The Art of Arranging Art

07 Oct
October 7, 2014


As any decorator, curator, or gallery owner can tell you, there is an “art” to hanging art well. It is an element that is often overlooked. Think of your framed photographs and collected pieces of artwork as the final layer in a beautiful room, or maybe your favorite painting is the starting point for the design of a space. This favorite piece of art could be the inspiration for color, pattern, furniture angles, upholstery texture…and mood.

Whether you’re working with a collection of pictures and prints or trying to find the perfect spot for that oversized canvas you finally found, here are a few tips to keep in mind before you start hammering nails into your walls.

When hanging art of different sizes, pictures should be lined up by their centerlines, not the top edge of the work or frame. Check it out the next time you visit a museum or art gallery, this is the way they hang art.

A single painting or the main piece of art in a grouping is generally hung at eye level for an average-height person. When in doubt, err on hanging higher rather than lower.

When arranging a group of works on a wall, placement depends on the height and width of the space, taking into consideration any furnishings—sofa, chest, tables with lamps, or railing. Measure the space available for the grouping from top to bottom and side to side.

Try arranging the pictures on the floor first as if you are putting together a giant puzzle. The largest picture generally goes in the center, then work your way out and up from there, paying close attention to balance, symmetry and order.

A series of identically framed works can be hung closer together than pieces of different sizes and shapes. A good rule of thumb is 2 to 2½ inches apart. A more varied grouping needs varying margins between pictures, but still aim for a sense of consistency. 

Family photos work well grouped together in a hallway or along a staircase. If your hallway is long, try placing artwork on only one side. It is difficult to look at both sides, and having both walls occupied closes in the space.

When hanging prints, more is better and creates a better impact! Get creative with your keepsakes, antique book covers, artist prints, travel memoires and more!

You can hang art on patterned wallpaper or fabric if the art is a different scale, has enough white space around it, or is visually stronger than its backdrop. Prints should have a mat to distinguish the image from the wall pattern.

A collection of plates looks wonderful grouped together or spaced around a room. They are also ideal for filling in a narrow space such as between or over doorways or along the side of a cabinet. Hanging toys or accessories on a wall can be a creative decoration while serving as storage!

Gather those loose photos and prints, find the perfect spot and have fun with composition!

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