Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Iron Pipe Family Photo Display

Let's wrap up this family photo project, shall we?  If you missed part 1 - building the picture frames - here's a link.  And on to part 2 - hanging the frames.  The frames we built are so unique that I wanted to hang them in an equally awesome way - something fancy and something grand!  Pinterest has been blowing up with tons of DIY steel pipe and industrial shelving type projects but we hadn't found a way to incorporate any of it into our house.  It was actually Brent that threw the idea out there to hang the frames from steel pipe, which sounded great...until I couldn't find any photos of people that had already tackled it.  So what you are about to witness will appear to be a no-brainer way to mount these things - but you have no idea the level of frustration that went into figuring this out.  My hope is that at least one person will be able to use this information in their own home - and that it will spare them their sanity (and potential marriage) by taking the guesswork out of the project for you.

We started this journey at our local Ace Hardware, where we bought a 6' length of black steel 3/4 inch pipe.  Steel pipe is available in different diameters - we chose the 3/4 inch because the 1/2 inch looked too skinny to me and the 1 inch looked too large.  Feeling like Goldilocks, the 3/4 inch was juuuuuust right.  They actually cut it to the length you need - we aren't sure if they will cut it for you at a big box home improvement store, so we recommend hitting up your own local hardware store.  Make sure to ask them to have it threaded at both ends.

The other pieces we picked up (pictured below) that are necessary to hang the rod are:
        * 2 steel flanges
        * 2 female/male steel elbows - the male end should be the same diameter as your pipe
        * 8 anchors
        * 8 pan head screws

These materials cost us about $40.

No scientific processes were used to figure out how or where we were going to hang the steel pipe...it was just a lot of Brent holding, while I scurried back to look at it and would direct him to move it up, down, left ,right.  Don't worry, he's used to this - he probably has incredibly strong shoulders from carrying the weight of our family holding up so many curtain rods for me.  We decided it would look best hung at the same height as the adjoining patio door curtains.

But just to be sure the end result was what I was looking for, I needed to visualize where the actual frames would hang.  Brent held up the pipe and I had Emma hold up the photo frame - and since Owen felt left out, he appears to be holding up Emma's butt.  He's a helper.

With everything looking fine, Brent and I switched places.  As I held up the pipe, he put a level across it to make sure we were, well, level, and used a pencil to mark the holes that he would need to drill for the anchors.  

You can see four blue anchors in the top left and top right of the photo below.

I held the pipe up and Brent put 4 screws through on each side.  Note for the weak...stand on a chair while you hold the pipe up...it is very heavy and if you're anything like me, you'll start whining and barking at your husband to HURRY UP after less than 5 seconds.

Brent said there were enough anchors in this thing that it could act as a pull up bar - I wouldn't let him try that.  Although Owen may someday.  It actually really makes me think that I may go this route for curtain rods in the future, since the steel is thicker and stronger than a curtain rod, it doesn't need one of those goofy support bars in the middle.  You know what I'm talking about Patio Door.

Here's where things got dicey.  Without any sort of plan in place regarding HOW exactly we were going to hang the picture frames from the pipe, we did what any couple with hungry, restless children would do - we took them to the home improvement store!  I'll spare you the gory details but essentially we wandered around for an hour - that is not an exaggeration - listening to Owen sing One Direction and Britney Spears - trying to figure out a way to hang these.  At one point I even said, that's it, we need to be done, my brain is dead and I want to go home.  But Brent isn't a quitter and he wants our children to have grit - which means we keep going even when we want to quit.  Too bad I still need to learn this lesson.  And now I'm singing "Too legit, too legit to quit, hey hey!!"  So we powered through and by some miracle we ended up with the following:

          * metal hose clamps (choose a size that will fit the size pipe you bought) 
          * decorative chain from the lighting department
          * ceiling hooks

We went with ceiling hooks rather that eye bolts because it would make it easier to hook the chain to the frame - you'll see later on...

With parts in hand, we began by drilling pilot holes in the tops of the picture frames - we didn't measure anything out here, just eyeballed it.

Put a ceiling hook in and twist it down.

