Decorating Your Home with Photos – My Staircase Gallery Wall

melissa arlena staircase picture wall 100

It’s a classic that is always in style, practically any movie you can find featuring a home shows this and it is an American staple in decorating I think. What am I talking about, the family staircase gallery wall of course! Next to the family portrait over the fireplace, this is the display that many people grew up with. What is awesome about this type of display is that even though photos on a staircase wall is a classic you can truly make it fit almost any style even funky and modern!

Growing up I remember we had caricature drawings going down the stairs to the basement where my Gram lived at the time. They were hers and featured different family members doing things they loved. Definitely not your typical traditional display but still fun to look at each time I went down to visit. My brother in law’s parents have the traditional large senior portraits of him hanging on their staircase, very classic in size and styling despite the fact he was sporting the Vanilla Ice/Zach Morris look of the time ;)!

So when we first looked at our current home and I saw the open two-story foyer with its beautiful staircase wall just begging for photos I was sold. I was already decorating the place during the first walkthrough! Finally, after being here for over 2 years and staring at the wall longingly talking about this amazing staircase gallery wall display I was going to hang David finally asked me when it was actually going to happen.  Well, that right there was the impetus to get the ball rolling!

I had pinned sooooooo many display ideas and layouts and ironically in the end I just made my own. I knew I wanted the display to be classic but still a bit eclectic. I had read a bunch of design articles on hanging art in your home and one thing that stuck out to me was the advice to anchor your display with a few large portraits of the same size. So I picked up five 16×20 frames in two different frame styles. I’ll talk more about mixing frames in another post! I already knew 3 photos I wanted to use in the display and one was a horizontal image so I opted to alternate my frames like the example below.


Now it was looking more classic and traditional so it was time to mix things up and make it more eclectic and modern. I picked up random frames in different sizes and also stole a few frames from the nursery wall display to use. Now it was time to figure out where to put everything. You might think I went all high tech and laid them out in photoshop or used the nifty app I have on my ipad to figure out where I wanted everything to go. Nope I was super low tech and did what everyone reading this can do……I just laid them out on the floor of my office and started moving things around! There were some pattern things that I was able to see at this point that I could tweak to make my classic timeless heart happy but also keep the staircase gallery wall display looking fresh and natural. This was a quick photo I took with my iphone to share on Instagram one night. I swear the carpet doesn’t look that dingy in person, lol!

staircase picture wall

Once I had a layout I liked that wasn’t too formal but also not too eclectic I started laying out the photos I knew I had in the frames. That let me start to see the staircase gallery wall display come together and move things as needed. I also was able to identify that most of the photos were from our newborn sessions with the fabulous Marta Locklear and it would be nice to have some more recent photos of the boys. Also, I wanted photos of David with the boys. Luckily I was able to dig through my archives and find photos I was looking for but I know for our next family session there are a few images I would like to try to capture like something vertical with just David and the boys. I can tell you as a photographer knowing a client wants a specific photo in a certain orientation before we do the session is so helpful. That lets me know to shoot for that image to be sure we can fill the space they need.

Now that everything was ready to go it was hanging time. I’ll go into more details about ways to hang a photo display in another blog post. For this staircase gallery wall display, I used a mix of gorilla hooks, nails, and command strips. My perfectionist’s heart loves having a secure easy way to hang things with my gorilla hooks and then using command strips to ensure everything is straight and extra secure! I laid out my layout on the wall with kraft paper cut to size help by a low tack tape, here is another iPhone shot that I shared on Instagram. Pardon my non-straightness, I was doing this without a ladder (ps this is my favorite ladder, so versatile)!

Update 2021 – Instead of kraft paper which can curl and be a pain I’ve found that using wrapping paper is much easier! I just use an extra roll of Christmas wrapping paper and as a bonus mine have the lines on the back to make cutting straight lines easier. I also tend to use painter’s tape to tape the wrapping paper that way I don’t worry about it damaging client’s walls. Last update is sharing my favorite hangers – Beehive Hangers! These go onto the frame itself but they make hanging a breeze if you follow their directions. Plus you can do micro adjustments to make sure everything is level and perfect!

staircase gallery wall design layout

And the almost done still tweaking and adding photos Instagram share :). After taking this photo and looking at the display for a while I decided I needed to add another frame to the middle to give it more balance.


