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April 22, 2019
Do you have art that's just sitting around, or, worse, stuffed in a closet because you're not sure where to put it or how to hang it?
While I firmly believe there is no right way or wrong way to decorate your home, I do think there a lot of right ways (and a lot of wrong ways) to hang and display art.
I spent all four years of college assisting in my school's art gallery. I had an internship at a custom framing shop. As an adult, I have lived in eight different apartments/ homes. The best way to make a new place start to feel like home is to hang your art on the walls! And I've had a lot of experience doing it.
Here are my favorite tips I have learned over the years and rounded up from some of my favorite home decor blogs on how to correctly hang wall art in your home!
FIRST, my personal favorite, most important tip:
You may be asking, "but, Jen, is there a correct height to hang art?"
Yes, yes there is. And the number one problem I've seen over and over is that people hang their art too high!
The general rule: Artwork should hang so the center of the art hits at 60" (that's five feet). Why? This is the average visual height for humans. It doesn't matter if you're 5 foot 2" or you're 6 foot 5": this height makes it easy for your eyes to take in the whole piece of art without straining your neck, and it is an aesthetically balanced height in homes with an average ceiling height of 8-10 feet. (Even if your ceilings are higher, your art should straddle that 60" mark... you just might be able to have larger art!)
In the photo below, these 2 pieces are acting as one large piece of art, with the small gap between them hitting at 60".
image via Juniper Home
You will need a tape measure, a pencil, and your artwork that is ready for hanging.
In order to measure for your artwork to hang with the art vertically bisecting 60", use the following method: Start with measuring 60" up on your wall from the floor; then add 1/2 the height of your artwork, and then subtract the distance from the top of the painting to the "stretch" of the hanging wire.
In other words, for a 24"x24" painting, you start with 60" up on your wall from the floor. Then add 1/2 the height of your painting. For a 24" height painting, that is 12 inches. So 60" plus 12" equals 72". This is where the top of your painting will hit once it's hung. Next, look at the back of your painting to find the wire measurement.
To find the "wire measurement": Take your tape measure, and in the center of the painting's hanging wire, use the tape measure to pull up on the wire to the top of the painting (like the tension that would happen to wire when the painting is hanging on a nail on the wall). For this particular painting, this "wire measurement" is 5 5/16", but for the sake of simplicity, let's say 5.25". Subtract this measurement from your top of painting measurement. So 72" - 5.25" = 66.75" Measure 66.75" up from the floor and make a tiny pencil mark. This is where the nail will go for this painting!
This measurement will be different for every piece of art you hang, even art of the same size, as the distance of the "wire measurement" will most likely vary on every piece of art.
To review: 60" + 1/2 the height of the artwork - the "wire measurement" = where you will put your nail (or picture hanger).
If your artpiece has a sawtooth hanger near the top edge of the painting, you follow the same formula, but the "wire measurement" will likely only be 1/2 to 1 inch, thus your nail will end up being placed higher on the wall.
See in the gallery above how all the hung artwork is centered along a line?
Gallery walls, hanging art over furniture (like a sofa or a headboard on a bed), or very, very large art.
While you don't want the bottom of the art to physically touch the top of the sofa or headboard, your goal should be for the art and furniture piece to act together as a unit. This means that rather than aiming for the 60", the bottom of the art should fall around 4 - 6 inches above the top of the furniture piece. The problem I commonly see: art hung so that it's arbitrarily centered between the top of the headboard and the ceiling. That's too high, especially if you have an extra tall headboard. Note in the image below how the tall art prints are hung just a few inches above the top rail of the headboard. This allow the art to work with the bed as one unit, and creates a beautiful statement piece in the room.
image via Mint Arrow
When hanging over a sofa, the art should be hung so the bottom is about 4 - 6 inches above the sofa back. Note in the image below how the large painting over the low-back sofa hangs much closer to the sofa than the ceiling. It is not centered between the sofa and crown molding. Rather, the art works with the furniture as a grouping instead of floating high above it.
