Two years ago, I started collecting old architectural prints from local antique flea markets. My plan was to put together a picture gallery on our stairway. My husband had an appreciation for the black and white renderings and even picked out a few himself. And I loved picking out pieces that would one day be part of the overall collection.
All the pieces have a European flair, including a couple of architectural elements we’ve seen on our trips to Italy (e.g., Bronze doors on the Baptistery in Florence). Most of the prints are several hundred years old with a couple of prints from the 1600s.
I’m happy to say that the project is complete! Well … almost complete. I have a few more to add.
Here are the “before pictures”of our stairway.
As you can see, we have a challenging stairwell. We have a ledge that cuts the walls in half. And the curved wall adds extra complexity – both from a visual standpoint (different planes) and physically hanging artwork.
I would mat and frame the prints as I collected them. Most of the frames came from Aaron Brothers – got to love their 1cent sales and their 40% off coupons! I ended up stacking them on the ledge as they were completed.
At the end of 2011, I was ready to hang the pictures. (Or I should say, instruct my husband where to hang the pictures.)
And, I won’t include the fact that I asked my husband to help me hang the pictures one week before our big Christmas party.
I had read several blogs and had talked to several friends about the best way to hang a collection of pictures. It seemed like placing templates on the wall was the best method. But after cutting 6 templates, I scrapped the idea and came up with an approach that worked for Jeff and me. And, Jeff would get to use his laser level, so Jeff was sold on the method!
Step 1: Measure the wall space to determine available work area.
For the pictures that would hang above the ledge, I knew I wanted an 8 inch buffer from ledge to the bottom row of the pictures. I also knew I wanted an 8 inch buffer from the corner (where the two walls come together). Based on where the shadows fall when the ceiling lights are on, I also knew how far down from the ceiling I wanted the highest pictures placed.
Step 2: Mark off the work area on a floor surface to layout the pictures.
It’s a bit difficult to see in the pictures, but I used string to mark off the work area (on the carpeting in our living room and dining room). I used large pins to hold the string in place. I actually used two string borders (one representing the actual wall and ledge corners and the second for the 8 inch buffer space). You can use masking tape, painters tape, yarn or other areas depending on your work surface.
This provided the perfect workspace for me to rearrange the pictures on the floor until I found the desired look. Since I was doing two walls next to each other, I actually marked off two different areas so I could see how they would look together. This was important for me because I was using different frames (black, pewter and gold) and had several pictures that were part of a series.
Step 3: Layout pictures exactly how you want them, find the centers of columns and measure the distance from each picture.
I took a picture of the final layouts for both walls, printed them out and wrote down the distance between each picture. With each column of pictures, I planned to center them. On one wall, I had 3 columns and the other wall 4 columns of pictures.
Step 4: Using measurements and level, hang the bottom row of pictures.
Since the bottom row of pictures was to be 8 inches above the ledge, my husband hung those 3 pictures first. They were the basis for hanging the 3 columns of pictures. He used the laser level to hang each column of pictures.
It takes a lot of basic math to calculate where to hang the pictures. Since each picture has different hardware for hanging, we had to measure the following items:
- The center of each picture
- How far down from the top of the frame to the hanging hardware.
- For pictures with two hardware hangers, we needed to calculate the distance from the center of hardware to the center of the picture.
And the finished project …