Have you ever struggled to know the right way to hang art and pictures? You put it on the wall and it never quite looks right. Then you go to your designer friend’s place and everything looks fab, and you think, what am I doing wrong? Well, struggle no more. Hanging art is easy when you follow these 7 simple tips to hang art for maximum impact and style.
1. Don’t hang your art too high
Most people hang their art far too high. 57″ on centre is gallery height. To hang at this height you need to figure out the the centre of your art by taking the height and dividing by 2. For example, a the centre of a 30″ framed print would be 15. You then add 15 to 57 to determine where the top of the picture should be in relation to the floor. In the example, the top of the frame should be 72″ from the floor.
Before you bang a nail in the wall remember to account for the type of hanger you are using. A wire hanger needs to be pulled taught like it would be when hung on the wall. Then the distance between the wire and middle of the picture added to 57″. So, if there were 2″ between the centre of the picture and the top of the taught wire the nail needs to be 59″ from the floor. This way the centre of the picture will be at 57″.
Do the same for other types of hangers. Of course, if the hanger is on the top of the frame you would place the nail at 72″. But, there are all types of hangers and adjustments usually need to be made to ensure your art is 57″ from the floor on centre.
2. Pay attention to scale
Scale is very important to remember when hanging art. If the scale is off, your art is going to look off. An example I see a lot – a couch pushed against an otherwise empty living room wall with one 8 x 10 framed photo above. Please stop doing this. It’s a great way for your art to have no impact at all.
A 6 or 7 foot couch needs more than a tiny picture. Just like an expanse of empty wall needs more. To hang art for maximum impact, it should be large enough to fill a void, but not so large that it overpowers everything else.
Scale is also key when it comes to the visual “weight” of a piece. A 4″ thick solid wood carving has a very different visual weight than a delicate paper scroll. In deciding where to hang art, assess whether it aligns with the visual weight of what is nearby.
3. Let your art breathe – but not too much!
This tip is a Goldilocks rule – make sure art is not too close, not too far, but just right. Art shouldn’t be squished into every empty space you can find. Or, a grouping of art hung together without some breathing space between the pieces. On the other hand, if your art is too far from anything, or too far apart, it will look like it’s floating in space.
You really have to use your eye to evaluate if your art is in the right spot. Once you’ve determined how high your art will be hung, you need to figure out the optimal horizontal placement. Now is the time enlist a friend or (reluctant, in my case) spouse to hold the art in place while you eyeball it.
Have your design assistant move the piece from side to side until you find the perfect spot. Is the edge of the piece too visually close to a floor lamp or a bathroom mirror? Does it need to move further away or closer so it looks just right? In general, try to find the natural middle – if hanging a picture on a shorter width wall, for example, hang in the middle of one wall edge to the other.
4. Anchor it with other pieces in the room
Art hung in a gallery doesn’t usually have to contend with furniture, or windows, or other fixtures. Let’s use the bedroom as an example for this one. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to hang art 57″ on centre over a bed. Depending on high how the bed and the headboard are, the optimal height will vary. This is when it’s important to “anchor” the art to what’s below it.
Enlist your design assistant again to hold the art over the bed – or tall dresser, or whatever – and determine the hanging height. You’ll want to anchor the art to the bed so it makes visual sense. This means hang your art just above the top of the headboard (or pillows, if there isn’t one). Just like before, the art shouldn’t be so high it floats, or too low that it can’t breathe. Have your assistant move the piece up and down until it looks just right.
5. It doesn’t have to match. It has to go.
In the words of WNTW legends Stacy and Clinton, remember that art doesn’t have to match, it has to go. They were talking about your wardrobe, but the same applies to your art and home decor. Every picture frame in the room doesn’t have to be exactly the same for it to work together.
You can mix materials and colours, as long as they make sense. Again, use your eye and judgement here. Does the piece pull a colour or tone from something else in the room? A rich wood coffee table and an antiqued bronze frame will go nicely together in the same room. These don’t need to be directly beside each other either. A few pieces with similar tones will tie your room together.
Same thing goes for colour. Just because you have a tan couch with chocolate brown pillows and a chocolate brown throw doesn’t mean you need tan and chocolate art on the walls. Booooooring [chocolate brown pillows/throw on a tan couch is also potentially boring, but that’s a topic for another day]. You want to showcase your art, not blend in with what surrounds it. Don’t be afraid to inject a pop of colour or texture into your room with art. Scroll through Pinterest and Insta for inspiration and colour combos that you like.
6. Cluster pieces to make a statement
What about when you have a large area to fill, but don’t have, or can’t afford large pieces? Easy! Cluster pieces together to mimic a larger piece. Grouping art is a great way to show off a collection or pieces that are otherwise too small to hang on their own.
The adage “it doesn’t have to match, it has to go,” especially applies to groupings. You could tie together art with very different colours, subjects, or media by choosing the same white frame and a 6″ white matte around each piece, for example. Or, conversely, a mix of metal and wood frames could work if you pull other elements together. I have an art grouping in my living room that includes a photo with a thick bright yellow frame. It works because there are yellows in other pictures in the grouping. The yellow frame might look out of place otherwise.
A good rule of thumb is to centre the grouping at 57″ on centre from the floor. Treat your grouping as one big piece when looking at placement. I like to lay my pieces on the floor and move them around until I like how it looks. Then measure the grouping’s height and width to determine where the centre should be on the wall. Mark a spot on the wall for either the piece in the centre of the grouping or the largest piece. And, after hanging this one continue pulling pieces from the floor and hang the rest of the grouping.
7. Keep it interesting
Art is all about individual expression, so don’t be afraid to buy what you love and what speaks to you. While I love to buy original art, I don’t always have the budget and will mix in off-the-shelf pieces as needed. Be creative with what you display – frame a beautiful piece of fabric, hang a ceramic plate collection, or use shadow-boxes for 3D items. Introduce texture into a monochrome room, or display one oversize, provocative piece in a neutral space.
Here’s the most important thing to remember: learn the rules so you can break them. Rules are meant to be broken and hanging art can work using all kinds of creative techniques and a good eye. But, if you are just starting out, follow these 7 simple tips to hang art for maximum impact.