SO – you’ve decided you are tired of staring at blank walls and want to add artwork or at least SOMETHING to look at. But where to start? How big? How high? How many pieces. What do I need and where can I find it?
Well, that all depends on the space you have to fill and what you like, but
here are seven secrets to success
DON’T just buy something to fill space or to match your sofa
DO invest in things you truly love or that have meaning to you
DON’T, for the love of God, just hang stuff on the nail that was already in the wall from the last time something adorned the space.
DO plan ahead. Placement of artwork requires careful planning. Lay the pieces out on the floor if working on a grouping, or have someone hold it/them on the wall so you can check placement before hammering away.
DON’T hang your artwork before deciding on the final resting places for your furniture.
DO hang your artwork to relate to the furniture in the room. Over a headboard – let your artwork arrangement follow the shape of the headboard. Over a sofa, table, or chest – hang the artwork close enough so the furniture is part of the overall composition – 8” – 12” is the maximum distance up from the furniture. If that looks ridiculous, you need either a bigger piece or multiple pieces…which brings me to number 4…
DON’T hang one lonely little piece by itself in a large expanse of wall.
DO be sure your artwork (or group of artwork) is at least 2/3 of the width of the furniture below it.
DON’T feel you must find one single right piece to do the job
DO consider a group or grid of artwork. Spaces between artwork hung in a grid should be quite small - usually between 2 1/2 and 4 inches, but it depends on the size of the artwork, the heft of the frame, and the size of the mat if there is one. Sometimes it is more interesting and, above a curved headboard or camel back sofa, it fits the space better to use a group of art or objects rather than a single large piece of art.
DON’T limit yourself to art
DO add in some other items on your walls so it has an interesting look and doesn’t start to feel like a museum! Other wall-worthy items? Pretty dishes, platters or trays, mirrors, large decorative clocks, sculptural pieces of metalwork or plasterwork, architectural fragments like old window frames, wall shelves, sconces or ledges (to hold something, obviously), textiles, interesting baskets, and collections.
DON’T hang a group of artwork and then try to level each piece. This NEVER works out well and is one reason why hanging groups or grids of artwork is tricky!
DO level each piece as you hang it and add a piece of museum putty on the back of a lower corner to keep it in place. Nothing is more irritating than slightly askew pictures every time someone closes a door or walks down the hall!
Some other considerations for hanging artwork
What about frames? They don’t all need to match, and should certainly be chosen foremost to compliment the art, but they should relate to the room in some way. You have options! There are many companies that sell various pieces in a choice of both sizes and frames. Custom framing is another option – it is not inexpensive, but it can elevate the artwork and protect more fragile pieces that have sentimental value like antique photographs or needlework pieces. We have commissioned custom mats and frames for hundreds of pieces for gallery wall installations over the years!
Gallery walls are a great way to display family photographs, though the example below might make you question that sentiment. For tips on designing a photo gallery wall that doesn’t look like it was hung by a slightly inebriated handyman, check out THIS post.
Scenic wallpaper can be an elegant stand-in for artwork.
But can I hang pictures on patterned wallpaper? Yes. But 2 notes of caution. 1. ) You are making a hole in the wallpaper and that cannot be repaired so make SURE you are making the hole where you are going to want it for a long time, and 2.) You artwork needs some breathing room from the encroaching pattern of your wallpaper so use a mat or at least a sizable frame to form a protective boundary! When in doubt, consider a mirror instead.
There are many local artists and most will do commissioned work if you want a particular color palette. And there are many online companies that offer original art prints in a choice of sizes and frames - GreatBigCanvas.com is one that we have used, and Art.com is another. BallardDesigns.com has a nice selection of sets of prints for groupings.
Tools of the Trade:
Here are some of the items we keep in our picture hanging toolbox. The mini level and museum putty get used on every picture to insure it is level and stays that way. The plate hangers are dependent on the size of the plate or platter but we like the vinyl tips that keep the plates from getting scratched. Traditional 30 lb hooks work for most artwork, though we will use two per picture and larger hooks for large scale or heavy pieces. The angled lightweight hangers work especially well for pictures that have those sawtooth hangers at the top of the back where using a traditional hook would show above the picture. Click on each image for more information.
Friends don’t let friends hang art badly!
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