Posted on July 8, 2021 by Michael Malone
It goes without saying that how and where you hang your art matters. And while virtually everyone has something hanging on their walls, it’s a process that’s not widely understood. But that doesn’t mean it’s complicated. We’ll set out to answer the most common questions people have, after which you’ll be hanging art like a professional. So without further ado, let’s begin with the single most common question when it comes to hanging art…
When it comes to height, people tend to hang their art too high, creating a disconnect from other elements in the room. The goal is to create harmony, and hanging artwork too high will make any piece feel unanchored.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that your pictures should be centered at eye level. That can mean different things to different people, so as a rule, the center of the frame should be 58 inches off the floor. Be aware that the wire sits above the midpoint of the frame, so you can’t simply place the hanger at 58 inches. Instead, follow these simple steps:
If this seems overly complicated and technical, here’s an example to illustrate just how simple it really is:
I’d add that if you’re a particularly tall family or if your ceilings are of the high variety, feel free to bump the midpoint up to 60 inches. Conversely, if you’re more vertically challenged, feel free to make the midpoint 57 inches. The key takeaway here is that you hang your art at eye level.
If you’re planning on hanging several pictures as part of a group, simply treat the collection as if it were one piece of art. You’ll obviously need to measure each individually, but you’ll want the center of the grouping to be 58 inches off the floor. And if hanging a grouping sounds tedious and time-consuming, you’ll be surprised how quickly you get the hang of it. Importantly, it can be a great way to artfully cover a large wall without spending a fortune on a single giant piece. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out recommendations from designer Fleming James on how to get started on your gallery wall.
When hanging a picture above furniture, the rules change a bit. In these cases, the bottom of the frame should be placed 8-10 inches above the top of the furniture. This can come into conflict with the 58-inch midpoint, particularly with low, modern furniture. As we mentioned above, it’s important that your pictures be a natural and connected part of their surroundings, so you may want to consider a larger frame or a grouping of smaller ones if a piece is simply too low on your wall.
Another thing to keep in mind when hanging art above furniture is that the width of the piece should be between 65% and 85% of the total width of the furniture. It’s a simple formula that ensures your artwork will be properly scaled relative to the furniture it rests above. This can be tricky for art hanging above furniture that’s particularly wide like a sofa. In these cases, it may be best to try a diptych or a triptych, which are works of art that come in sets of two or three. That can be a great way to add width while keeping the artwork visually consistent. Here’s an example of interior designer Orlando Soria framing five prints from a single, panoramic photograph. As you can see, it’s a great way to create something that’s visually arresting yet relatively simple and inexpensive to pull off.
Don’t fret, you still have some options. The easiest thing to do if you don’t want to put holes in your walls is to simply lean work against the wall. This can be a particularly effective approach if you have floating shelves or mantles, which pull the artwork up off the floor. Desks and bookshelves are also a great way to put the lean technique into use. That being said, there really aren’t any rules when it comes to learning art, so you’re only limited by your imagination. Feel free to lean multiple frames together, with the corner of one frame overlapping with the corner of another. If you want to get even more creative, lean a framed piece of art on an easel. Done correctly, it can really enhance the visual impact of your pictures. I’d add that even if you have most of your artwork hanging from your walls, you can still lean a few pieces in a very intentional way. It can be a great way to add some personalization.
Yes and no. By hanging your art correctly, you’ll ensure that your artwork is anchored to all of the other elements in your room. This goes a very long way toward creating a harmonious look and feel throughout your home. That said, there’s always room to incorporate your own personal and creative touches. So hang your most prominent pieces according to the rules above, and then feel free to fill in with with your own personal touches. And as Fleming mentioned in the interview I linked to above, there’s no need to get into a rush. Take your time and follow the basics, and be amazed by how everything comes together.