Huge Blank Wall = Amazing Photo Backdrop

2 Materials
24 Hours

We have the world's ugliest stairwell that USED to have a ceiling mount fixture. The burned out light bulb had NEVER been changed.
As we were doing some renovations in the house, I decided to take down the current dining room pendant light and replace it with a chandelier. Thus, I had a handy, dandy, LONG, hanging light on my hands.
As I tripped down the stairwell for the millionth time, I realized that I could put our used pendant light to good use - in the stairwell. Because of the height and the fact that scaffolding would be required, we opted to have a professional installer come in and change the light.
For the first time in 7 years, we had a basement stairwell light.
Pendant light moved from dining room
Once we had the light in place, we found that the walls were battered and nasty. Since we had 10' ceilings in our house, the top of the wall was almost 20' in the air from the bottom of the stairwell, the 'landing' was in the actual basement. We had no flat floor space to even attempt to set up any kind of a expandable ladder.
However, the walls HAD to be fixed and painted now that people could actually see them. Again, we chose to bring in a professional painter to manage the task. If you have scaffolding, you could do this yourself, but given our lack of proper tools, it was well worth it to outsource this task!
Even after our first 2 coats of paint, we had to again patch and fixed the drywall that had been beat over the years.
Painted, still need more drywall fixes.
Then, my 'real' work began. I had envisioned a wall full of photos. With the ledge, it was going to be a great place to do something like this as no one would 'bump' into the wall and knock things off or out of whack.
I scoured the house for every photo and collage I had of the kids, family, etc. I found over 28 things to hang, including 3 shelves. I also got out the old photo albums to get some of the older family pics out on display and ended up purchasing another 6 collage frames that would hold another 36+ photos. All in all, I spent about 1/2 a day collecting and making the new collages with the help of my awesome hubby.
Then, I started out by creating the arrangement as I saw it in my mind, on the floor of the living room. It was huge! I spent another 2 hours arranging and re-arranging. I measured the wall space and realized I could spread out a bit more, so I re-arranged yet again!
Finally, I found the arrangement that would work and called in another painter who had scaffolding and all the tools to do the hanging work for us - again, this could be done by anyone, but we thought it would be smartest if we had help. Please know, if you don't have a potential 20 foot fall, this would be a lot easier!
Laying out the arrangement!
So, our fabulous painter friend showed up with his scaffolding and tools and set up quite a contraption in the hallway. He had expandable straight ladders and used the bottom planks of 2 of his HUGE old pallets to make the catwalk.
Let the hanging begin...
The hanging process lasted a full 8 hours, including set-up, measuring, adding picture back hangers to some of the 'less perfect' old frames, etc. We placed the smaller, non-hanging pictures on the shelves. It worked well.
Another view.. one collage left.
He started by hanging all the 8"x10" frames across the top and then worked his way down the center. He centered the biggest collage -a gift from my daughter and moved on from there.
Another view from the scaffolding.
He worked his way out to the wall and then back into the center and bottom.
Scaffolding is gone!
We added in our initials (C and J) and the scaffolding was gone. Voila.
It was an amazing transformation. The light may now be too low, but I still have the problem of needing to be able to change the light bulb so it is going to stay in place for now!
View from the bottom of the steps
I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome. Yes, we paid some money for help, but given the difficulty of the task, I'd do it again, all day!!
I know you get cannot up close and personal to all the pics, but the wall SHOWS you our fabulous family and I can feel the love pouring out of each and every grouping of photos - so in my mind, the feel overcomes the lack of being able to see all the pics close up!
Thanks for taking your time to view and read. I'd love any feedback you have!
The End Result

Resources for this project:

Porter 'Turtle Dove' Paint
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Have a question about this project?

3 of 10 questions
  • Kari Roesler-Stepp
    on May 14, 2019

    I have a stairwell EXACTLY like this! We don't have a hanging light though, we have an LED can light, so I'm hoping it won't fade any pictures.

    I'm just curious how much you paid just to have the pictures hung, and how much time just that part of it took? I can organize our frames, add hanging wire etc myself, but we don't have proper scaffolding, and I would not want to break my neck trying to hang something... Just wanted to know approximately how much something like that would cost to have someone else do it. Thank you! =)

  • Grace
    on Jul 28, 2019

    hello I love what u done with this pictures very nice,

    I was just wondering with picture frame goes with a really old black and white photo?


  • LisaAnn Gill Hamilton
    on Nov 18, 2019

    I like this. However, how are people going to see the pictures high up on the wall? If I did this in my house, someone would say I was being inconsiderate of other's being able to view the photos-of course I wouldn't care that much. Just saying.

Join the conversation

3 of 267 comments
  • Milagros
    on Jan 23, 2020

    Great idea!!! I’m going to try something similar! You’ve inspired me to get out some great photos and decorate a wall by our back stairs🙌🏼

  • Pamela Halverson
    on Apr 6, 2020

    You've done what I've wanted to do in my stairwell for 31 years! Kudos! Part of my wall on the right side had been removed and spindles were placed in the opening so anything on the opposite wall will be visible. A perfect gallery! Thanks for inspiring me to again consider doing that!

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