Here is the final product and I’m totally in love with it! Seriously you can sometimes find me just staring at the display with my hand over my heart. There is room to grow the display if we like, maybe add another layer to the top to keep it symmetrical. I can also swap out images as the boys grow. Keep reading to see a few more display ideas for staircases and hopefully one will be perfect for you!



Just to keep it real you can see a few spots on my frames that I need to touch up because I’m a klutz and tend to bang things up and you might notice my oops in nail placement that I haven’t patched yet. Done is not perfect is my motto 😉


Here are a couple of staircase picture wall gallery ideas to get you started planning your own display! On the left, we have a very classic timeless look with 4 images of the same size. This works great for a more traditional style, keeping everything the same size and the layout mimicking the stair steps. On the right, we have a more eclectic display with lots of smaller images mixed in with a few larger ones. Check out a real-life eclectic design I did for a client here!


Again another more classic layout but by turning two of the images sideways you add a bit more visual interest and freshen it up. A very simple change. On the right we have the display layout I made for our staircase, you can see I have a lot of repeating elements so while it looks a bit more random on my wall it is in fact pretty symmetrical. Minus that one spot where I will probably add another 8×10 frame to even things out!


Keep getting inspired by checking out this Eclectic Stairway Picture Wall Gallery design I did for a recent client!

dc newborn photography 0064p.s. – If you have a staircase begging for a gorgeous display like mine then let’s chat! Click here to contact me about planning out the perfect gallery for your home.

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please note that I only recommend tools that I personally use and love and I always have my readers’ best interest at heart.

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  • SachiSeptember 19, 2019 - 11:05 pm

    are the dimensions indicated in your templates the dimensions of the photography or the frame? For example, does 16×20 mean the print is 16×20 or the outer edge of the frame is 16×20?

  • Melissa Arlena JeffcoatSeptember 19, 2019 - 11:49 pm

    The outer edge of the frame is 16×20!

  • KianiFebruary 5, 2020 - 4:26 am

    is 16×20 in inches or cm? Thankyou!

  • Melissa Arlena JeffcoatFebruary 5, 2020 - 6:29 am

    16×20 inches!

  • GilbertDecember 29, 2023 - 12:30 am

    Your staircase gallery wall project is a heartwarming blend of classic style and personal touch! I admire how you’ve taken a staple of American home decor and infused it with your unique, eclectic flair. Your journey from inspiration to realization is not just about decorating a space but creating a storybook of memories. Kudos on creating such a beautiful, evolving display of life’s precious moments! Keep inspiring with your creativity and passion for turning houses into loving homes.

  • janaraJanuary 25, 2024 - 11:46 am

    what are the size of the photos in theses frames?

  • Melissa Arlena JeffcoatFebruary 8, 2024 - 12:48 pm

    It depends. I like to use mats for my images so a 16×20 frame might hold an 11×14 image.

  • SahyaMarch 17, 2024 - 10:56 am

    Hi, hope this message finds you well. I am curious about the distance of the frames to the floor. What is the distance of the frame, the one at the bottom of stairs (wedding one) to the floor, please? I am using a guidance of 150cm above each stair. But our staircase style is exactly the same. I want to compare bc I really like your composition.

  • Melissa Arlena JeffcoatMarch 26, 2024 - 1:35 pm

    Unfortunately we sold that house a few years ago so I can’t measure it for you.

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Melissa Arlena is an award winning Richmond and Charlottesville photographer. She recently earned her Master Photographer Certification in the Maternity, Newborn & Family categories from the National Association of Professional Child Photographers. Melissa offers maternity, lifestyle newborn, and family photography in her relaxed, natural, and joyful style.


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