on display: moving with portraits

First installment of our On Display series this year is one very relevant for me right now, having just gone through (okay, fine, still going through.. I will unpack eventually!) a huge move. Moving to a new home, or remodeling your current home, can completely upset how your portraits are displayed, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! I began mentally preparing a few pointers as we moved and started setting up in the new house, so I could offer some advice to anyone out there looking to make a change.

1. Pack carefully! Obviously frames are breakable and canvases very delicate, but you also need to keep things like moisture and heat into consideration. No photos, professional or otherwise, should sit on a moving truck or in a hot attic for too long, as the heat will warp and often destroy the paper beyond repair. Best to mark all boxes containing photos, even ones without fancy frames, as fragile, and let them be last on, first off, in the move, so you can put them somewhere in the house where they will be safe until you unpack.

2. Take care with digital files! The same rules are true with CDs and hard drives with regards to heat and humidity, but even just the handling is more delicate when it comes to computers. A dear friend of mine lost SIX YEARS worth of family photos when a moving company unplugged the computer without properly shutting down, crashing the main drive completely. That of course brings up my “PRINT YOUR PHOTOS” speech but that’s for another time. I know it isn’t possible to stay completely up to date, and many people prefer to have the digital backups, but mishandling of those electronics can be a huge mistake.

3. Pack a Favorite! I may be more inclined to photos than the next person, but everyone goes through that unsettled feeling when moving in to a new place. For me, the simple act of putting one of my favorite pictures (a little 4×6 in a simple desktop frame) on the kitchen counter was just that exhale I needed to really feel like it was our place. And what’s funny, everyone who came in (especially my girls!) commented on it.. amid the boxes and chaos, there was a little bit of normal there, and it made us all feel like we belonged. When packing, just pick one or two small frames, stick them in your purse and let them be some of the first things you put out.. don’t have to find a permanent home for it, just a place you will see it in the endless parade of shuffling furniture and unloading boxes.

4. Be Flexible! This was probably one of the hardest things for me. I tend to get a vision stuck in my head and it takes me some time to look outside that box, or layout as it may be. But I found opening myself to other possibilities has been a great opportunity for fun new changes! Some images that had been framed as a grouping (and yes, printed specifically to be that group) have been split up into different rooms. I’ve replaced older images with new favorites, and even gone back and printed old favorites that I never had a place for!

One example, our last house had a huge mantle and tall ceiling, next to which was a large tv armoire. Between the two of those ledges (the mantle and the top of the dresser) I had five large (20×24 and up) black & white canvases of the girls. That display was one of my favorite in the house, all propped and overlapping (not hung on a nail) and striking in their size and variety, some long and thin some square and fat, etc. I’d been growing it for years, starting with one image, adding a new one about every 18 months or so, and it always got a ton of compliments.

However, the new house, adorable as it is, has a MUCH smaller living area. And no fireplace, meaning no mantle. And no tv, meaning no armoire. Oh, and the walls are broken by doorways and windows and open spaces.. so not even the wall space to hang them. Five gorgeous (expensive!) canvases with nowhere to go! I was so sad! Then an offhand remark by a friend about how large our master bedroom was compared to the rest of the house got me thinking.. as a private room, it’s always been last on the decorating list, and we’d never done much with that room. A few nails later, and my bedroom walls look like an art gallery, with the huge prints filling the spaces and the black & white tones meshing perfectly with the black furniture and grey bedding we already had.. cool and spa-like, so nice and relaxing! I never would have considered it as an option, but now I get to see these sweet faces all the time AND have a fully decorated bedroom! Bonus! (yes! That’s a little peek of the soon-to-be-showcased-crazy-little-farmhouse!)

5. Get Creative! Try switching out or updating frames, maybe that big ornate gold-leaf frame your grandmother had to purchase for your bridal portrait doesn’t fit your new style, but can you replace the image with a black & white candid of your little girl and her BFFs, and spray paint the frame bright pink? Total Pottery Barn upgrade! Speaking of spray paint, it’s a great (inexpensive!) way to keep older and/or mismatched frames still in use. Collect a variety of smaller frames and paint them all the same color to create a grouping that’s unified but still has some personality and variety. Don’t let yourself be limited by what you have.. often it’s more than enough!

5. Be Daring! One of the best things about moving is that it forces you to start over, so you have the chance to do something totally different and new! I have a few display ideas that I’ve held on to for years, but never had the space (or time, or money, or whatever!) to actually do it in my own home. Now that we are starting from scratch, the blank slate that is my house can be anything! Exciting, yes! Overwhelming, totally! To save my own sanity, I’ve been working my way through the house, one room at a time, not committing to much but playing with lots of ideas. I’m excited to finally get to display some images I’ve loved, and even have a few spots picked out specifically for special pictures that have yet to be taken! This is the fun part!

Here are a few great ideas I’ve saved (yes, from Pinterest!) and would love to share for anyone out there looking to make a move, remodel a home, or just freshen up one room.  The best part about decorating with portraits is that the art is the most beautiful kind… your own family! Never going to go out of style or be outdated, and just like a fine painting, they will only get more precious as the years go by! Enjoy!

Instagram Gallery! How cool is that? (BTW follow me on Instagram, @annbeck!)

Long Ledges.. easy to updated and expand, great look.. even has how-to instructions!

Love this photo wall, eclectic look means easy to maintain and change, variety gives you room to include all different images

This link has too many ideas to post just one.. see what I mean about exciting! I’d love to see some great wall ideas from any of you.. send me your creations, I need some more inspiration!;)


  • Stacy Thiot - Those are great ideas! I love all your pictures. I do have a question however, where did you get your instagram pictures printed? I’ve seen places to do that, but can’t remember where!February 22, 2012 – 3:35 pm