How to display photographs stylishly – interior designer-approved photo wall ideas to steal

These photo wall ideas prove that your family photographs and art prints can be used as part of a stylish, elevated scheme

a photo wall in a modern neutral room scheme
(Image credit: Lauren Miller. Design: Clarissa Llaneza)

Photo walls can really add to your interior aesthetic, bringing a personalized feel to a design scheme while adding a bit of interest to an otherwise empty space. From family photos, pictures of loved ones to landscape snaps from past holidays, mixed in with your favorite art prints, there are so many different ways to display your prized pictures and your wall is a blank canvas, there to be taken advantage of. 

Photo walls work in every room of the house too, from personal collections in your bedroom to your home gallery displayed on your stairs, in your downstairs loo or as a unique living room wall decor idea.

However, photo walls aren't always the easiest thing to get right. Family photographs don't always have the same aesthetic appeal as art, while mixing and matching photographs of different sizes, shapes and subject matter can be a real challenge. 

There are lot of considerations to take into account when planning your at-home gallery so we've put a handy guide together to help you out.

Things to consider when planning photo wall ideas 

The first thing to consider when planning your photo wall is to think about the space you are designing and the scheme you are looking to create. It's not just the difference in the the photos themselves, think about the framing - do you want the frames to be uniform or show off your eclectic style with different styles and sizes?

Displaying your photos is a very personal form of interior decoration, whether you choose to decorate with family photographs or specially curated art prints, so think about how you want your collection of images to come together, what mood you want your gallery to evoke and what you want your gallery to reveal to guests about you. 

Remember to consider the other pieces of furniture in your space. 'I highly recommend mocking up the placement with tape,' says interior designer, Laura Hammett. 'This will help you to visualize how it will look before the drilling starts- you won’t regret spending the extra time making it perfect.'

1. Take your framed photos up the ceiling

Photo wall

(Image credit: OAD Interiors)

Why not take the frames to new heights by taking the framed pictures onto the ceiling? This colorful living room is a clever way of using framed photos to create movement and texture on the wall, making the at-home gallery more visually engaging for guests. 

'The playroom and living area features an installation of family photos,' explains Melissa Anderson, owner of Brooklyn-based interior design service, OAD Interiors (opens in new tab). 'The clients were looking for a unique way to display family pictures and we came up with a sort of art installation that our team assembled to fit the space,' adds Melissa. 

A photo wall on a staircase

(Image credit: ND Studios)

A staircase is a natural space to put your photo wall. The photo wall gives you a focus for your gaze as you move along the corridoor, and adds some interest to an otherwise often sparse space. 

'The staircase is usually the first thing people see when they walk into your home and a great way to inject your personality,' explains Natascha Dartnall, founder of ND Studios (opens in new tab)

'This usually empty space is the perfect place to hang your favorite photos and artwork. Here, we have been adventurous with the choice of frames. Hanging with a characterful frame will draw attention to the art or photos and by mixing different frames it gives each piece its own identity.'

3. Try unusual mounting ideas 

photographs mounted in a hallway

(Image credit: Wade Weissmann Architects)

You can go all out with your photo wall ideas and create a modern art gallery housing your curated collection in the room of your choice. In this example from Wade Weissmann Architecture (opens in new tab), the impact is dramatic and heavily stylized.

'I have over 400 pieces and had to creative with the way I hung them. The positioning of the artwork was decided before the furniture was even brought in. I like grouping things together cohesively - there is a story to be told in groupings,' says Peg, a client of Wade Weissmann Architecture.

'This particular series is on steel frames and steel pipes that can be swiveled in any direction and can also lay flat against the wall. The images reflect my life story in a series of photos I decided to have taken of me when I turned 60 to reflect my life.'

