Decorating & DIY

How to Create a Beautiful Ancestor Wall

How to Create a Beautiful Ancestor Wall

I’ve always wanted a gallery wall in our home, and with a blank wall in our office that was just crying out for something to fill it, I found the perfect place. After spending some a lot of time scouring blogs and magazines for inspiration, I decided that I’d like to give my gallery a personal touch and use vintage family photos. 

I loved the idea that I could blend mine and my husband’s family histories, and that each of the pictures would have its own story to tell. The kids are also fascinated by their distant relatives, and the quirky characters among them. We call it our ancestor wall and I honestly enjoy looking at those photos every single day.

In a small way, it also helps me feel better to look at old family pictures on the occasions that I’m feeling a little homesick for England.

Here are some simple steps for creating your own.

Step one: curate your images

Since I chose to use old family photos, this involved scouring through our photo collections and asking relatives. It was actually a really fun process… we discovered some great old pictures and learned a good bit about our family history along the way.

When the family found out what we were doing, we started receiving photos from all over the place, including many from across the pond!

Once we’d selected our favorites, I ordered the prints in a combination of different sizes, to give the gallery a little more visual interest.

Step two: find frames

I’ve seen some beautiful galleries that use coordinating frames, but personally I prefer a more mix-and-match look. Given that I was using vintage images, I decided to stick with classic frame styles in black and antique metallic.

Using frames that complement each other helps to give the gallery wall a cohesive look overall, even if they don’t match exactly.

Some of the frames I found in antique stores, while others came from home stores.

Step three: decide on a layout

I did this by measuring the space I wanted to fill on the wall and then creating an equivalent sized space on the floor (using tape) to lay everything out. Move all of your pictures around until you find an arrangement that you’re happy with.

One great tip is to snap a few photos at this stage, so you don’t forget the layout you’ve spent so long putting together!

Step four: hang your pictures

I’m not going to lie… this part is tricky! There are different ways to go about it, but I started by hanging the pieces in each corner, and then working inwards. You’ll need to measure everything very carefully, and use a level to make sure that the frames are properly aligned.

An extra pair of hands is definitely a bonus at this point. I enlisted the help of my husband, who was just thrilled to be given the difficult job, ha!

The middle of the gallery wall should be at around eye height (57 inches), so none of the pictures end up being hung too high or low.

How to create an ancestor wall

Ta da! Once you’re finished, the final step is to stand back and admire your ancestor wall!

For my next project I plan on creating a gallery wall of contemporary family photos in our basement. Although it’ll probably take me about a year to sort through all of our pictures first!

I’d love to hear your own ideas for using family pictures or creating interesting gallery walls.


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