Hanging Artwork

Hanging art has been and still remains an integral part of adorning our modern day man caves. We have always had an urge to make art an important element of our interiors dating as far back as the prehistoric wall cave paintings and base relief of the Egyptian tombs. Anthropologists have said ancient people thought art was magic that transported you from the mundane to the transcendent. I have to agree, because surprisingly, what we take in visually stays with us unconsciously, capturing us, and magically whisk us away to another place and time.

There are clues that will help you zero in on the type of artwork that compliments the scale and color of the room. Keep in mind the room’s scheme and try to match or contrast it. Is the room neutral, pastel, or vibrantly decorated? Don’t be intimidated when choosing art. It is nothing more than finding images that you like, ones that speak to you, perhaps stimulates reflection, relaxes your mind and uplifts your spirit framing your memories.

Art can be an anchor for a room’s theme; it relays a story of the occupant’s depth, style, humor and even their intellect. While hunting for the ideal pieces, keep in mind these images you are choosing will greet you on a daily basis. Others will be viewing it also, and the substance of your art has impact. If the impact is too much, it will drown out you theme but if it is too little, it will be lost. Discovering the art that reflects you and speaks to you can take some time to find, but once you have found the ideal pieces, how do you hang them and where?

Now that you found the coveted pieces of art, we need to find a way to properly display your artscape. This will involve identifying wall color, location, and framing/matting the artwork and then finally, highlighting each piece if needed with some accent lighting.

Wall Color:

-Consider a suitable backdrop against which to display your work.

-The wall color should not compete with your art.

-The color should either be neutral or in some way play off the colors in the art.

-Repaint the wall to compliment/accent the piece if needs be.

-Ensure back drop is smooth with unobtrusive textures.


-Allow generous amount of wall space around each work.

– Relate art to wall size-

(Choose smaller pictures for narrow walls and larger works for big wall spaces.)

-Relate Art to Furniture Size

(In general, when hanging art over a piece of

furniture it should not be longer than the width of the furniture- a general principle being about 75% of the table’s/sofa width.)

-Standard hanging height would be at eye level.

-Hang It Low-When hanging a large picture over a table for instance, the bottom of the frame should sit within 4-8″ of the tabletop

-Play with size for dramatic effects-try hanging large art pieces in small spaces such as a powder room.

Hanging art in groups to make a pattern:

-Stripes- symmetrically hung in a row to create a vertical or horizontal line of art

-Plaids- a square or checkered layout

-Herringbone/diagonal- an ascending slope/stepping rows up a stairwell adds excitement to the composition.

-Mosaic- a large cluster of works together serves to display many works in a limited space.

-Artful Grid- Use of the majority of the wall with pictures that are monochromatic, same in color, same frames (if not frameless), and of the same size this will create a dramatic wall of poetry.

-One vertically hung and one horizontal being aligned at the base of the frames.

-Oversized and hung low

-Horizontal lines tend to elongate, widen, and emphasize a casual decorating scheme.

-Vertical lines tend to be more formal giving the illusion of height; it can seem more elegant and refined.

-Avoid hanging matching pictures in a perfect line whenever you’d like to emphasize a casual atmosphere.

-Symmetrical Arrangements adds balance and formality to an arrangement and is generally pleasing and calming to the observer.

– Asymmetrical Arrangements create a very eye-catching grouping and is a casual fun look for informal settings.

-Juxtapose two artworks from different periods that have a common element (color, subject matter, etc.)

-Create a collage by grouping many small artworks together linking them visually in form, theme, or color. This will allow them to play off each other creating a harmonious single graphic effect.


-Don’t choose frames/mattes that will overwhelm a piece or fails to set it off.

-Mix frames that differ stylistically and in color giving them a sense of this is a “collection”.

-Try framing several items in one mat and frame.

-Varying frame shapes add interest to a picture grouping by hanging pictures with differently shaped frames.

-Pictures will have greater impact if matted in a contrasting color to the wall. Choose a dark mat for a light wall and vice versa.

-A group of pictures framed alike and hung together can have big impact.

Shelves and Alternative Wall Hangings

-Place art on a shelf creating a more dimensional effect and allows you to exhibit framed work along with other collected art, figures/pots.

-Look for objects to hang on the wall that give the impression of art such as architectural features

-Iron art is very popular and adds a great deal of interest with its 3-dimensional effect.

Accent Lighting:

Note: Beautiful artwork can be lost unless it is well lit. Illuminating the work it gives it more importance.

-The entire surface of a painting should be should be evenly lit without glare

-To light an individual piece and direct light evenly mount a picture light that has a long arm from the back of the artwork as to not damage the piece.

-Use a color correct, ultra violet-free, low wattage bulb.

-Light sculptures to enhance their forms to create a dramatic effect that cast shadows onto walls or floors.

-Use uplights and downlights of various sizes that suits each piece.

-Using track lighting above a series of pieces that perhaps run down the length of a hallway will dramatically highlight the art and light the hallway simultaneously.

-Light bookshelves and cabinets with mounted lights or clip ons

Alas, you are now armed with a holster full of new hanging art arsenal and now are officially equipped to tackle any room with your new artscaping design guidelines. Stick to your theme by supporting it with art that’s repeating in colors, motifs, and style of the room’s interior. Use the art as inspiration, search for pictures that move you and use their themes and colors as the foundation for other room elements. Allow the art to be humorous, fun, unexpected and whimsical. Look for themes that fit your decorating style by bringing out the colors in other elements of the room. Just remember that art endures because it releases us from repetition of habitual thought and allows us a fresh perspective; so be sure to display your work respectfully and artfully by putting some extra thought into it.