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How to Hang the Best Staircase Gallery Wall in 3 Easy Steps

Decorating the walls of your staircase can be a challenge. Learn how to display photos on a staircase gallery wall. Sharing my tips and tricks to do it right the first time.

I’m a huge fan of gallery walls! 

I mean who isn’t right? 

There are so many beautiful designs and I absolutely love decorating with pictures. 

I’d rather look at the faces of my kids than a piece of art…call me crazy. 

Maybe the crazy picture lady…haha!

I have several gallery walls in my home and if I can find some more blank walls I may even add more. 

We have a huge farmhouse-style gallery wall in our living room.

When I updated my daughter’s bedroom, I included a simple inexpensive grid-style gallery over her dresser.

In our family room, I filled a tall blank wall with a gallery wall of large photo canvases.

Anne has an awesome display of family photos in picture frames and canvas prints in her entryway gallery wall!

How to Hang a Gallery Wall

AnnMarie adjusting picture frame on wall in gallery display

I think it’s safe to assume I love a great gallery wall!

But I’ll be honest with you, they didn’t always start out great.

I’ve actually had to recreate two of my gallery walls after my first attempt to put them together because they were just ok. 

And I didn’t want just ok…I wanted fabulous!

The more photo walls I styled, the more I learned what works and what doesn’t.

Now I want to share what I’ve discovered so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

I’m going to let you in on some super easy tips to help you get it right the first time. 

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Before: Staircase Gallery Wall Makeover

before photo of staircase gallery wall

One of the walls I recreated was going up my staircase.

It wasn’t horrible but also not a display I loved and was proud of.

I was excited to start decorating our home after we moved in but I may have done a few things too quickly like this staircase wall.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really think it through or wait until my budget allowed me to buy enough frames.

I had a couple of photos in black frames from our old house so decided to use them to start this gallery wall going up the stairs. 

But I needed more frames so I grabbed a few inexpensive black frames from Walmart. 

They were cheap like only $2 and not great quality but I thought they’d work out ok.

I also found three wood frames at home so I painted them black to match the others. 

I placed family photos in the frames and hung everything up on the wall with a single nail and called it done.

Do you notice the scuffs on the walls and trim in that picture up there?

The frames got knocked off the walls more times than I can count over the years.

Between kids running up and down the stairs or me carrying a laundry basket on my hip, the pictures fell off that single nail they were hung on all the time.

All the marks on the wall are from the picture frames getting knocked down.

In the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about size and scale, and this gallery wall is too spread out on this big wall.

The frames are spaced a bit too far apart from each other and there is too much blank wall space around the display.

three kids standing with arms around each other outside with trees behind

I had to take all the picture frames down when we repainted the walls so I took the opportunity to reconfigure the layout of my staircase gallery walls. 

Plus any chance I get to add some additional photos of my favorite three kids I’ll take!

I may be a bit biased but aren’t they so cute?

What Size Picture Frames Should You Hang on Wall?

close up of 5x7 picture frames hung on wall

One of the things I’ve learned since hanging the original gallery wall is that if you want to use a smaller photo size make sure you use a larger frame.

As you can see, the two 5×7 prints next to each other above the larger photo are too small for this big wall space.

To fix this problem you can either choose a frame with multiple openings or a large frame with a mat to the smaller size of your print.

close up of scalloped picture frame with three openings

If you use 5×7 or even 4×6 prints then choose a frame that has multiple openings so that the overall look is bigger on the wall.

I knew that I needed to add more photos to fill more wall space going up the stairs than I had with the original layout and was excited to include some old pictures of my kids that I had tucked away in a drawer. 

Some of the older pictures were printed in uncommon sizes like 10×13 and 9×11 but I found frames on Amazon for those different sizes. 

I’ve shared frame options in all different sizes below to make it super easy for you!

How to Make Paper Templates When Creating a Gallery Wall

Kraft paper templates of picture frames hanging on wall in staircase

Another tip I’ve learned is to make paper templates of all the frames you will be hanging.

Templates allow you to visualize the display better than laying the frames out on the floor.

To make templates I used a roll of Kraft paper and just traced each frame on the paper then cut out the template. 

I used painter’s tape to hang the template frames to create a layout on the wall I liked.

It was a little time-consuming to make all those templates but was so worth it as I moved them around a few times….ok maybe like 25 times! 

