2 in 1: Seasonal Photo Board Displays

Photo Boards Michelle Chahine Sinno

This week in experiments with work-life balance: taking the time to organize photos and display them on boards at home.

Work-life balance, to me, is all about getting out of the haze of everyday life. The haze that fills your day, so that sometimes you get from breakfast to bedtime without being present in the hours in between. It’s the same haze that leads you to go months and months without organizing your photos and photo albums–especially in the digital age.

Thanks to high quality cameras in smartphones, we’re all able to take as many photographs as we want, whenever we want. This also leads to a problem: We end up having so many pictures that we often don’t even look at or enjoy any of them. The goal of a picture is to capture a special memory or moment so that we can look back on it and appreciate the richness of our lives. If we get so overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of pictures on our devices, and we don’t end up curating them, editing them, and displaying them in any physical form, we end up missing out in a very real way.

Most homes have photos scattered across it, usually in semi-permanent frames, placed in semi-permanent spots. Gretchen Rubin writes about this in her book, Happier at Home:

“…because these photos were a permanent part of our apartment landscape, we usually walked right by them without seeing them. How could I focus our attention on our photographs? I had an idea. I’d create a new holiday photo gallery.

She uses holidays like Halloween and Valentine’s Day to update all the photographs in her home so that her family can enjoy and reflect on new memories every few weeks.

“The collection made a terrific seasonal decoration,” she adds, “And because these photos weren’t always on display, we paid special attention to them.”

I’ve always loved having cork boards at home to pin inspirational reminders on, in scrapbook manner. So, inspired by Rubin’s seasonal photo displays, I though a great way to display seasonal photo galleries would be on boards. I bought two from The Container Store that I hung up near my desk a couple of years ago, with the goal of rotating photographs on them. That would solve two problems. It would both help me stay on track with all the pictures I take, and it would help us keep our best memories and moments part of our everyday life.

Now, the rotation didn’t happen nearly often enough.

Yes, I know they’re crooked here! It’s an old photo 😛 “Done is better than perfect!”

I did successfully change all the photographs before the Christmas holidays as part of our decoration the last two Decembers, but my goal is to change the images on a monthly basis–not just once in a while. The advent of Spring this week inspired me to just do it. One of the common excuses, of course, is that there just isn’t enough time to wade through thousands of photographs for a new collection every month. But that breaks an important rule I’ve written about before: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

So, keeping in mind that if I didn’t take the time one evening to just do it, we’d likely go another month–well into the spring–with images of us in the snow and sweaters on the boards, I picked a few of my favorite photos from the last few weeks, along with some great photos from previous springs, and went straight to CVS to develop them. (Shutterfly.com is the best option, I think, when you’ve planned ahead).

Then, I took around twenty minutes to arrange them on the boards, and it gave me great pleasure.

In Happier at Home, Rubin explains the whole reason she decided to write that book:

“I realized that of the many elements that influenced my happiness, my home–in all its aspects–was most important.”

And she shares a quote from British literary giant Samuel Johnson, that seems to put into words an underestimated truth:

“To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends.”

That’s why one section on this blog is dedicated to “Home,” and why it’s important we take the time to enjoy it and make it reflect the best parts of ourselves.


FLowers in pellegrino bottleP.S. I love embracing new seasons all over the home! Here’s my small, cheerful ode to spring on the bathroom sink.


5 Simple Steps to Create Your Own Gallery Wall

How to Create a Gallery Wall Simple Easy Home Improvement Decor

A big part of work-life balance, to me, is taking the time to take care of your living space. N and I recently embarked on several small projects to reenergize our apartment and play up more of a beach theme, since that’s where we live. We added some new shelves, new decoration and tried to get rid of stuff we’ve accumulated over the past 3 years that we don’t really need. And it has made a big difference in how comfortable (and pretty) our space is.

One thing I’ve wanted to do for a while is put up a Gallery Wall. In fact, it’s been over 6 months that the project has been on my mind. The main reason I kept putting it off was the time it would require to wade through all the photographs on my home computer (more than 30,000!) and choose the right ones.

But after a recent trip to the San Diego Comic Con in mid-July, where I came across and bought some beautiful art by Pascal Campion, I was inspired to really give it a go. And one quote kept popping up in my mind:

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good Gretchen Rubin

..one of Gretchen Rubin’s “Secrets of Adulthood” from her book, The Happiness Project. (See my previous post about this book, one of my all-time favorites, which I highly recommend! And her second book: Happier at Home).

This idea is also one of Sheryl Sandberg’s favorite mottos, which always comes to my mind when I’m putting something off because of the excuse of not having enough time:

“Done is better than perfect.”

Sandberg writes in Lean In: “I have tried to embrace this motto and let go of unattainable standards. Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.”

So, I gave myself 2 evenings to select some photographs. I reminded myself that I could change them at any time. They didn’t have to be the best, most absolutely perfect pictures for my perfect Gallery Wall. They just had to be beautiful photographs I’d enjoy looking at every day and would, within the set of the gallery, bring me joy every evening when I walked into the house. After narrowing it down to about 50 images, I then got real about what image would work in what frame, and how they work together.

After months of putting it off because “I didn’t have enough time,” it was done in around 4 and a half hours spread across 3 evenings. I finally put it up, entirely on my own from start to finish and learned a big lesson about just doing it.

Here are the 5 simple steps that I followed:

1. Collect a variety of frames. They should definitely be of different sizes, some average 4×6 or 5×7, at least one tiny and one huge, to have a variety in the display. To be honest, I did this gradually over a year, but it can also be done with a more concerted effort over a couple of weeks. You don’t have to spend a lot. Pottery Barn (my brown frames) always seems to have sales on their frame collection. Aaron Brothers has many affordable options (the white frames), and there is always IKEA.

2. Choose images to frame, preferably a combination of art, prints and photographs. I loved the ideas of using my own photos since photography is one of my hobbies. But if you prefer to purchase professional ones, that works too. There are also several great websites like Unsplash and Picjumbo where you can download some beautiful high resolution photographs for free.

How to Create a Gallery Wall

3. Map out the layout of your wall using parchment or boarding paper (I got a big roll with plenty leftover for 4$ from Home Depot) and blue wall-safe Painter’s Tape. Pottery Barn has a small manual on creating Gallery Walls that I had saved in January when the idea of putting one up first game to mind. They suggest that instead of trying to imagine it, you can use parchment paper to put up the frames and…

How to Create a Gallery Wall Simple Easy

4. Print your images cheaply, either at a home printer or somewhere like Staples, as I did. Put them up on your parchment paper frames and play around with the different colors to choose your final selection.

5. Hammer in those nails and get the frames up. Once you’re happy with how the images look, you can print them out properly.

How to Create a Gallery Wall Simple Easy

The next step for me is going to be finding a couple of non-frame objects to add. I’m hoping I’ll come across great pieces during travels in the next three of months– and a few new photographs or prints too. The best part is: once it’s up, you can play with changing images around every few months. (More on this soon.)

Every time I look at my new Gallery Wall I smile, and it was well worth the wait and effort. So, what are you waiting for? Make this your project for one week, using your evenings after work for this fun effort to brighten up your space.