How High? The Right Way to Hang Art

Tips on how to hang artwork Hanging artwork for most of us is guesswork. This is how it usually plays out: Your friend holds up a picture, you take a few steps back, squint for a couple of seconds and then out come the commands: "a little to the left," "a little more," "nah, back to the right," "up more," "wait, not so much." Then you shrug, and decide that will do.

Though there's no foolproof, without exception, rules, we've compiled some tips to mitigate the hesitation and start you in the right direction.

How high should I hang my artwork?
Conventional advice is to hang art at eye level. However, designers disagree on whether this means the eye level of viewers standing or sitting. Janice Serendi, an interior decorator in Cheshire, Conn., says some solve this by what people are usually doing in the room -- for instance, in a hallway you are vertical, so the picture should be hung at eye level while standing, but you should just use your best judgment. (By the way, the eye level of people standing is commonly accepted as 5 feet, 6 inches).

How should I hang a group of pictures and artwork?
The key to hanging an assembly of pictures together is to think of them as a single unit or a giant imaginary square that's at least 3 feet to 5 feet on each side, up to an entire wall. The top, bottom and sides of this square should all be parallel and spacing from one frame to the other within the square should be consistent.

For an asymmetrical design of of varying sizes, shapes and frames, use an odd number of items, line up the darker-colored, visually heavier and larger pictures below the lighter, smaller ones, and consider hanging in a triangle or circle if that works best to maintain the balance. To arrange a trio of pictures, a commonly-used scheme is putting largest artwork in the center with two smaller pieces on either side.

How should I go about hanging a piece or multiple frames on the wall?
There is a little trick that designers use to hang artwork, especially when there's a group of frames going up on the wall. Using a roll of craft paper, trace your pictures onto the paper and cut out into squares. As templates, arrange the various frames on the wall and temporarily adhere with a low-tack tape, such as painter's tape. You can move around and change the layout as much as you want. Go ahead and put up your picture hooks using the paper shapes to hold your place and measurements.

How do I hang artwork over my couch or other furniture?
When hanging over furniture, the rule of thumb is to make sure that the picture is not wider than the dimensions of the furniture to avoid a top-heavy appearance. A picture should be around 3/4 of the length of the table it hangs above. Over a mantel, leave 3 to 7 inches. And 4 to 8 inches when hanging a piece over a table or a couch.

How do I hang artwork to make my ceilings higher or my room look bigger?
If you place your framed art in a horizontal sequence, it will have an elongating, widening effect on your room. To achieve the illusion of height, you will want to place your pictures in a vertical fashion. In general, keep thing in proportion, so smaller pictures are placed on more narrow walls, and larger items belong on those big, bare family room walls.

Should I use nails to hang?
The best thing to use is picture hooks because they redistribute the weight hanging from them, unlike nails. Hooks can also hold more weight and come in varying sizes. Before you buy, just be sure to check the hook size and the weight it can handle. You might want to even consider using two hooks for a big-sized piece.

These tips may eliminate the initial guesswork, but remember hanging artwork involves a process of trial-and-error and it's always going to require your keen sense of perception. So if need be, do tell your friend, "That's right ... move it up a little to the left."


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