Introduction: Upcycled Holiday Greeting Card/Photo Display in 3 Easy Steps

About: A father of two boys who loves to tinker!

It’s December, so the year end/holiday greeting card deluge is in full swing! Every year, we anxiously await receipt of such cards from family and old friends around the world - this year, more-than-ever! With the cards piling up all over the house, we decided it was time to give them proper attribution and put them on display throughout the month leading up to Christmas!

The Problem: Flat surfaces are at a true premium, the fireplace mantle is flush with other holiday flare, and the junk drawer is completely off limits. How and where can we creatively display dozens of 5”x7” color cardstock in a visually appealing way?

Design Considerations & Constraints: Keep it simple. Make it out of upcycled materials (to avoid having to go to the store!) Standard tools only and no super special hardware. Spend less than $10. Bonus if it can have a useful life well beyond the holidays. Otherwise, it becomes ‘one more thing’ to have to put away and dig back out every year around this time.

The Solution: Build a wall-mounted display that is flexible enough to showcase all of our greeting cards and (bonus) if it can be easily repurposed for family photos (read: kid artwork) after the holiday!

With those things in mind, here is a simple, upcycled, and fun holiday greeting card display DIY project that you can build in 3 easy steps, in than less 90 minutes! (Less time than it took me to write this instructable!) Let’s go!

Total Cumulative Project Cost: $5.65


The supplies and tools used to complete this project are very simple! Hopefully they are things that most everyone has lying around! Improvise with alternatives as required (see notes)


  • 4-6 pieces reclaimed wood planks/tongue-and-groove flooring remnants
    • No minimum/maximum size. Size according to the specs of your final piece
  • Piano wire/braided picture frame wire (Alternative: string)
  • Miniature close pins (Alternative: paperclips)
  • Wood screws
  • Small nails (not a 'must have,' but they do come in handy!)
  • Small metal eyelets
  • Metal wire crimp (Alternative: strong tape)
  • Wood glue
  • Wood stain (not a 'must have' - depends on the choice of wood used)


  • Hammer
  • Philips head screw driver
  • Measuring tape
  • Large T-square/speed square
  • Cordless drill
    • Bit for drilling pilot holes (sized based on aforementioned wood screws above)
    • Philips head drill bit
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Sandpaper/Orbital sander
  • Jigsaw w/ wood blade
  • 5" circular saw
  • A pen/marking device

Step 1: Selecting Material and Finalizing Layout


The beauty of this project is that you can use any kind of wood! Be creative and think about a color palette that will go with the wall/style of the room where it will live.

  • For this design, I chose a weathered-looking board pop off a grey/white wall.


  • Before cutting, you'll want to layout a rough sketch (or at least visualize!) the final size of the piece. Will it be hung vertically? Horizontally? Option for either?
  • This particular piece was going to be hung between a pocket door and an in-wall pantry unit. I wanted to complement the space, but not feel too 'big' on the wall. I elected for it to be portrait versus landscape orientation.
  • You'll want to consider the orientation of the boards as well - horizontal or vertical ad how this will play into your desired aesthetic.
  • Given the variability of the irregularities of the grain in the weathered boards, I decided to give the piece some 'dimension' by staggering every other board. It gives it a little more character and shape!


  1. I ripped down a 12 foot (144") board into 4 1” x 6” x 36” planks. (total size of piece would be ~38" tall x 24" wide)
  2. I staggered the boards and played with the staggering dimensions until I got to what I liked. I ended up offsetting each board by 2" at the top and bottom as shown here. ProTip: Label the ends/reverse of your board (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, A, B, C, D, etc.), so you can quickly reassemble them in the proper order no matter if they are face down or face up!
  3. Given that my material was tongue and groove, I had to cut off the (now exposed) tongue pieces with a jigsaw/circular saw to give all outside edges a clean appearance.
  4. Once completed, I went over all outside edges and cuts with a sander to insure a smooth edge/surface. I also quickly sanded all tongues
  5. I flipped all of the boards over into the original configuration (see ProTip above for time saver!). I applied a small bead of wood glue to the tongue and tacked it into place using a few nails. I nailed it from the back of the piece because I didn't want to see any nail heads on the front of the piece. ProTip: Distressed wood like this is looks great, but it lives up to its name. It may be slightly warped - take this into account as you tack it together for the first time!
  6. With the entire piece glued and tacked together, flip it back over to wipe off any excess glue and make sure none of the nails protruded through to the face of the piece (if any do, easily removed with a Dremel cut off blade!)

Total Cumulative Project Cost: $0

Now let's build the frame to give the piece some added rigidity and strength!

Step 2: Laying Out and Building the Frame


Again, you could use any material you want for your frame. The frame serves to hold it all together (beyond just nail tacks and glue!) and also serves as a platform from which to give your piece some dimension. (more on that in a minute ...)

  • For the frame itself, I ended up repurposing some old pieces of one of my child's old wooden tent frames. 3 pieces at 40" x 1.5" x 3/4" - just what I needed!