Think carefully about lighting your frames for that gallery feel. Light from above with cleverly mounted fixtures, attach a light to a mantel or shelf to light from below, or try out a spotlight mounted on the ceiling attached to a frame or hang directly over the piece. Think carefully about the finish on the photograph too. For matte photographs, any light source works, but glossy and semi-glossy finishes benefit from broad base light.

4. Use black and white prints for a cohesive photo wall

a photo gallery wall in a dining space

(Image credit: Lauren Miller. Design: Clarissa Llaneza)

Black and white offers the classic photo wall look, bringing cohesion and a uniform style to your wall. It gives your photo wall a theme, and can look smart and sophisticating. What's more, color from photographs can often be a bit too eclectic and bold for the rest of your room's design. 

This example is from interior designer Clarisa LLaneza (opens in new tab). 'The space was lovingly referred to as “the gallery”, where the art was truly the focal point of the room,' says Laura Mann, Art Curator for Mason Lane, who was in charge of curating and purchasing most of the art for Clarisa's projetc. 

5. Go big in a hallway

a hallway filled with photos on the walls

(Image credit: William Waldron. Design: The Novogratz)

Don't be afraid of going all out with your photo wall scheme and covering every inch of wall space with your framed photographs. 'Gallery walls can easily get lost in a large space,' Robert Novogratz, designer and co-founder of The Novogratz (opens in new tab) tells us.

'In our Massachusetts home, we committed to the idea in a big way, going floor-to-ceiling with black and white prints,' the designer, who has an interiors collection with Next (opens in new tab), explains. The result is that a pared back, white walled scheme is given character in abundance. 

6. Pick a loud wallpaper background

A photo wall with wallpaper background

(Image credit: Marc Van Praag)

Your wall is a blank canvas to have fun with, so bring interest to your scheme by going for a dramatic wallpaper idea. This draws extra attention to the wall, encourages guests to focus in on the photos and pieces of art that you've picked, and shows off your personality. 

If you've gone for black and white photos, you might find you are less restricted in terms of the wallpaper choices you have. Colored photos might be trickier to match. When planning wallpaper, also consider which room it might work for. A large wallpapered space might be quite loud, while a small powder room might suit a quirky and eclectic look.

7. Create a photo corner

A photo wall in a curated corner

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Making a dedicated nook or corner for your photos to go on display is a nice place to give your photography its own designated part of the home. In this example, well-framed portrait shots with square black frames create an art gallery feel nook in the home.

8. Pick different shapes and sizes

a retro living room with a nature photo wall

(Image credit: Pratya Jankong. Design: Leyden Lewis Interiors)

When thinking about how many frames you'd like to frame, going for an array of styles and shapes makes your photo wall really stand out. 

'For placement, either go uniform, like six or so frames in perfect 2x3 formation, or ‘gallery’ style by playing with the spacing and frame size. If you’re going more mismatched in spacing, keep the frame style and material very similar to avoid it looking too mismatched,' says Laura Hammett.

9. Go floor to ceiling

A photo wall

(Image credit: Dresner Design)

This photo wall goes from floor to ceiling and helps the tv merge onto the wall. 'This client is an avid art collector and it was really fun creating a creative kitchen for him,' says Scott Dresner of Dresner Design (opens in new tab). 'He’s a fashion stylist and has amazing taste not only in clothing but also in art and photography.  His collection works as a gallery wall because it’s incredibly eclectic.'

How to design a photo wall

When vetting which photos make the cut, lay them out on the floor and carefully consider how they go together. Do you have a mix of landscapes and portraits, or maybe they are all portraits of family members and loved ones. Think about how the subject matter works together. The good thing about a photo wall is that you can chop and change whenever you feel like you want to refresh the space - changing the images seasonally is a nice way to do this. 

Think also about how the colors work together. A monochrome selection in black and white can be quite striking, but also stark, and too much color might confuse your pre-existing color scheme. Finally, mixing your photography with artwork is a nice touch. Posters collected from travels, your favorite print.

Oonagh Turner
Oonagh Turner

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.