More than almost any other item in your home—lamps and other lighting choices, window treatments, heirloom furniture, and even art—family photos are deeply personal mementos, and as such, opinions on how to style them and where to display them are equally varied and personal. Many traditionalists stand by the old-school rule that family photos should be reserved for your home’s private spaces—bedrooms, offices, dressing rooms, and the like—and kept out of more formal public areas such as living rooms and dining rooms. But at the end of the day, most will admit that the only real rule is to do what makes you happy. It’s your home after all. 

Regardless of where you stand on the family photo debate, styling your collection in a way that is chic and warm without looking cluttered is hard to pull off. To help create stylish displays (in public or private spaces), we turned to the experts for help.  

Create Continuity with Classic Silver Frames  

“Whatever gives you pleasure should be how you decorate,” says Keith Meacham, the design mind behind one of Nashville’s chicest shops, Reed Smythe & Company. And if you love family photos in your home’s public rooms, she says, go for it, but offers this advice: “Consider silver frames to create continuity and make your photos feel like a collection.”  

Display Your Collection as a Group 

Kindred spirits, Meacham and fellow Nashville designer Chelsea Robinson of Chelsea Robinson Interiors also suggest grouping your similarly silver framed photos. “For Christmas, I gifted my husband a bunch of silver frames for family photos—he complains that I never put any out—because I think it can be chic to create a collection of them somewhere in the house. We have a long console table in our entry hall, and I’ve been playing with styling them there as a group.” 

Add a “Rogues’ Gallery” 

Down hallways or up back stairwells, Meacham’s favorite way to display family photos is what she calls a “rogues’ gallery,” essentially a large gallery wall of family photos, spanning multiple generations. Vintage and new images in both black-and-white and color in a range of sizes and a mix of frames populate the space. “My current rogues’ gallery is in a vaulted hallway that joins the kitchen and living room,” she says. “When we host parties, I’ll often find myself standing in front of it with a cocktail chatting about my family. It’s a sweet way to tell your family story.” 

Rethink Your Bookshelves 

There’s a reason a quick Google search on bookshelf styling yields so many results—it’s hard. But getting it right is something Atlanta-based interior designer Alexis Simpson of Establishment Home is passionate about. Incorporating photos on your bookshelves can create a cluttered look if not done well, but Simpson loves the storytelling layers that family photos, especially vintage black-and-white images, can add to your home via a chic bookshelf collection.

“I’ve been stealing old family photos from my parents since college,” Simpson admits. A bookshelf in her family’s cozier “adult living room” lent itself particularly well to a mix of vintage photos. To create a clean look, Simpson was purposeful with her frame choices. “The black-and-white images work well in classic silver frames, but some of the photos have a sepia-tone, so I mixed in some vintage gold frames, too.” Books as well as other family mementos like her husband’s framed baseball cards add personality and warmth. 

Turn Family Photos into Fine Art 

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, Simpson suggests. There are a handful of talented Southern artists such as Dorothy Shain in Greenville, South Carolina, who are taking an irreverent and playful approach to traditional commissioned portraits by using beloved family photos to create gallery-worthy, mixed media paintings.  


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