When it comes to hanging artwork, the first thing to remember is that any and all rules can easily be broken and still result in a beautiful display. In fact, in some cases breaking the art rules is what sets a home apart, giving it a unique personality. With that in mind, following are a few guidelines to consider when deciding how to display your artwork.
Find Your Center
Museums and art galleries consider 57 inches above the ground to be the average person’s line of sight, so make that the center point of your artwork if its symmetry you’re after.
With traditional homes, this may very well be the best place to start. Choose your showpiece, give it the top spot, then work outwards from there and add more pieces—or simply let the one-piece shine on its own. The latter approach works well, whether the artwork is large scale or small, as sometimes centering a smaller piece on an exceptionally large wall is the best way to ensure all eyes land there.
Have a Sofa Strategy
When hanging artwork above a sofa that sits against a wall, leave at least six to eight inches between the top of the sofa and the bottom of the artwork. Generally speaking, the width also should be no more than two-thirds the width of the sofa. This helps to keep the art in direct proportion to the other items in a room.
Lean Your Artwork
It’s easy to forget that hanging your artwork is not the only way to display it. Some pieces look better when they’re simply leaning against a wall, a chair, or a piece of furniture. The look is more casual and less stiff, which works well with a family friendly design plan, for example. It’s also quite flexible, perfect for the homeowner who likes to move things around from time to time. Try clustering leaning artwork of different heights for an even more relaxed look.
Weave in Three-Dimensional Pieces
Artwork doesn’t have to be comprised entirely of paintings. In fact, a mix of paintings, drawings, and three-dimensional objects creates a more interesting aesthetic. Even if your idea of sculpture is to place a few ceramic pieces on a shelf, doing so will add visual interest when mixed in with other artwork.
Lose the Frames
When you opt to showcase paintings, prints, and drawings, who says any of it needs to be framed? Unframed pieces feel more casual and relaxed, so don’t be afraid to mix in a few pieces that lack the structure and formality of a traditional frame.
Design Around a Fireplace
If you love the look of artwork over a fireplace, make sure the width falls somewhere between the width of the fireplace opening and the full length of the mantel. This creates symmetry and keeps things in proportion.
Create a Gallery of Your Own
While some design enthusiasts think the gallery wall has become far too ubiquitous, it’s still considered a staple of modern home design. It’s also a great way to display multiple art favorites, plus it gives you the flexibility to change one or some of the pieces, giving your space an entirely new look and feel over time.
First consider combining traditional artwork with three-dimensional pieces such as monogram letters, mirrors, clocks, and even wall sculptures. If you want to have some element of consistency, choose a color palette or frame style and carry it through. Before you hang anything, trace each item on butcher paper and place each individual piece of paper on the wall to ensure you’re happy with the layout. Start with the largest piece, remembering to center it so it’s 57 inches above the ground, then work outward from there, keeping items about two inches apart.
For a more playful approach try a lopsided arrangement. These work well in family rooms and other kid-friendly spaces, so don’t be afraid to just follow your instinct about what looks and feels right. Whatever you do, opt for Velcro picture hangers so you can easily move things around later whenever inspiration strikes.
Ana Connery is former content director of Parenting, Babytalk, Pregnancy Planner and Conceive magazines as well as parenting.com.
While editor in chief of Florida Travel & Life magazine from 2006-2009, she covered the state’s real estate and home design market as well as travel destinations.
She’s held senior editorial positions at some of the country’s most celebrated magazines, including Latina, Fitness and Cooking Light, where she oversaw the brand’s “FitHouse” show home.
Ana’s expertise is frequently sought after for appearances on “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and CNN. She has interviewed the country’s top experts in a variety of fields, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and First Lady Michelle Obama.