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26 April 2018

Don't look now but you're surrounded. By wallplates. They're on your electrical outlets. They're on your light switches. They're everywhere.

A Pair. Perfect for a panorama.

And, if you're like most of us, they're opaque plastic with painted (or chipped) metal screws keeping them snug to the wall. Smudged and unsightly, too, no doubt.


But you don't have to stand for that. Decorators have been having their way with wallplates for years. Usually by wallpapering them to match the wall.

So why can't photographers get in on the act?

We recently completed a 15-year study of photo wallplates that confirms not only is it possible but they last. And in lasting, they provide Enduring Enjoyment. As long as you don't take them too seriously.

In fact, over the years since we first installed them, they've been the source of both compliments and amusement. Because 1) they're not usually found in the wild and 2) they're often embarrassingly personal.


We settled on a clear plastic wallplate we found at our local hardware store. But as the link suggests, you can also buy them inexpensively online ($5.74 for this one).

Options. Wallplates are available for switches, plugs and dimmers in various configurations. Matching the photo to the openings is the trick.

The clear plastic, originally intended to let wallpaper show through, is perfect for framing your trimmed photo.

The only issue is the cutout for the light switch, electrical plug or dimmer. The more you cut out, the less image there is going to be. Which works just fine for wallpaper but no so much for photos.

So we prefer to hide our electrical outlets behind furniture and spend the decorating budget on light switch wallplates.

Amusing Crop. Young student considers the university's motto (Fiat Lux) as he gazes upon the light switch.

Of course, judicious placement of the image in relation to the cutout can also be amusing. Imagine that light switch where someone's nose might be.


These particular wallplates are composed of two parts: a base plate that screws onto your wall just like the old wallplate and a snap-on cover.

You flex the wallplate to release the cover so you can screw the base plate over the outlet. Then you trim your photo to fit the cover, trim the cutout and snap the cover on.

Just use the paper insert as a template to trim your photo to fit the cover.

Simple. You don't even need glue.


As for the print, you may not have a choice. Your inkjet printer may be the only option. But you can get a drugstore print into one of these covers, too.

We used a dye sub printer no longer on the market to make our prints 15 years ago. And while none of them is in direct sunlight, they've held up very well.

Of course, they don't get subjected to close scrutiny. They're just wallplates not gallery installations.

But it's easy enough to replace a faded print. Easier, we should add, than reframing one.


One of the trying things about decorating a place (even if you own it) is deciding exactly what to do. It can be paralyzing.

But with a wallplate, you can experiment harmlessless. Try a photo for a few days and if you discover you don't like it, just swap it out. You don't have to repaper the room, after all.

Our Favorite. Well, it's right next to the Executive Washroom.

They also make for some intriguing even passive-aggressive possibilities.

When you visit family for the holidays, for example, you can swap out the boring old wallplate (even if it matches the wallpaper) with a (tasteful if meaningful) photo of yourself as a little memento of your overlong stay.

It might not be there when you return, but you'll already have made a splash.

A Memento. We honored our first guests with this wallplate in one of the rooms.

In the example above, we honored our first guests in our new home with a wallplate. They had packed up our old kitchen and cleaned up the new place before we moved in while we were attending to a family emergency at the hospital.

We think of that wallplate as a little shrine.


Every photographer should have at least one room decorated with photo wallplates. We wish we were kidding, but we're serious. Four corners for photo wallplates!

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