How to Create A Gallery Wall Without Ever Hammering a Nail


I’ve written a lot about family traditions and making family memories. In fact, you can read, here, about 5 Simple & Effective Memory Making Ideas That You Can Start Today.

Old family photos are one of the biggest triggers of memories for me. You may have gathered this if you landed on My Home Page which is full of wonderful photos of my family. So naturally I have found myself in possession of far more framed photos than wall space. Once my wall space was used up and my only gallery wall in place, I wondered what’s a girl to do with all these extra photos?

Family Photos are Great Memories A Post About Memory Keeping and Family Traditions by UK Yankee

The Rotation Gallery

Gallery and Photo Collage Walls have been popular for years and I still haven’t tired of the look. Mainly because as a decorating concept, there is so much individual personality in them. Most people tend to choose photos and pictures that have significance to them, making their Gallery Wall totally unique.

But have you ever created a Gallery Wall? Despite the wonderful tutorials all over the internet, in practice they are really hard to get right! Even with spirit levels and measuring tapes, my photos still end up ever-so-slightly crooked! And then what do you do when you’ve utilized all the wall space in your house and you STILL have loads of photographs that you want to display?

You can either put the framed photos on every flat surface in your house (which is impossible for me because it creates too much clutter and makes me itchy).

Or you can create a Rotation Gallery Wall.

The main benefit of a rotation gallery is its flexibility, changeability and the fact that you do not have to drive any nails into walls!

I have to credit my mom with this idea because she is even more obsessed with family photographs than I am (yes, this is actually possible!). I began to notice that she was doing this when we would visit over different holidays and I’d see that all her framed, standalone photos had changed and were now related to the current season/holiday.

So I want to tell you about her approach which seems very scientific (to me) and then I’ll tell you about my approach. And you can see which one suits you!

The Judi Approach

My mom has more photographs & artwork in her house than the Art Institute of Chicago. I say artwork not because she has possession of another lost Caravaggio or an original Georgia O’Keefe but because she frames and displays artwork that my brothers and I created as kids. Now she displays her grandchildren’s artwork. And yes, much of it is framed. I told you she was hard-core!

She does have a permanent Gallery Wall which you can see below.

How to Create A Family Photo Gallery without Putting A Nail In A Wall by UK Yankee Mom's Gallery Wall
My Mom’s permanent Gallery Wall.

I love looking at this Gallery Wall at my parents’ house. But we have gained a number of family members since its completion which means either a total refresh (what a pain!) or adding to the wall which may throw it out of balance. Thankfully, that’s not my problem!

Even though her house is miles bigger than mine, my mom has still run out of enough places to display everything at once. And anyway, doing so would offend her excellent taste in home decor. So she came up with, what I think is, an ingenious solution.

The Rotation Gallery concept

  1. She gathered up all her loose & framed photos and piled them up on the dining room table.
  2. Any photos that had a natural season or holiday attached to them were put together. For instance, March tends to have photos of me because it’s my birth month. Photos of swimming and boating go in the Summer pile. Autumnal photos and pumpkin farm snaps go under Fall/Halloween. Get it?
  3. The pictures are then organized into a plastic storage container as you would file paper into a filing cabinet. You can even put Season/Category separators between photo groups to make it easier to retrieve them during a season/month/holiday change.
  4. It probably goes without saying- don’t store the photos in places that receive extreme temperature changes (like your loft for instance!). My mom sometimes stores hers in the basement. Obviously use your discretion because some basements are very humid and damp and some are absolutely fine.
  5. Finally, identify the places that you like to show photographs so that when it comes time to switch everything around, you can do a straightforward and quick swap-around without spending too much time on it!

Mom's Fireplace Gallery How to Create A Gallery Wall Without Ever Hammering a Nail by UK Yankee

Welcome to my mom’s Rotation Gallery which lives on her mantle. The pictures here represent whatever holiday or season is relevant. Since May is  Mother’s Day month in the USA, she has chosen to honour the mothers in our family. I spy, both my grandmothers, three great-grandmothers, me and my mom too!

I adore this approach because it means that the whole family comes out during the year, sparking wonderful memories of the people pictured. Some are sadly not with us anymore so it’s nice to see their faces again!

The Alisa Approach

I do not have the storage capacity that my mom has in her house and my tendencies are a tiny bit more minimalist when it comes to decorating. By which I mean, my love of cleared flat surfaces exceeds even my love of old family photographs. This means that I have one wall where I like to show my family photos and I make the most of it. The place is the length of my IKEA Expedit unit which forms a lovely flat surface where I can lean the big photos against the wall (no need for nails!!) and the smaller photos can be dotted around.

