Like some of you, we’re die-hard fans of Magnolia and ChrisLovesJulia. One of their projects is a DIY photo ledge. We moved into our house late 2015 and left all of our family photos packed away in the attic. Two years later, YES, TWO YEARS LATER, we finally dusted off the boxes and gave our family photos a place in our home. This is not a tutorial (definitely check out the links above) but we think it’s worth sharing our experience because this would be a great feature wall in our rentals. By the way, we did this project before ChrisLovesJulia published their tutorial so definitely follow that one if you’re planning to make a large photo ledge. Here, we’re sharing what worked, what didn’t work and what we would do differently for the next build. Usually our home is a guinea pig for our projects and so by the 2nd or 3rd time we’re doing it for our rentals we’ve figured out how to do them better and faster.
Our Relaxation Room
The room we selected for our photo ledge is our Relaxation Room. It’s 196 sq ft and located right off the foyer. It’s decorated very simple: a saltwater aquarium, keyboard and guitars. We have a little color-changing essential oil diffuser that our 8-year-old son, Andrew, picked out at TJ Maxx. His classroom has one and he suggested that we have one in our house too. When I’m feeling tired I’ll put in a few drops of Lime and Andrew’s favorite scent is Jasmine. This is where we like to sit and relax and be away from screens. Andrew will play music or we’ll watch the fishes. Our preference is to have all our personal photos in one room and display wall art everywhere else in the house. We borrowed the idea from Victor’s parents where they have a “family photo room” at their house. It’s fun to look at how everyone changes over the years and tell the stories behind the photos.
What Worked For Us
Originally, we were going to do a gallery wall but after doing some research, we wanted to add some dimension to the space. We considered one photo ledge but we decided to enlist feedback from family, friends and followers on Instagram. The poll feature in Instagram Stories helped us decide on the number of ledges and we’d like to thank you all because we’re super happy with how two photo ledges turned out. Our photo ledges are 8ft long and screwed directly into the wall studs.
What Didn’t Work For Us and What We Would Do Differently Next Time
We followed the Magnolia tutorial which is probably fine if you’re making small photo ledges. Our DIY photo ledge project began on a weeknight after the kids went to sleep so it took us a total of 4 days to complete the project: 1 day for stain to dry, 2 days for wood glue to dry (a day for each ledge because we had only 4 wood clamps) and finally 1 day to install. A few lessons learned:
- Initially we intended to build one photo ledge; therefore, we didn’t have enough material to build the second ledge and made another run to the store.
- Staining the wood first didn’t work well because when we used wood glue it was hard to assemble all the pieces together. It’s better to assemble first using wood screws or finishing nails and then stain—just like the ChrisLovesJulia tutorial.
- Don’t stain wood in the middle of the night. Even with outdoor lights, it was still hard to see. It didn’t stain evenly but since the color is so dark it’s hard to tell.
- We underestimated how much stain we would need. We bought 1 small can and used all of it and had to buy another larger can. The color is Jacobean to match our floors.
- Since our ledges are 8ft long and heavy, using Gorilla glue isn’t effective, especially assembling the base and back piece. Actually, we suggest skipping the wood glue completely. Just use wood screws or finishing nails for good measure.
Here are a few photos we took after we finished the project. The rug and blue ottoman is not longer in this room since we had to repurpose it for the baby’s playroom. We’re still following rug sales to find a replacement.
We hope you found our experience helpful. Leave us a comment and let us know if you’re planning to do this project too or if you’ve already completed it and have a few lessons to share too!
–Victor & Ann