A simple grouping with matching frames decorates the space above the sofa perfectly.

How to Group Pictures in a Living Room

by Amanda Bell

While a display of pictures is standard fare in most living rooms, there is still an art to creating a well-thought out design. As you choose photos for your arrangement, remember that a few well-taken pictures draw the eye immediately, while an overflow of standard snapshots can be overwhelming. Pick frames with your favorite photos to find a design, or different styles that fit each individual picture. A photo of your toddler will be adorable in a Crayola-colored frame, but the same housing for a picture of your teenager might not be as fitting.


Put together a cohesive grouping of pictures by choosing at least one component that is the same throughout, whether you use photo content themes, frame style, color or another element. For example, use orange, blue, white and silver frames in different styles to display pictures of your kids, artwork prints and photos of the family dog, but keep the matting the same thickness and color throughout. The more characteristics you match, the more structured the grouping will be.

Appealing Groupings

A collection of family photos in bold-colored frames, unmatted and in different sizes is rather relaxed, while the same photos matted with a 3-inch ivory border and displayed in identical frames makes a more formal grouping. Sometimes the fact that nothing matches can be a theme on its own. To find a grouping that works, take the items you have in mind and lay them out on a table that you pass by frequently. Look at it throughout the day for a few days, taking one photo away or adding another, until you have something you find appealing.

Height and Spacing Tips

A collection of pictures in any configuration can be appealing provided you proportion them to the wall and to each other. For spacing, keep items between 2 and 6 inches apart. A gallery-style wall looks best spaced closer together, while a horizontal line of pictures can handle more distance between each item. Hang everything so that the centerline of the grouping is at eye level. When standing, this is between 57 and 60 inches above the floor. But if the pictures are in direct eyesight from seating areas, you can go lower. For the width of the arrangement, the entire grouping should never be wider than the one below it.

Creating a Layout

Endless ways exist for you to arrange a group of pictures. A horizontal row of pictures creates a sleek and simple look across a longer wall, while you can achieve the same effect by a vertical column on a very narrow space. A grid creates a graphic look, while a puzzle arrangement, where the frames are arranged to fit inside an invisible shape, makes a stunning display with all matching frames. When it comes to a layout for your living room, the best way to create your design is to work directly with your collection.

Paper Layout Technique

For wall hangings, plan your layout on a tabletop covered in craft paper, moving the photos around until you have an arrangement you like. Trace around each frame; hang the paper on the wall, and then install the picture hangers directly through the paper. Rip the paper away and hang your work. You can take a similar approach by making paper cutouts of each framed picture, arranging these on the wall with tape, and then installing the picture hangers.

Shelf and Tabletop Groupings

Due to the lack of nails and tools, positioning a group of pictures on a shelf or tabletop often seems easier, but a few tricks can make your photos stand out. On a mantel or shelf, stagger the pictures, placing a few larger ones towards the back and smaller in the front, for a casual, living room-friendly look. If you prefer a straight line of photos, vary the size or shape of the frames, and the direction that they face to keep things interesting. Along a shelf, several smaller photos can often get lost. Instead, take one or two pictures you would usually hang, such as an 11-by-14 framed photo of your son in his soccer uniform, and set it on the shelf leaning against the wall. Mix this with a few 8-by-10 pictures and traditional 4-by-6 frames, and you have an interesting arrangement that draws the eye.

About the Author

Amanda Bell spent six years working as an interior designer and project coordinator before becoming a professional writer in 2010. She has published thousands of articles for various websites and clients, specializing in home renovation, DIY projects, gardening and travel. Bell studied English composition and literature at the University of Boston and the University of Maryland.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images