How to Create A Family Photo Gallery without Putting A Nail In A Wall by UK Yankee
My Rotation Gallery. No nails and easily re-configured

I like to mix and match the way that the smaller frames are dotted around but the larger frames tend to stay in place because I love them and they offer a nice back-drop.

How to Create A Family Photo Gallery without Putting A Nail In A Wall by UK Yankee 2
My Rotation Gallery Side View

Mini Express on the How to Create A Family Photo Gallery without Putting A Nail In A Wall
A precious memento which never goes out of rotation. My brothers and I working outside our parents’ restaurant.

All of these photos tell a story in my life. If you spotted the photo (above) of my brothers and I working outside my parents’ restaurant and you’re desperate to know what was really happening out of the frame, head over to A Picture Says 1000 Words-UK Yankee by MrsMummyHarris where I’ve written about that day. You’re guaranteed a giggle!

Alisa’s rotation technique

My approach to changing things around is a lot less scientific than my mom’s approach. This is what my storage looks like:

Photo Storage for Rotational Gallery by UK Yankee

And the photos get changed around when I suddenly get the urge to go rummaging through that storage box and dig out a fresh look! Horses for Courses right? 🙂

rotation gallery advantages

For me there are three main advantages of the Rotation Gallery:

  1. No Nails! This approach requires no hanging of photos
  2. It’s super-flexible to allow for changing your look & decor easily and regularly (and cheaply!).
  3. It’s a great way to remember all the different people and happy times in your life.

Plus a bonus 4th advantage is that it gets the photos off your phone and into your life! You don’t even have to go out and buy a load of extra frames. Just stack a few pictures at the back of each frame and move them to the front when you feel like it!

What about you? Are you into Gallery Walls and displaying your family photos? Do you have any good tips to add to my Rotation Gallery idea? Please pop them below in the comments! I’m always looking for new ideas to display my precious photos!

Mother of Teenagersdiaryofanimperfectmum

12 thoughts on “How to Create A Gallery Wall Without Ever Hammering a Nail

  1. I love the idea of a rotation gallery. We have a wall in our kitchen hallway full of family pictures but a lot of them need replacing now to be honest as the teens get a bit embarrassed by the baby ones! I also have some fabulous new ones to put up and have been thinking for a while where to put them as most surfaces have a photo frame on them but I had never thought of simply rotating. Great. Thanks for the inspiration. #TweensTeensBeyond

    1. It’s funny what you say about your teens getting a bit embarrassed by the baby pics because my 9 y/o has made some comments along the same vein. (But the pictures of her baby feet are just so sweet!). I hope this helps you get some of those gorgeous new photos up for viewing! x

  2. Oh I love this. So very simple and so effective too. I adore photographs but I end up not knowing what to do with them when they aren’t up on the walls. A filing cabinet like yours is a super idea. #TweensTeensBeyond

    1. Thanks lovely! When I came to the (ridiculously simple) realisation that I didn’t have to have ALL my photos up ALL the time, it was very liberating :-D! I hope this works for you!

  3. Yes I do have a gallery wall with photos of my three kids on it and yes it does get out of date pretty quickly, in fact it is out of date right now! I love this idea, I really need to get organised and have a go. Brilliant tip. Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

  4. Brilliant idea. I am currently waiting to launch myself into the very same exercise – lots of bare walls post decorating. Need to get cracking – love the no nails idea. Thanks for reminding me to get on with it! Nicky #tweensteensbeyond

  5. I currently have a picture wall which does need updating and I like this idea. It gives more flexibiltity. It is easier to avoid the nails. It was a lot of measuring and work to get my wall how I wanted it. ? Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime ?

    1. Gallery Walls ARE really hard work aren’t they? They are so lovely but when they get outdated, I start itching to change things. And then I want to crawl into a hole thinking about fixing everything to the wall again. The flexible system is much better for my lazy lifestyle :-). Thanks for the comment!

  6. Love it! I actually have a similar photo gallery to yours on top of my piano, and one similar to your mom’s in my family room, plus another on the walls heading down my basement stairs. Family photos are my favorite thing to decorate with! And I absolutely love that photo of your grandmother laughing. The best! I’ve been meaning to tell youthat for a while, actually. 🙂

    1. Lol. I’m exactly the same. Family photos just make me smile which is why my house is full of them! I love Gallery Walls in stairwells, but haven’t mastered that yet- mainly becuase i have no idea what a straight line looks like and all of mine always ended up wonky! Thanks for your love of my Laughing Grandma! If you mean the one on my home-page, that is actually my great-grandma, but she was part of my life until I was 13. Every last one of us (in my family) adore that picture. It just captures her spirit so well!! Thanks for the lovely comment. xx

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