Secrets to Hanging Wall Art Like the Pros
Use the 'Rule of Three'
Are you familiar with the 'Rule of Three'? Interior designers use it to create visual interest when they decorate a home.
Here's their secret: Groups of items arranged in odd numbers create subconscious visual tension; this can work to your advantage when you are decorating a room. When you hang wall art pieces or arrange decor items in groups of three, you engage your viewer's attention and are better able to highlight specific features of your home.
Even Numbers Have a Calming Effect
Items placed in groups of even numbers have a calming effect compared to odd-numbered groups. For this reason, you might want to have a pair of wall hangings, or a set of four placed closely together, in rooms such as the bedroom or study.
Don't "Hang 'Em High"
Most interior design experts agree that the number one mistake people make when hanging art is to place it too high on the wall. The center of the picture, when measured from top to bottom, should be at eye level, which is generally considered to be around 58 inches above the floor.
In rooms such as the dining room or office, where people will be sitting down most of the time, it makes sense to hang wall art lower so that the center of the picture is closer to seated eye level.
Working with Groups of Pictures
Pictures that are the same size should be hung in horizontal alignment with each other, unless they are filling a tall, narrow space, in which case they should be hung vertically.
Pictures of Different Sizes
Things get more complicated when you are working with pictures of different sizes. One popular solution is to hang them so that their vertical center is in alignment, as below.
Not everyone agrees with this approach. Photography design expert Christian Cook recommends aligning different-sized pictures horizontally according to their top border instead. (The next two pointers are from his website, www.ThincTanc.com, where you can find many other useful illustrations.)
Pictures Next to a Doorway
A doorway creates a strong structural element that needs to be taken into consideration when arranging art work. It's tempting to align pictures vertically from the middle, but the overall effect can be visually tiring. Instead, try aligning them by the border closest to the door frame.
Groups of Four
Hanging art work in groups of four creates a pleasing visual effect, especially if you follow a few guidelines:
1. Larger and/or landscape pictures should go above smaller and/or portrait pictures.
2. Align pictures horizontally along the top first, then vertically from the middle.
Placing Art Over a Fireplace
When choosing art to hang over a fireplace, look for something that is around two-thirds of the width of the mantel. (It should be at least 50 percent and no more than 75 percent of the mantel width.) You can use several items arranged horizontally, as long as the total width falls within that range. Another guideline is to keep the art the same width as the fireplace opening. As you can see below, both concepts work for a flat screen TV as well as a picture.
Since art work over a fireplace is already quite high up, hang it no more than 10 to 12 inches above the mantel in order to keep it visually anchored. Lower down may look even better as long as it does not interfere with items on the mantel, and placing a picture directly on the mantel is also acceptable.
Spacing Art Work
In Groups: When arranging several pictures as a group, experts recommend that you space them five to six inches apart, both vertically and horizontally. An easy way to check this is to simply measure the space using the width of your hand.
Above Sofas: Art work above sofas should be eight to ten inches above the highest point in order to leave room for people resting their arms along the back of the sofa.
Above the Bed: Pictures can be hung closer to a bed frame than to a sofa back. A common recommendation is four to eight inches.
Art pieces placed above sofas and beds should be about two-thirds as wide as the furniture item. It's important to hang the picture close enough that it looks visually anchored, rather than so high that it appears disconnected.
Exceptions Are the Norm!
You may already have thought of several examples of art placement in your home that break the 'rules' and still create a great result. Ultimately, your choice of art and the way you present it is an expression of your own personal taste, so nothing you choose to do is wrong. The information above is meant to be helpful for situations in which you know there must be some general guideline, and you'd like to know what it is.
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