How to cluster wall art

Almost all of us have been there - we have a large wall with nothing on it. We get tired of staring at a blank wall in our new place, so we hang an 8x10 picture on the wall, thinking 'Now at least there is something on the wall'.

Yet it continues to look funny and you can't figure out why. Sort of like our bedroom in our first rental....

 (I'm ashamed to admit that I have my Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design from BYU-Idaho and I actually allowed myself to keep our bedroom wall like this for so long!)

A design principle used in all good design, photography and art is a correct balance between negative and positive space. 'Positive space' is what catches your eye, while 'negative space' is the empty or blank wall. When you have only one small picture on a large wall, it looks out of proportion because there is too much negative space (like my photo above). The same space would be better filled with a larger picture that matches the proportion of the wall and the decor of the room like the photo below.

 (This is the opposite wall in our bedroom picture above)

I'm sure many people have been, or are in, the same situation I have been in. I want to have an aesthetically pleasing environment to live in, but I don't have the money to buy a nice, large, framed piece of art or picture to fill up more of the negative space. How do you make do with what you have or what is within your budget range?

You can cluster small or medium size pictures together. If you have more than 2 pictures that are the same theme, then it works to cluster them to give the illusion of a larger picture. Painting or staining the frames the same color will further help to unify the room.

Themes I use in my home are "Family" and "Heritage". I want my children to be familiar with their ancestry and heritage on both sides of their family. This evident on the walls throughout my apartment (our 2nd rental and current living place).

I used to get House & Garden magazine (which sadly issued its last US edition of the magazine in December 2007). Imitation is the highest form of a compliment and as I don't feel entirely too creative on my own, I like to copy/modify what others do (but I always give credit where credit is due!) I don't have the year this article was published, but it was a May edition!

I really liked how the owner displayed all of these wedding photos from all the generations of her family. What works is that even though some of the photos are color and some are black & white, they are all in black or white frames and they are ALL on white mat board.  The frames aren't all the same size or shape as you can see, but it works and I LOVE it!

Below is my attempt at modifying the above for my budget and space. Someday I will paint the frames black and mount all the photos on white mat board (or just buy black frames with white mat) and perhaps acquire a couple of floating shelves to display them on. For now, this will do:

I bought each of those photo frames for $1 at Big Lots, they are matted on scrapbook paper I cut down to fit the 8x10 picture frame and the prints I scanned from originals and had printed at Costco at $.13/each.

Since the photos were all so different (some were b&w, some sepia, some color and some were color tinted b&w ), I unified them by mounting them on identical scrapbook papers that coordinated with my living room. I also used wide, wired maroon Christmas ribbon to also visually connect the pictures together on the wall.

This cluster theme is "Marriage." I believe that the head of my marriage is Jesus Christ, so I framed one of my favorite Greg Olson pictures, "O Jerusalem" that I received from my older siblings years ago and placed it at the top, or 'head', of my 'marriage' wall.

Directly below that I placed our framed Salt Lake Temple marriage certificate. I used a frame & matting I already had (having removed the picture that originally occupied the frame). This frame did not have glass, so I took the glass from yet another unused frame and put it in this frame. I didn't want to permanently attach the certificate in the frame, so I used clear picture corner tabs to hold it in place on the dark brown scrapbook paper (which complimented the sepia tones in the certificate).

On either side of this center 'pillar' I placed a picture of my husband and I. The one to the right is our engagement picture - to help us remember how we started out as a family. The one to the left is our current 'family' picture that will be updated as we add additional little ones to our family. (Currently it's of the two of us showing off our 'one on the way' in my 8 month pregnant belly since I haven't gotten our family pictures back from the photographer yet.)

In the kitchen I also used what I had and only purchased the plate rack to display four of the china plates Tips inherited from his grandmother. I then placed some needle-point wall hangings underneath the plate rack to enhance the artisan feel of the room.

For the nursery I again wanted a low budget solution that had meaning. As I was scanning family photos for the 'family history wall' in the living room, I also came across photos of our ancestors when they were babies or little children. I also had those photos reprinted at Costco for $.13/each.

I bought 6 sets of IKEA RAM 4x6 photo frames and then used Krylon grey Primer spray paint  and Krylon semi-gloss spray paint to paint them to match the black crib. I didn't sand the frames at all and I wish I had. Gloss really shows the rough imperfections in the unfinished wood frames!

As we have other children, I'll place a picture of them in a vertical line underneath Tips Jr. (who is currently the one in the center) - and once again we have a family tree spreading out. I realized this would be a good decor solution that would work whether we had a boy or girl - and once we were done having children, we will convert the crib into full size bed (it's one of those 3-in-1 cribs) and keep the baby pictures above the head board as part of the guest room decor.

So there you have it, clustering themed wall art to make the visual appearance of a large picture using pictures and or picture frames you already have. Happy decorating!


littlefamily said…
Hi Yvonne. What great ideas! I love the ideas of taking family pictures and displaying them like that. Especially the baby pictures! That is Fantastic!!!
I can't wait to learn more tips from you!
I also have another blog where I post about projects I'm working on etc. I have recently done a 72-hour kit/emergency preparation post if you want to check it out!
Krystal said…
Ooh, this is giving me some good ideas! I have a TON of picture frames from our wedding reception that I wanted to hang in Katryn's room. I'm also trying to figure out what to do on one wall that I want to be our family picture wall. (we unfortunately don't have a lot of wall space)
Maria said…
Cute ideas! I didn't know I liked clustered wall art until my mom's friends did it on my mom and dad's bedroom wall. It looked great! Tahnks for the tips and pictures ... I love Ikea too by the way. ;)
kjersti said…
I stole this idea when Tips Jr. was about a year old. I have his one-year pictures in 4x6 glass frames from IKEA - the ones with the clips around the edges. I LOVE that wall - only mine aren't necessarily "clustered", but rather spread to imitate a long, narrow object. I'll send a picture you can post!

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