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December 2016

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Design Trends & Tips - How To: The Art of Hanging Art

Home & Design How To: The Art of Hanging Art

Once you've gone through the trouble of collecting your favorite pieces of art, it's easy to think that the hard part is finally over.

But don't rest yet, domestic divas. Where are you going to hang that amazing artwork?

Left: Red Shimmering Floral from Bombay Company

So, exactly how can you be sure that you're hanging your new (or old) artwork in a truly flattering wall space?

You could consult a professional interior designer, but for those of you who want to go at it solo, follow these general how-to's, tricks and insider tips to grasp the art of hanging art.

Before you begin. If you only read one thing in this article, know that it is recommended that you hang art at eye level. If you're hanging a group of pictures, make sure that the center point is at eye level. For the average American adult, this should be roughly 63–66 inches from the floor. If you're still unsure, it's better to hang the art lower.

  • Are you filling a large or small space?
    It may seem like common sense, but we have to say it. Save smaller pictures for smaller, narrower walls and use a larger piece for a large space.

  • What tone are you hoping to achieve?
    Carefully consider your intentions regarding a room before plopping that great new acrylic masterpiece on the wall. If the room is bathed in neutral colors with clean lines and sleek modern furniture, a loud painting may disrupt the calm nature of the space and appear more out-of-place than avant-garde.

  • Are you looking for a formal or casual feel?
    To emphasize the formality of a room, vertical lines are your friend. They also add the illusion of height to a room, helping the space look even more refined. Horizontal lines will widen a space and typically create a more casual design scheme. Interestingly enough, horizontal lines are also said to be quite calming.

    Once you've answered those questions and figured out what atmosphere you're going for, don't assume that you have to play a lengthy game of trial and error (aka, punching countless holes in the wall) to find the perfect point.

    Here are two hole-free options to planning the image layout without damaging any walls.

    1. Put it on paper.
    Grab some old newspaper and place the picture(s) – in their frames – on top of the paper. Trace the outside of the frame and cut out the shape, making sure to label it if you're working with similarly sized pieces. Test your different arrangements by laying and rearranging everything on a table or floor. Once you find your favorite, put your life-sized paper replica(s) up on the bare wall using painter's tape, and voila! You can adjust and readjust the newspaper without leaving any stray holes.

    2. Do it digitally.
    If you're more technologically inclined, take a digital photo of the room you're aiming to adorn. Open up your photo manipulation software (Photoshop, Paint, etc.) and add blocks of color to play with different compositions. Or, if you'd prefer, take pictures of the art pieces themselves and use those images to truly see the exact composition.

    And when it finally comes time to making the first mark on your walls, place a piece of Scotch tape on the wall where you plan to insert the hook. This will help prevent the plaster or drywall from cracking.

    Things to Consider


    When hanging several smaller pictures or paintings as a group, framing them alike will help bring unity to the set. Or, instead of framing each one separately, you can also get them all together in one frame, which may work better for the wall.

    Insider tip: Art tends to look best when it seems to extend the lines of furniture, windows or doorways, or when several small pieces are grouped together.

    While some people love symmetrical groupings, it is not a requirement to create a beautifully decorated dwelling. It will certainly add balance to an arrangement, but understand that symmetry also adds an element of formality to the feel of the room. The predictable placement of the art is also quite calming to viewers. For a fun, casual feel, asymmetry will be more effective.


    Art often looks good when placed over pieces of furniture. But to do this successfully, make sure that the art is NOT longer than the furniture item.

    Insider Tip: A good rule of thumb is to keep the artwork about 2/3 to 3/4 the length of the furniture over which it hangs.

    Another furniture tip: Don't leave a lot of wall space between a sofa and a picture. Anything higher than three to six inches will cause the eyes to focus on the wall rather than your pretty new art!


    When it comes to lighting, not even the most vibrant painting will brighten up a dimly lit hallway. Aim track lighting at the artwork, adjusting it as needed until the glare is gone.

    Insider Tip: Know what type of bulb you're using, otherwise you risk doing damage to the painting over time. Fluorescent bulbs tend to fade images, but incandescent bulbs only have 4% of their rays in the damaging range.

    A good guideline to follow in terms of lighting is that anything that will fade your carpet will fade your art, such as direct sunlight.

    Where to Buy Art

  • At Home with Susan Fredman

  • The Best Art Galleries in Chicago

  • Estate Sales

  • SUSANIN'S Auctions

    Right: Satellite digital imagery artwork of the Great Barrier Reef, available at Susan Fredman

  • Our Favorites: How To: The Art of Hanging Art

  • DouglasRosin Decorative Arts & Antiques
  • Susan Fredman Design Group - Milwaukee
  • SUSANIN'S Auctions

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