But honestly, it’s a lot easier to move the paper templates around until you get the exact layout you want rather than moving frames later.

What Should You Use to Hang Picture Frames?

back of wood frame with one side of command strip on

I also decided to use command strips to hang the frames this time around. 

Over the years those inexpensive frames started to sag from their cheap cardboard backing that hung on the wall.

Also with all the traffic going up and down the stairs every day the frames got knocked off the wall more than a few times. 

And if they didn’t completely fall off the wall they definitely moved around and marked up the walls. 

Since I doubled the number of frames, I increased the odds of them being banged around. 

And with a fresh paint job on the walls I wasn’t taking a chance of messing up my pretty walls.

I considered hanging the frames with nails and just using one command strip along the bottom to keep it in place. 

back of wood photo frame with command strips

But in the end, I decided to only use command strips and no nails which equals no holes in the wall. 

If you haven’t worked with command strips before I highly suggest trying them on your gallery wall…they are so easy to use. 

I used two different size strips depending on the size of the frame. 

Some frames only needed two command strips but for others, I added three to the back of the frame.

They come in two parts…one side attaches to your wall and the other to your frame. 

Just use rubbing alcohol to clean the area you will be attaching the strips to….then adhere to the wall and wait an hour to let it cure.

Next, attach the two velcro strips together by firmly pressing the frame to the wall.

close up of edge of photo frame showing how it hangs next to wall

I was a little hesitant about not using nails because I didn’t want the frames to stick out from the walls with the thickness of a command strip. 

But I was really happy with the results.

As you can see, the frames sit flush with the wall and they don’t move at all.

Like I can’t even budge them!

Do you want to see the finished new & improved staircase gallery wall?

After: Staircase Gallery Wall Makeover

staircase gallery wall with all black framed photos akeover going up staircase

What do you think? So much better right?

Now all of the wall space from the top to the bottom is full with the new layout of picture frames.

I’m super happy with the outcome of the new gallery wall.

I was able to add some pictures of my kids I hadn’t seen in years.

Those pictures are now out for our family & friends to enjoy rather than sitting in a drawer. 

This gallery wall is dedicated to all the photos of their younger years…I want to remember when they were sweet! 

Just kidding even though they are teenagers and beyond they’re still pretty cool kids!

view of staircase with black picture frames hanging on wall and dining room beyond stairs

Remember my tips about frame size?

I had several 5×7 prints that I wanted to use but didn’t want to hang frames smaller than 8×10, so I found frames to display three 5×7 pictures. 

Another 5×7 photo is in a large chunky wood frame.

straight on view of black frames in different sizes hung on wall going up stairs

I also kept frames that matched together in the layout. 

On the very top row, three of the same frame are hung together in a row.

Then in the middle row, I hung three matching frames side by side with black & white prints. 

Staircase Gallery Wall Transformation

side by side photos of before and after stair case gallery wall makeover

I love a good before & after and this one is no exception.

I hope this post helps you avoid some of the rookie mistakes I made during my first attempt at our staircase gallery wall. 

If you follow these easy steps you’ll be able to install the best gallery wall in your home too!

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collage of black picture frames from amazon

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

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Valerie

Saturday 15th of January 2022

How in the world do you reach up high enough in a stairwell to hang your pieces? Researching all I can find are $300 specialty ladders made for stairs, and I’m not about to spend that kind of money for a one-time project…

AnnMarie

Tuesday 18th of January 2022

Hi Valerie - Thanks for reaching out about the staircase gallery wall. I was able to hang all my frames without the use of a ladder. I just stood on my steps to hang each frame. I moved up the steps as I hung the frames higher on my wall. I'm 5'6" so was able to easily reach that top row of frames my standing on the 5th step of my staircase. I hope that helps! Have a great week!

Lucinda Ames

Saturday 23rd of October 2021

This article was so helpful! I will go out and buy the craft paper, pai9nters tape and command strips tomorrow! THe gallery looks wonderful!

Anne

Monday 25th of October 2021

Thank you, Lucinda! I'm so glad our tips are helping you to get the look you want in your home too!

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Beth

Thursday 21st of June 2018

That looks great! I hung my gallery wall over 5 years ago with command strips and they are still holding strong.

simply2moms

Friday 22nd of June 2018

Oh good...glad to hear your command strips are still holding Beth!