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Tips for Hanging Art

Decorating Your First Apartment
Tips for Hanging ArtFind tips from the net on putting together your first apartment. Get strategies for storage, decorating ideas, furniture sources, and more! Good info as well as some fun stuff!


Hanging artwork baffles many home decorators. How high should a picture be hung on the wall, what color should the matting be, and how can you decide what goes where?

In general, artwork should be hung so that the center point of the picture or grouping is at about eye level for the average person. While this won't be possible in every situation, it's a good guideline to keep in mind.

Another technique to remember is that a grouping of pictures should be thought of as one unit. Test an arrangement of pictures by laying everything out on a large table (or on the floor), playing with combinations until you hit upon one that works. Laying them out on paper is even better since you'll be able to trace around each object and determine where picture hangers should be installed. Tape the paper up on the wall as a template for picture hangers and you'll be done in no time.

You can also lay out pieces of scrap molding (or tape) onto the floor to form the "outside" bundaries of a picture grouping -- the measurements within which the smaller pieces of art will be set. This is useful when a particular wall has certain boundaries that must be observed (such as a chair rail, windows, heating vents, and the like) and helps keep your arrangement the proper size.

In the pages that follow you'll find lots of photographs to illustrate a principle or tip for hanging artwork. Read brief explanations of symmetry, line, and balance, and observe how they relate to the pictures shown. Next, evaluate the artwork in your own home. You may find ways to accomplish an "art makeover" to better showcase your artwork.

Relate Art to Wall Size
Choose smaller pictures for narrow walls and larger works for big wall spaces. Here a hall wall is accented by hanging a set of six prints in a tall vertical arrangement. One or two larger vertical pictures would have been another possibility for this space.

Relate Art to Furniture Size
In general, when hanging art over a piece of furniture it should not be longer than the width of the furniture. The artwork shown in this photograph relates to the size of the table below it, and keeps to a general principle of being about 75% of the table's width.

Art Tips on Lighting and Art Shelves

Narrow art shelves offer flexibility
Beautiful artwork can be lost unless it is well lit. See the top photo on this page for an illustration of an art collection that is properly lit.

Next, with art shelves all the rage, try one or two in your home to unite a small grouping of objects in a pleasing display.

Light Art Well
Illuminating artwork gives it importance. The track lighting in this hallway has been added to banish the dark hallway feel as well as make the art collection that much more dramatic.

Hang an Art Shelf
Popular art shelves are a great way to add interest and take up very little space. Artwork can be hung on the wall over the shelf as well as set onto the shelf with other decorative objects.

Art Tips about Colors and Size

Match or contrast for your room scheme
Choose artwork that underscores the mood or theme of your room's decor.

Is the room vibrant, pastel, or neutral? Is your furniture casual, formal, modern, or traditional? These are clues that will help zero in on the type of artwork that compliments the color and scale of a room.

Check Color
Vibrant colors bring excitement to a room while neutral colors are more calming. Which do you prefer? The artwork in this small dressing room echos the neutral tones found in the window treatment, table skirt, and chair seat. For a more exciting feel the pictures could have been matted in red to crosslink with the bedroom wall color.

Bigger is often Better
One large painting makes a statement and keeps things simple. It can also call attention to the focal point of the room which is often the fireplace.

Landscape Art - Tips for Hanging Artwork

Tips for Hanging ArtOpen up smaller spaces
Landscape art is one good way to visually open up a smaller space. The view of a distant horizon acts as a sort of "window" giving the impression of a faraway vista.

The lower photograph illustrates a simple framing technique of tailoring the frame to the size and shape of the object being framed. You can also mount some flat objects between two pieces of glass (pressed leaves are shown here) that allows the wall color act as a "mat" for the art.

Landscapes Open Up
Add the look of a "window" to a small or windowless area by hanging landscape art.

Think Outside the Box
Get creative when framing. These dried florals have been outlined in long vertical frames to give each piece added importance.

Hanging Artwork with Horizontal or Vertical Lines

Use line to underscore a decorating mood
The use of line is sometimes overlooked by home decorators, yet proper use of line can set the mood in a room.

Horizontal lines tend to elongate, widen, and emphasize a casual decorating scheme.

Vertical lines however, tend to be more formal, add to the illusion of height, and can seem more elegant and refined.

Horizontal Lines
Strong horizontal lines in artwork, or in the way artwork is framed or hung, tend to be calming and can give the illusion of width in a narrow room.

Vertical Lines
Strong vertical lines -- in a picture, in a frame, or in the arrangement on the wall -- add to the feeling of height in a room. The arrangement shown here is made even more dramatic by hanging the prints one above the other, furthering the sense of height.

Hanging Artwork in Diagonal Lines

Add drama to an arrangement
Hanging artwork in diagonal lines makes it appear more dramatic and exciting.

While artwork generally shouldn't be hung in offset arrangements, it is a useful technique in a stairwell as the floor levels change.

Diagonal Lines
Strong diagonal lines -- either within a picture itself or in a line of pictures arranged on the wall -- add excitement to the composition.