image via Architectural Digest
This image below is a PERFECT demonstration of art over a headboard. As you can see by interior designer Jenny Komenda standing in the room, the art is hung about 5 - 6 inches above the headboard which grounds the art and lets the bed and art act as a unit, even when there is a tall ceiling.
image via Juniper Home
Gallery walls are great! I love them! They are a fun way to show off a whole collection of art. Because gallery walls generally have so much art hung salon style on a wall (salon style means you have art hung above and below other art, rather than it all being on the same plane, like in the gallery pic below), not every piece of art will be hung straddling the 60" mark. Instead, the entire collection will act as one large piece of art.
image via The Delightful Find
In the photo above, note how the bottom pieces of art start a few inches above the sofa. The same rules apply here as for a single piece of art above furniture: start the collection 4 - 6 inches above the top of the sofa.
In the photo below, you can see the gallery wall on the right above the cabinet. The bottom pieces of art start a few inches above the cabinet, with each art piece in the collection hanging 2 - 4 inches apart.
image via The Delightful Find (doesn't she make amazing gallery walls?!)
In this photo below, the art is starting even closer to the sofa, and travels far up the wall, for a bold statement wall almost resembling the feeling of a mural or wallpaper.
image via Stephanie Kraus Designs
If the moulding or trim is no higher than standard chair-rail height (which is about 32" from the floor, like in the photo above), most art should still be able to comfortably hang above it at the 60" midpoint with no issue. Basically, just treat it like a regular wall.
image via One Kings Lane
For very high trim or wainscoting, you could try hanging art over the edge of the trim using a wire system (like the Arakawa Hanging System), resting art or objects on the upper trim edge (for instance, in a dining room that has a plate edge, like the image above), or resting artwork on a piece of furniture in the room (like on the back of a buffet or side table).
image via House of Jade Interiors
For artwork that is 6' or taller, you may have to shift your hanging height so that it doesn't touch the floor or the ceiling, or hang the art in a 2-story space like a open entryway or stairwell.
Here is an example of a large Jackson Pollock painting in the National Gallery of Art. The painting is very large, and the ceilings in this space are very tall, but the piece is still approximately centered along that 60" mark. (For reference this painting is 87" x 118". Note where the painting is vertically on the wall in relation to the text about the art next to it on the right. The text is right at eye-level, and the art is pretty much centered along the same plane, perhaps shifted up by just a few inches).
First, if kids can be taught not to touch a hot stove, they can be taught not to touch artwork. In a playroom or kids' room, one solution might be to hang art that is more kid-friendly, like a ribbon wall hanging or tapestry. Here are a couple of fun DIYs for this from A Beautiful Mess and Studio DIY.
image via Studio DIY
You can also hang less expensive art prints or your kids' own artwork on paper with clips in no frames, for a very cute, casual, and glass-free look. (note: this is not going to archivally preserve any artwork hung this way, so this is only recommended for non-precious art). If you have more special pieces you want hung in frames, try asking a custom frame shop to use plexiglass instead of regular glass for a less breakable option.
image via Young House Love
For framed art, I love this tip from Young House Love: hang your framed art normally (i.e. with a hammer & nail/ picture hook), and use 3M Command strips to secure the bottom edges of the art to the wall. Not only will it help the art to hang straight all the time (bonus!), but it can't be knocked down accidentally. Find their post on how to do it here. You can just baaaarely see the side of the Velcro Command strip in the picture above (I pointed it out with an arrow).
image via Chris Loves Julia
I love using a gallery art shelf or ledge to display art. You can place a LOT of art on these, and it's easy to move around the pieces or change them out entirely. See a great DIY from Chris Loves Julia here.
Incorporate small art into bookcases
Such an easy and fun way to show off small art pieces! I do this in my home and it's a great and fun solution for smaller art or framed photographs.
image via Style by Emily Henderson
Lean art on a mantle
image via Southern Living
Not only will this help keep the art a little lower visually (rather than hanging above the mantle), you can easily change it out with the seasons if you so desire.
These are just general guidelines. Now go out there and display that art for all to see and love!
photo by Anna Meyer Photo
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