Using a nut driver, open up the hose clamp.  If you don't own a nut driver, a flat head screwdriver would work, but Brent says a nut driver makes it a lot easier.  Plus, that's my nickname "Nut Driver" when I'm behind the wheel.  Just kidding.

Then we located the middle chain link...since the chain we bought was the perfect length, we didn't need to remove any pieces, this is how it looked right out of the package.

Put the middle piece of chain through the open hose clamp...

And tighten the hose clamp around your steel pipe.

Then using the ceiling hooks that are screwed into the picture frames, hook them on the chain at whichever height you desire.  If you need to adjust the picture frame, in case it isn't hanging perfectly level, you can tighten or loosen the ceiling hooks or mess around with the hose clamp and how tightly it is squeezing the chain link at the top.  Ours didn't need any adjusting, everything hung perfectly but we knew we would be able to adjust it with those other means if necessary.  There are 2 or 3 links of chain leftover at the bottom, a person could remove those but we chose to leave them, in case we wanted to hang something of a different size there in the future.  Like the certificate I will likely receive for "most cupcakes eaten in a single sitting" award.

And now for a million "After" photos...I'll let you insert your own words, as long as they aren't swear words.

I wanted to include this photo, taken from the living room looking into the dining room, so you could get an idea of just how large the entire frame display is.  Substantial is probably a good word to describe it.  Or large and in charge.  And I like that you can see how the picture frames are the same color as the large mirror over the buffet.  You'd think I actually planned this...

I'd love to hear, or see, of any awesome ways you've figured out to hang family photos - and how often do you change out family pics?  I guess we're on a "every 4 years" basis.  That means we'll do this again when the kids are in middle school!


  1. Over from YHL. This is so cool! Love it!

  2. This is awesome! I just added a couple pipe rods in my office but never thought to hang photos from chains like this. Thanks for sharing at The Makers!

  3. This is AMAZING!! Seriously this will go viral it is great. I would love if you shared at Link It or Lump it so I can make sure everyone enjoys the post as much as I did :)


  4. Cool idea. Love this blog. Will share this with our readers at Paintbox Art & Framing. <3 it.

  5. This is so unique, what a great idea! New follower from...
    Over The Apple Tree

  6. Hi Heidi! This project is a party feature at The Makers link party this week! Thanks so much for sharing and I look forward to seeing what you link up this week. Don't forget to grab a button :)

    Have a great week!

    -Katie @ Upcycled Treasures

  7. Stopping in to pin, I love it and it looks fantastic!

  8. Such an excellent post with wonderful detailed images. Love this idea! Thanks, Heidi.

  9. That’s a cool home decor! It looks really marvelous, what with its strong and heavy look. It fits the color of the walls too, and putting the family picture in made more fantastic! I could feel all those vibes of love, affection, and care. In any ways, thanks for sharing this, Heidi! Kudos!

    Rosemary Bailey @ Wabi Corp

  10. Love it, just need to find out where I can use this in my home, thanks for sharing you did a great job

  11. what size are the frames and where did you order them from?

  12. Love it! Would you be willing to build same frames with hooks for a desperate mom? Please

  13. Love it! Would be willing to build frames with hooks for a Crafty mom at heart with no skills to do it herself😉

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  15. Thank you so much for this tutorial! We used it and loved how it turned out. I wish I could figure out a way to post a picture of it but can't :( Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  16. That was quite the pipe dream that turned out super good looking !!

  17. Love this idea. It's exactly what I didn't know I wanted for my entry hall. I have to ask though, where did you get those gorgeous frames?

    1. Thanks for the comment! We built the frames out of some scrap lumber. There is a link to the tutorial for the frames at the top of the post.

  18. Love, adore, am blown away by everything!! (except the hose clamps- ick) I'd have opened up a chain link or found something black and round to blend into the look - even if it meant unscrewing the pipe long enough to slip the rings on. You have amazing taste and I hope you leave it as is for a very long happy family life. :)

  19. Thank you for posting this brilliant idea! I took your example but instead of the pipe (which I didn't have available), I used an unused large curtain rod and "S" hooks. You used beautiful large framed pictures of your family, I used 5x7 frameless pics of all the kids, grand & great-grand children (14 pics in all, with room to add many more). Tied a fancy ribbon to the back of the frames & hung them on the "S" hooks.