Now it might surprise you to know that when I go to people’s houses I don’t immediately start analysing their decor and furniture choices. Well, a little bit, but only with half a eye as it were. Usually if a room is ok you don’t tend to pick up on anything. If it’s amazing then yes you notice. And at that point I will comment or should I say compliment. But then there’s the other side. When it’s wrong. And you know you can’t say anything. But it becomes a little distracting. Like talking to someone with spinach in their teeth.
And one of areas in which it’s most often wrong is in the placing of the pictures on the walls. It’s rarely about the art itself. Everyone has different taste after all, but so often – so often – the pictures are hung so high you can barely see them. And then it’s really distracting because you might want to have a look but you have to crane your neck. Or you can’t quite make out the detail from where you are sitting but you don’t want to have to get up and stand on the sofa to see better.
So following on from the Affordable Art Fair at the weekend, I have been asked to write a guide to hanging art and then direct you to my top 10 edit, some of which I borrowed last week so you could see them hanging in The Mad House. They’ve gone back now sadly but a girl can save.
First things first – that height issue. This is the single most important thing you can do to get it right. Basically the middle of the picture should be roughly at eye level with the person standing in front of it. Hang on – I know we are all different heights and there will inevitably be the 5’1″ person living with the 6’5″ person but I’m guessing that picture height isn’t the main issue in your house. Mirrors must be a nightmare.
So, use common sense and pick a mid-point – say with the bottom of the frame a minimum of five feet from the floor and move around accordingly. If you are putting something over a sofa it needs to be around 10 inches higher than the back so it doesn’t get knocked by people’s heads. This works for something hanging over a table too. You want the picture to be part of the whole ensemble and not just floating about on the wall on its own.
If you are putting a picture over a piece of furniture try take a picture on your phone to better judge the effect. We put a clock on the wall the other day – using the eye level picture rule – but I knew that something wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t a huge clock and when I tried to take a picture of the table and its lamp the clock was never in shot. Moving it down immediately made more sense. Not just for instagram but because the clock then joined in with the rest of the objects it was near and the whole corner of the room looked better. I joke about instagram but it wasn’t until I tried to take a picture that I completely understood why it was wrong and what to do about it.
Another point to remember is that you shouldn’t have the top of the picture in a straight line with the top of the door or window if you can possibly help it. It’s more interesting to create a variety of heights so try and shift it up – or more likely down a little – if that has happened.
If you have a pair of images you don’t have to hang them side by side. Put one in the room and one visible through an open door so the eye is drawn between the two and the spaces are linked that way.
When it comes to size you can’t always choose. If you have bought a piece because you love it rather than because it went with the decor, then you often have to take what you are given. So if you were desperate for a piece to hang over the sofa but the one you love is too small then make a statement with that. Hang it low and to one side. That way it’s a deliberate choice and it’s not apologising for being too small. As a general rule you can’t go wrong with large pieces. A huge picture at the right height is a statement in itself whether it’s on a large or a small wall. In the case of the former let it breathe and don’t put other things too close.
If you’re nervous about banging holes in the wall then use Command Strips. They’re strong and don’t damage the paint and that gives you the chance to move things around and try different positions. Take a photo each time and then compare them. You’ll know which one looks right when you have a few options in front of you.
Finally, the gallery wall. I get asked about this a lot. It’s sort of instinctive, but if you’re really struggling with placement then start by laying them on the floor. Then stand on a chair and take the picture. Or use the command strips and go straight for the vertical. I wouldn’t start with the biggest in the middle as that will make it look like a satellite with its accolytes gathering round. Instead put it at the side and work your way out from there.
Try and have lots of different shapes and sizes. It’s up to you if you want matching frames or clashing ones. If you’re really stuck then stick “gallery wall” into Pinterest, find one you like or that looks like it most relates to what you have and recreate it.
That’s basically it. Now go and choose pictures you like and get them hung on the walls. Although propped up against them is also a good look and saves getting the spirit level out. If you want more advice on how to hang art then go here.
And for those of you who wanted to see my newly painted sitting room here it is. This is fallen plum by Cassandra Ellis and I love it.