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How to Hang Artwork Like a Pro

June 14, 2018

Not sure of the best way to hang artwork, or even what kind of art to choose? Follow these tips to fill a home with art that looks great and represents you.

By Armina Kasprowicz

Is your home suffering from showroom syndrome? In other words, is it full of furniture and accessories you love, but for some reason it still feels a little empty, or as if it’s missing a certain element of “you” in it?

If so, it’s time to evaluate your wall art. There are few more effective ways to add personality to a room than art. From the subject of the pieces you choose, to the way they’re arranged and how they’re lit, wall art offers infinite potential for creating a unique story in a space.

Of course, an endless amount of possibility can lead to questions about exactly what to choose and how to hang it. Here’s a helpful guide.

1. Be a bit impulsive.

One of the biggest holdups when it comes to hanging art is that many people simply don’t own enough of it — often because they put too much pressure on choosing something that represents a certain pedigree, trend or style. Instead, when it comes to art, let your eye be the guide. If something strikes you — whether it’s a vacation photograph you took last summer, or an old mirror from a flea market, or a framed painting from a gallery — that’s enough to make it worthy of your space.

Sometimes, the best design moments happen from things that seem a little out of place, like a traditional oil painting in an otherwise modern home, or a bold abstract in a neutral room. Plus, the best thing about artwork is that it’s incredibly easy to change. If you don’t like something, you can simply take it down or move it to another room.

how to hang artworkCourtesy Martin Vecchio

2. Choose the right scale.

When it comes to deciding which piece of art to hang where, scale is just as important as style. Even the most beautiful piece of original artwork will look insignificant and inexpensive if it’s hung in a large area, like above a sofa or in a large foyer. Similarly, forcing a large-scale piece into a small space like a powder room will lead to a sense of overwhelm. The key is to see the surrounding space as part of the layout, and choose artwork that suits those proportions.

3. Aim for eye-level.

One of the most common mistakes people make when hanging art is placing it too high. Standard height in many museums and galleries is 57 inches on center, meaning from the floor to the middle of the artwork. This measurement represents the average human eye height. If that doesn’t feel quite right, it’s OK to go up a few inches — European preference is 61 inches.

how to hang artworkCourtesy Mark Shaw

4. Make gallery walls uniform.

A general rule of thumb when it comes to gallery walls is that all the art should have at least one thing in common — for instance, a matching set of white frames or a shared color palette. However, if you prefer a more eclectic assortment, there’s a professional secret to making even casual gallery walls appear uniform: Arrange the art so there’s a shared measurement between each piece on at least one side of the artwork. In other words, every piece of art you hang should be 2 inches from a surrounding piece on at least one side. This creates a unified feeling among even a disparate grouping of artwork. 

5. Consider the sun.

Another way to narrow down which art to hang where? Considering whether or not it will be exposed to direct sunlight. In general, photography and watercolors should never be hung in direct sunlight due to the risk of fading, while oil paintings and acrylics will fare far better. As a safeguard, however, it’s recommended that any valuable or sentimental pieces that are exposed to the sun’s rays be framed with specialty UV-protective glass.

6. Use art lights.

If you have an especially important or loved piece of art, consider giving it some extra emphasis with art lights, which will make a statement piece stand out even more. There are a number of options to choose from when lighting artwork, the most popular being ceiling accent lights, track lighting or picture lights hung directly above the work. The latter is often the simplest choice, since plug-in style picture lights won’t require hardwiring and can therefore be moved or changed as needed. When choosing a picture light, opt for something that is between 60 to 80 percent of the width of the artwork for the best effect.

Once you’ve got these general guidelines down, let your creativity direct the rest!

Armina Kasprowicz is the founder of Armina Interiors, a full-service interior design firm specializing in high-end residential properties and small commercial projects throughout Metro Detroit. Born in Poland and educated in the United States, Armina uses her extensive travels and experiences with hybrid cultures as a constant inspiration for her work. Creating sophisticated, elegant interiors and more relaxed, bohemian counterparts, she has a natural fluency with many different design styles as well as a unique ability to blend them together in innovative ways.

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