Creating A Collected Gallery Wall On Our Staircase

When I revealed our finished basement earlier this year, I said that my next step was to add a collected gallery wall to the stairwell leading downstairs. Well, it’s now almost the end of the year and we still have a big blank space on that wall.

New light fixture in the stairwell

I don’t really know why I’ve felt a bit stuck with this project. I’m usually one to add a project to my list and get it done quickly. But, I’ve felt a bit of pressure to get this one just right. I want to showcase a wide variety of photos and mementos that tell our family’s story, which is no small feat.

Basement gallery wall

But, I’m making it my mission to get it up before the end of the year. And if I tell you guys that goal, then I’m more likely to follow through. Ha!

My Gallery Wall Inspiration

The collected gallery wall in our living room
Living Room Gallery Wall

I’m a big fan of just about every type of gallery wall. I think it’s a great way to make a statement and add a personal touch to your home. Plus, it’s the perfect timeless look.

Symmetrical gallery wall in a hallway
Symmetrical Gallery Wall

I’ve hung perfect grids, like this symmetrical photo with modern metal frames in my mom’s home.

Our new hallway gallery wall
Hallway Gallery Wall

I’ve hung a bunch of family pictures, like the large black and white photos in our upstairs hallway. I’ve hung a mix of photo prints, vintage finds, and art pieces, like the gallery wall in our living room.

Unlike other gallery walls in our home, I want this one to be very eclectic, with a mix of objects and frames. Yes, I plan to include framed family photos, but I also want to showcase art prints, some 3D mementos, and more!

My best tips to add unique home decor to your home
Rory’s Nursery Gallery Wall

Rory’s gallery wall is a mini version of what I plan to do in our basement staircase. I love the handpainted plate, the family stitch, and the mix of photos and art together.

Our basement gallery wall is a blank space right now

Because this is a staircase, the wall is really tall and it spans the stairs going all the way down. I want my gallery wall to be the main focal point when heading to our basement. Therefore, I want it to be pretty massive going almost from the ceiling to the floor. So, it won’t just be hung at eye level, but it will fill up the entire large wall.

Here are some inspirational photos that gave me lots of gallery wall ideas.

Collected gallery wall on a stairwell
Photo from
How to create a unique gallery wall going downstairs
Photo via Apartment Therapy
Inspiration to create an eclectic gallery wall
Photo via Apartment Therapy

Collecting Art, Frames, & Mementos

I've bee collecting lots of art and photos for my new gallery wall

Even though I have this vision in my head, I’ve been stuck when it comes to starting this project. Instead of actually hanging anything on the wall, I’ve just been collecting pieces and stashing them in my home office. My collection has gotten a bit out of hand and I know it is time to transform the blank wall in our basement.

Travel Souvenirs

Art from San Miguel de allende

Whenever we travel, I like to browse art from local artists. I find that it can be pretty easy to travel with these pieces, especially if I find a small drawing or print. I just keep it flat in the bottom of my suitcase. I picked up a piece of art from our trip to Seaside last year, along with a couple of pieces from my trip to San Miguel de Allende.

Non-Frame Ideas

Try to add 3D objects like pennants to your gallery wall

When my dad was selling our childhood home, I ended up getting these two pennants from our basement. One says “Notre Dame” and the other says “Irish.” I’ve kept them for the past few years knowing that I eventually wanted to add them to my collected gallery wall in the basement.

Press for champagne sign

You might also remember this “Press for Champagne” sign that I featured in the guest room in our old condo. It’s still a favorite of mine, but I never had a good spot to hang it, until now. If you press the button it actually buzzes!

Ordering Front-Opening Frames

Adding front opening frames to our gallery wall

Another way to create that collected look is with original art from budding new artists – my kids! Ha! If you remember this blog post all about what the heck to do with kids’ artwork, I talked about wanting to find these picture frames that open from the front.

With these cool frames, it’s easy to swap out the artwork. I ended up ordering two of these frames, in the brown color, so each child has one to display their latest masterpiece. I know they will be absolutely thrilled to see their art displayed in our home.

Displaying Family Memories

My favorite gold frames

I ended up ordering two of my favorite gold frames for a fun little art project. I gathered all of the photo booth pictures and Polaroids that we’ve taken together as a family and chose the best ones.

Working on new art for my gallery wall with polaroid pictures

I then glued them to paper and stuck them in the frames to create a new kind of art. This is a fun way to change it up from the regular 4×6 or 5×7 printed picture.

Making A Gallery Wall Plan

Making a plan for a collected gallery wall

I took an afternoon and got everything out of my office closet to see what I was working with. It was fun to see all of these items that I’ve been collecting for the past year in one place. While I wasn’t quite ready to create a gallery wall layout, it was good to check out the frame styles and various sizes all together.

Use a mix of wood, black and gold for your picture frames

After reviewing my loot, I decided to go with a mix of wooden frames, black frames, and gold frames for my gallery wall. I try to do a good mix of art/photos with mats and some without. After seeing my collection together, I realized that I had too many white mats and needed to make some adjustments.

In the past, I’ve gone with a specific color palette to make things go together. This time around, I want an eclectic look so it adds visual interest to this really boring wall space.

My Best Tips For Creating A Cohesive (Yet Collected) Look

If you want to create a beautiful gallery wall, here are a few key points to keep in mind.

  • Choose at least two frame materials. In this case, I’m going with a wood, black, and gold mix of frames. I typically avoid white frames, unless they’re on a darker wall.
  • Use a wide variety of sizes, but try not to go smaller than 8×10.
  • Mats are always a good idea when showcasing photos. (More on choosing the best photo mat in this blog post.)
  • Make sure you have a wide variety of orientations, with both landscape and portrait.
  • Before hanging day comes, load up on Command strips, museum wax, and get this hanging kit. I promise they will all come in handy when it’s time to hang.
  • Try to keep the frames no more than three inches apart. If they’re spread out too far, it won’t look like one cohesive piece.

Let’s Hang This Thing!

making a gameplan to hang my gallery wall

I whipped out the tape measure to get a better sense of the massive scale of this wall and wrote down all of the measurements. When the time comes, I will transfer the measurements to the floor so I can play around with the arrangement before hanging. It’s a simple way to get the look just right before putting any holes in your walls.

As mentioned, my goal is to hang this gallery wall in the coming weeks so I can reveal it to you before the end of the year. That post will share tips so you can confidently hang your own gallery wall. But, if you can’t wait for that post, you can check out this one right here. I walk through all of my best tips to hang a gallery wall and spoiler alert: I use wrapping paper as my foolproof method!


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.