Offset Arrangements
Avoid hanging matching pictures in a perfect line whenever you'd like to emphasize a casual atmosphere. This works to create a dynamic diagonal line and stays away from a formal symmetrical look.

Hanging Art in Symmetrical Arrangements

Use this principal to echo a room's decor
Use symmetrical or asymmetrical arrangements of art to create either a formal or a casual feeling.

Symmetry simply means that when an arrangement is divided in half, each half is a mirror image of the other.

In the photo on this page the center line is through the platter, down the center of the mirror, and through the center of the dresser. The elements of either side of this imaginary center line are perfectly balanced.

Symmetrical Arrangements
Symmetry adds balance and formality to an arrangement and is generally pleasing and calming to the observer.

Aysmmetrical Arrangements
Do something unexpected by hanging pictures in an asymmetricl arrangement. This eye-catching grouping is a casual fun look for informal settings.

Tips for Hanging Artwork

Frame alike or similarly
Do you have some smaller pictures or artwork that you'd like to hang together? The two tips on this page illustrate a few of the ways to create a cohesive art arrangement.

Make a Box
Two horizontally framed pictures can easily be hung with two vertically framed pictures by offsetting each style. Notice that the perimeter of the entire grouping stays within boundaries that makes the smaller pieces work together as one unit.

Make Small Pieces Appear Larger
One of these objects hung on a large wall would seem out of place, yet this unusual grouping extends each piece within an arrangement that is a more appropriate size for the space.

Collect and Hang Themed Art

Tips for Hanging ArtStick to a theme, color, and style
Nothing ruins a carefully planned arrangement of art faster than if the pictures pull away from the wall because they weren't hung securely.

Always use picture hooks rated for the weight of the artwork or object, and attach heavy pictures to hooks that have been installed into wall studs or with specialized drywall hangers.

Hang Securely
Hang pictures to securely attached picture hooks rated for the weight of the artwork or object. If in doubt about picture hardware or its installation, ask advice at the hardware store.

Collect Themes
A group of pictures framed alike and hung together can have big impact. This display uses dozens of smaller pieces of art. Use this random technique for hanging a collection in a contemporary space. In your own home you might also consider more traditional collections of items such as movie posters, Ansel Adams prints, or Georgia O'Keefe florals.

Hanging Wreaths and Hanging Art Low

Get the feeling of art with other objects
Look for objects to hang on the wall that give the impression of art, yet may be better suited to your decorating style.

Wreaths, empty picture frames, old windows, architectural pieces, and other objects can all impart unique style to your home.

Wreaths as Art
Over this mantle a dried leaf wreath stands in for a typical mantle mirror or large framed picture and contributes to the relaxed country style of the room.

Hang It Low
Whenever possible relate artwork to the furniture below it. When hanging a large picture over a table for instance, the bottom of the frame should sit within 4-8" of the tabletop.

In this room the picture has been placed at about eye level for the twin girls who live here, which also allows it to relate comfortably to the low chest underneath.

Art Tips for Frame Shapes and Mat Color

Contrast adds impact
Bring unity and focus to an arrangement by choosing frame colors and styles that match the style of your home.

Vary Frame Shapes
Add interest to a picture grouping by hanging pictures with differently shaped frames. Here two oval frames round out a divergent set of rectangular frames. Handpainted vines and faux picture wires further serve to unite the pieces.

Mat Colors
Pictures will have greater impact if matted in a contrasting color to the wall. Choose a dark mat for a light wall and vice versa.

Hanging Architectural Elements as Art

Underscore your room theme with art
Perk up your interiors by using wall art that emphasizes the themed elements in the rest of the room.

Hang Architectural Elements
Use the principles of contrast to highlight a piece of art. Here the white window frame stands out agains the tan wall color, giving each greater impact. Try to match the shape and size of the piece you are hanging to the shape and size of the wall.

Stick to Your Theme
Support your room theme with art, repeating the colors, motifs, and style of the room's interior.

Frame Art Alike and Hang a Pair

A pair of pictures is always pleasing
To harmonize a set of pictures, mat and frame them alike. This technique can lend an air of importance to everything from the mundane (postcards, menus, photos) to the finest art prints.

Frame Alike
To harmonize a group of pictures, frame them alike. This brings unity and direction whether it's a pair of pictures or a set of twelve.

Art as Inspiration
Look for pictures that inspire you and use their themes and colors as the foundation for other room elements. Here Parisian prints are a daily reminder of a memorable vacation and supply the colors and style for walls, fabrics, and furnishings.

Something Different on the Wall

Three in One or Add Some Fun
Do something different -- it can really make a statement in a room. Try framing several items in one mat and frame.

Tips for Hanging ArtIt might be a trio of prints as shown here, a pair of etchings, or a set of six smaller family photographs. The size of the frame to enclose these objects will also give it the items more impact.

Three in One
Get more impact from a number of smaller prints by framing them together. You'll save a bit on framing costs and get one larger piece that may be a better proportion for the wall.

Art can be humorous, fun, and whimsical. Look for themes that fit your decorating style and bring out the colors in other elements of the room -- in fabrics, wall color, flooring, and window treatments.



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