Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to document his journey to design 30 projects by the age of 30 (May 2020). His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

Making a Photo Wall in 3 Hours

Making a Photo Wall in 3 Hours

As we approached Andrea’s one year academic travel to New Mexico, we decided to take a few hours on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to put up a photo wall that we’ve been planning for a few months. With all of our photos sent to the store to print and our box of picture frames opened, we gathered our tools and went straight to work. Here’s how we put together our photo wall in 3 hours with an easy plan and simple tools.

Planning a layout for the frames

When we decided to create a photo wall in my house, we discussed several picture frame designs and sizes. After a few minutes, we decided to go with a simple and standard picture frame that would be affordable to purchase in bulk. So, we went on Amazon and discovered that we could get the design we were looking for in 5 inch by 7 inches for a great price.

Once the frames arrived, we were busy traveling and working and decided to put the project on hold for a few months. Every now and then, we would have a conversation about the photo wall project and discuss some ideas. During one of these discussions, we decided that the frames would be placed in a grid formation on a tall wall adjacent to my stairs leading into my attic studio.

A month after this discussion, Andrea’s journey to New Mexico was quickly approaching and I wanted to do something memorable. Little did she know, I was placing an order for the photographs that we selected to be printed at our local store. After she realized what I was doing, we were both excited for the project and went straight to work.

Constructing guides for every nail

Using simple tools that we have in the house, we started the photo wall project by stretching blue painters tape across the wall, pulling it as tight as possible, and taping it in place. After the first strip of tape was up, we placed a picture frame on the wall with an edge against the tape. We offset another frame and used a measuring tape to get an approximate distance for each nail.

Then, we used a pencil to draw a point vertically along the wall at the distance that we measured. Once all of the vertical points were established, we pulled more painters tape along the wall to form the horizontal grid. After each strip was in place, we decided to offset every column so that the every other frame would be shifted vertically.

To figure out where each nail would go, we had to pull strips of tape vertically on the wall so that we could draw points at the offset distance. This is where we encountered our first issue; how do we reach the top row above the midpoint and base of the stairs?

Hammering picture nails

Knowing that some of the points will be very difficult to reach with a hammer and nail, I decided to start putting picture frame nails into the wall at all of the points that we drew. The points at the top of the staircase and the opposite side were simple to hammer a nail in place because they were within my reach.

However, once we reached the midpoint of the stairs, it was impossible for me to hammer a nail in place from the staircase. As I thought about solutions to this problem, Andrea and I took each picture frame out of our Amazon box and started framing every photograph. As we reached the halfway point of the photographs, we realized that we created the grid for portrait oriented photographs and more than half of our photographs are landscape! We decided to continue down the path we started and decided to figure it out after the nails were in place.

After we framed every photograph, I realized that I would be able to reach the highest point above the staircase if I used a step stool and reached across the half-height wall. So, I took a footrest that I have at my workstation, placed it against the half-height wall, and reached across with a hammer and nail. Although this method worked, it required a lot of stretching and risk because I was barely able to reach the last nail. Anyhow, it worked and all of the nails were in!

Putting up the photographs

When every nail was in place, it was time for the fun part of the project; putting up the photographs! We put about 6 picture frames on the wall and decided on landscape orientation for every other nail. In-between these photographs, we would put the ones that were portrait oriented.

Once the landscape photographs were up and the portrait ones began filling the in-between spaces, we thought it worked very well. We also decided that we would move the landscape oriented photos to a different location when we have more portrait photos to put in their place.

While putting up every photograph, I looked at each one and realized that Andrea and I have done so much together in the 2 years that we’ve known each other. We also took some time to reminisce and talk about the memorable moments we had at every location on the photo wall. As I straightened each photograph, both Andrea and I were in a moment of reflection.


Ultimately, a project that Andrea and I anticipated to take at least a day to finish only took us 3 hours and the result is a beautiful wall full of our memories. Most importantly, this photo wall makes the house feel more like a home. It creates a happy, warm, and joyful atmosphere and is a great conversation piece for friends who visit us. Best of all, we know that the photo wall will always be a work in progress and we’ll continue filling it up with time!

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