  • I wanted the front face of the piece to 'float' off the wall, but not too much.
  • The frame would need sit flush with the wall
  • I didn't want to be able to see the outside edge of the frame as you walked past the piece, so I set the frame in ~1.5" from the outermost edge all the way around. ProTip: The inset frame gives me a way to easily add another feature I have for the next iteration - backlighting! I have plans to install a simple rope-like light with U-clips to the outside edge of the frame. A small battery pack can be installed inside the frame and controlled from a remote! No wires visible! Saving that for another instructable :-)


  1. I ripped down the three wooden tent poles into 2 x 33" and 2 x 13" to serve as the outline of my frame
  2. Once laid out, I drilled pilot holes into the frame and into the back of the boards. ProTip: Be careful not to drill all the way through! You don't want to see little holes or screws poking through the front of your piece!
  3. With the pilot holes drilled, I then sank 1.25" wood screws to secure the frame to the board. With the frame securely fastened, it all holds together nicely as one solid (but very light!) unit!
  4. The piece itself only weighs 4-5lbs - I could have used a heavy gauge piano wire hanger, but I wanted to go with something more sturdy. Given that we would likely be adding new cards (daily!), I didn't want the piece moving around on the wall.
  5. I took a piece of 1/2" scrap wood, ripped it down into a 4" x 4" block and cut one edge on a 45° angle. I did the same with a seperate remnant piece of the wooden tent pole (see Step 1). The 4"x4" block gets affixed to the wall, with it's 45° angle facing up and towards the wall. Its 'mate' is an opposite block (with a mirrored 45° angle and affixed to the back of the display itself - inside the frame) This method is great for hanging large(r) wooden pieces where you don't want it to move and/or you don't want all the weight hanging off of a single hook or piano wire! Also, makes it a cinch for leveling!

We're almost done! Let's add our hardware!

Total Cumulative Project Cost: $0

Step 3: Installing the Hardware


The hardware for this project is as simple as some small eyelets, some piano wire (string), a clasp/crimp to create the wire loop, and miniature close pins. You can swap out any/all of these items depending on the 'look' your going for (and your budget!)


  • Assuming you want some uniformity to your end product, it's important to lay this out before installing your first piece of hardware. Ideally, you have a few cards lying around that you can use as a guide to play with spacing.
  • It's been my experience that most holiday cards (at least here in the US) are 5"x7" and landscape orientation - but there's always someone who has to be 'different' and make theirs vertical! (You know who you are!) Take that into consideration as you think about the spacing between the rows on your display!
  • For this particular display, I decided to go with ~8" between the bottom of the card and the next horizontal wire. This would give me some options, should I decide to orient the cards completely straight OR if I wanted to hang them on an angle. There would be some overlap (that gives it character!), but it wouldn't be so egregious so as to completely cover the smiling faces of the strangers/family members below! (Or maybe you want this as a feature by design - you do you!)
  • This configuration would result in comfortablely displaying 4-6 cards on each row (depending on orientation) across 4 rows. We could add more, but that's a project for next year! That's a lot of holiday cards!


  1. With the above layout in mind (and tested!), I installed an eyelet on each edge of the board, approximately .75" in from the outermost edge
  2. I used my large T square to insure that I was lining up my eyelets in a straight line across the board
  3. The next (and near final!) step is to install your wire between the eyelets! I cut 4 x 14" strips of wire (accounting for excess)
  4. Before stringing one end of the wire through the eyelet, I first installed a round wire crimp. ProTip: If using this type of hardware, make sure it will accept 2x the gauge of your wire! The wire will pass through this crimp 2x to create the loop!
  5. After stringing the wire (with crimped end) through the eyelet, pass it back through the wire crimp. Pull through a little more excess so you have something to grab onto with your needle nose pliers - you'll need this for putting some tension on the wire in Step 8! Crimp if needed (sometimes the combined thickness ff the 2x threaded wire is enough to hold is securely in place!)
  6. Add your miniature close pins to the free end of the wire. I ran the wire directly through the spring mechanism of the close pin. They hang nicely, giving the ability slide them left and right (awesome for adjusting your photos OR moving them out of the way when not in use!) I added four on each wire of my set-up - you can always add more later!
  7. Repeat Step 5 above for the loose end of your wire
  8. Use needle nose pliers to pull through the excess wire to give it some tension!
  9. Repeat steps 4-8 for the remaining 'rows' of your display!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Home stretch!

Total Cumulative Project Cost: $5.65 (wire + wire crimps)

Step 4: Final Clean-up and Installation

You may want to add some finish touches (depending on your wood choice, etc.), but for all intents and purposes, you're done! Way to go!

You may recall from Step 1 that I had to cut down some of the exposed tongue pieces. I didn't want the edges to be the raw wood that you would see when you walked by the piece - I wanted these to blend in with the color of the wood. I simply rubbed some brown stain on the edges with an old rag. It doesn't even match, but at least it blends in and does the trick!

Prop-up your masterpiece and see how she looks! Congratulations! You did it! Now go hang it on the wall and proudly smile at all of the smiling faces of your family and friends!

When the holidays are over, you leave the display on the wall, wake down the holiday cards, swap them out for family photos, other seasonal inspiration, or, in my most likely case, my kids ever-growing portfolio of artwork!

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