How to Decorate with Old Photos

How to Repurpose Old Photos as Home Decor

Old photos for sale at a flea market.
"Flea Market Memories" by InvernoDreaming / CC BY-ND 2.0

Whether they depict your own ancestors or strangers from a dusty flea market booth, you can repurpose old photos as home decorations. Old black-and-white photos of people look especially charming, but you can use any vintage image you like. Here are some fun ways you can decorate with old photos:

Blow Them Up

Enlarging photos always reduces the image quality.

If you use rasterizing software for a deliberately pixilated effect, it's not an issue.

Blow them up to any size you like. You can enlarge them to poster size -- or even use a single image as wallpaper for an accent wall.

Make a Collage

Another way to use old photos to create an accent wall is to layer and overlap them for a collage effect.

Fix the photos to the walls using wallpaper paste or decoupage medium, depending on how permanent you wan the installation to be.

You can also decoupage a collage of photos onto a tabletop -- or onto all the surfaces of an old dresser or chest. Be sure you use copies if you're using your own vintage family photos.

Frame Them

Framing old photos is an obvious idea, but it doesn't have to look dull.

Search flea markets, yard sales, and thrift stores for vintage frames that are quite a bit bigger than your photos, but with similar proportions. Then, have mats custom cut so the photos fit.

The oversized mats make the look more dramatic.

Screen Print

To use old photos to create unique throw pillows or window treatments, screen print the image onto the fabric first.

Screen printing is a striking way to use old images for an eclectic effect.

Make Gift Tags

For birthday and holiday packages, cut copies of old photos into gift tag shapes. Then, punch holes in the appropriate spots, and tie the tags onto your packages using raffia or ribbon.

If you use old photos of your recipients, you won't even have to bother writing names.

Make a Window Treatment

If you don't need privacy at your windows, turn a bunch of old photos into a window treatment.

String the photos onto clear fishing line. Then, mount the strands to a window or door frame for a beaded curtain effect.

This idea isn't mine. I saw it in a photo set featuring an old New Orleans home now used as a guest house for vacations and special events. The creole mansion was built in 1855.

The decorators are brilliant. Instead of fixing all of the damage from Katrina, they turned it into design elements to preserve the history.