Contemporary Ways to Show off Family Photographs

Practical solutions for displaying photos of your family range from silhouettes and large-scale prints to common frames and collages.


Interior designer Gaile Guevara shows off family photos with a handsome gallery wall using larger images tied together with some common element.

Photos by Gaile Guevara


A close and loving family is a blessing, no doubt. With it come both good feelings and happy memories, but also one big design dilemma: what to do with all the photos? Sure, you can go old school and adorn your mantle with frames. But things can get cluttered pretty quickly that way, and the look doesn’t exactly scream contemporary.

The good news is that there are lots of alternatives to the traditional family photo display, and they’re modern, hip, and a whole lot easier to keep dust-free.

One option is a gallery wall. This method incorporates many framed pictures into a single, large-scale display. You’ll want to gather a lot of photos: enough to cover the whole length of a hallway or wall, three or four images high. Larger pieces are best for this approach, so go for at least 8-by-10s if you can. Smaller ones can work too, but make sure they’re surrounded by extra wide mats to give them more heft. The effect will be much neater if you group together several sizeable items rather than a ton of tiny ones.

You’ll also need to ensure that the photos are tied together visually, and there are a couple of ways to accomplish this. One is through frame finish. Try using all white, all black, or all wood tones—whatever works with your decor. Alternatively, you can create unity through the photos themselves. Stick to either all color or all black and white for the neatest look. Each style comes with advantages: Color can add a welcome jolt of brightness to your wall, while black and white is always chic. They’ll both work, so just choose whichever you like best.

Remember, too, that framed photos aren’t the only way to showcase your nearest and dearest. British company Better Wallpaper Co. ( can turn any good-size digital image into an enormous print, even one large enough to span an entire wall. The effect is undeniably bold, even showstopping. But it’s not the best choice for the modest—or for those with more subdued taste.

Of course, you can always eschew photography entirely. If paintings or drawings are more your style, hire an artist to create a custom illustration. Etsy ( is filled with pros who do this sort of work, and local art schools are a great resource too.

Another option in that vein: cut-paper silhouettes. Given that they were the height of popularity in the 1800s, you can call them the ultimate artistic throwback. Their minimalist styling can still feel current now, though, especially when rendered in color as opposed to the customary black and white.

No matter how you choose to display your loved ones, just make sure of one thing: Be sure to give all your family members equal play. With so many ways to display them, there’s no excuse to leave anybody out.

Sarah Coombs is an interior designer based in Alameda.