were meant to be hung with picture wire and had more than flimsy metal tabs with cardboard to keep the contents secure.) If you can score these on sale, and they ALWAYS go on sale, these are a decent buy if you need matchy frames.
At some point, I realized I was finished. Months and months of planning and scouring the internet and collecting keepsakes and ... I was ready! Let's hang this sucker.
Before: The Gigantic Empty Wall
(Pay no attention to the three orphan frames from when the furniture in this room was arranged in a totally different way. I know they look awkward like this.)
(I need to adjust/swap the prints in a few frames and I'll be switching the blue mats to white. But really, this is 95% finished.)
Total Cost: $381
- Eight frames with mats, varying sizes, from Pottery Barn Kids: $121
- Two prints from Etsy: About $45
- Three canvas wraps from Costco: $35, $45, $45 = $125
- Four frames I already had: Freeeeeeee!
- Postcard from 1913 that my great-grandfather sent my great-grandmother for one cent: Freeeeee! (Also? Priceless.)
- Replace two blue mats I already had with white mats to match the others: $30 (I haven't done this one yet, so I'm guessing on the cost)
- Prints from Mpix.com: About $30 (I printed a lot, to see what I liked best, and didn't use all of them.)
- Metal letter 'S' (from Etsy) (I might spray paint it so it stands out more, which would add a couple of bucks to the total cost.): $29
So, there you have it. I spent my summer designing a photo collage wall and even though it did cost me almost $400, I spread that cost over four or five months with purchases here and there. It's wasn't cheap, free, or even very easy, but I'm pretty pleased with the result. I was frightened it would look super junky but I'm so, so, so pleased. (And, relieved. I am SO RELIEVED we hung all of those frames correctly the first time. PHEW.)