Rules, rules, rules…. guidelines, and more rules. Yes, there are art hanging guidelines. As with everything else there are rules, some of which are commonly made mistakes that are easily fixed. In this article I have listed 11 mistakes people make as well as some art display ideas that will help you fix those mistakes. With some effort you can fix the art display in your home and create a comfortable and inviting space that you and your guests will enjoy!
What are the art displaying mistakes?
- Hanging art too high – when art is hanging way too high like it is ready to float up into space it is an uncomfortable feeling for anyone.
- Hanging art too low – art hung awkwardly below eye level leaves an uncomfortable feeling – as much as it hung too high.
- Too matchy-matchy – if the art you are displaying is too much exactly like your furniture, wall, and floor colors it gets lost in a sea of sameness and is just plain boring.
- collage messes – there is nothing wrong with creating a collage of small pieces of art on a large wall. We can’t all afford a large piece of art and sometimes the perfect solution is a collage of smaller works. This is an easy one to mess up. If you do not know how to hang a collage you can end up with a wall that looks like someone used it for BB gun target practice and that is never a good look…… unless you live at the shooting-range.
- Wrong scale – if you hang a very large piece on a small wall it can look like something is ready to explode from the wall and leaves the viewer feeling like they need to run for cover. If the art is like a postage stamp floating in space it may be too small for the chosen wall. You do not want to leave people wondering what you are trying to accomplish.
- No variety – when all the art throughout your home looks like a gallery that is not a good thing. You don’t want anyone asking you for the price list or searching for the wine and cheese table.
- No negative space – that means you don’t want so much art on your wall that one can’t see what color your walls are.
- No layering – we layer pillows on the couch (or we should) we layer furniture and make things fit in the room but art just sits on the wall with everything around it looking like the art has a contagious disease, not good.
- Not hanging art properly – Not only can improper hanging be dangerous it leaves you having to adjust it all the time. Hanging with just a nail or with a hanger that is too small can leave art falling off the walls…. broken glass and broken frames can cost money and get someone hurt. And the truth is nobody loves adjusting art every time someone closes a door.
- Keeping art only on the walls – Many do not think about the other options for art that can be great ways to incorporate art into the room. Paintings can be creatively placed in a room without hanging.
- Generic art – oh gag. I mean, if you are saving money for the office, or, as our culture is now where someone gets offended because you have the wrong thing on the wall (like they are a dog person and you have a cat painting or some other overly sensitive and ridiculous offense) – generic art is fine. Keep in mind that your home is for representing YOU – who YOU are – what YOU love… getting a generic metal thing from a department discount store is just not a good idea. It is better to see a wall full of unique art hanging crooked on the wall than generic art with no purpose or personality!
Now, what are the art display ideas that will help me fix these mistakes?
- Hanging art too high – the center of the painting should be at eye level. This can be a challenge if one person in the house is tall and the other is not. I have that in my home. My husband is tall, I am not… How do I solve this? That one took me a bit. I would hang something at my eye level and he would say it was too low. The thing is that we are most comfortable looking at art hung at our eye level. What I did was hang it between his eye level and mine. It may not be the “perfect” solution for all, but it works pretty well and solved the uncomfortable feeling of the painting being too high for me or too low for him.
- Hanging art too low – this is the same solution as hanging it too high. Eye level is best or split between your eye level and the eye level of the other adult in your home.
- Too matchy-matchy –ditch the swatch. Do not, and I mean never buy art because its the same color as your couch. Be brave with your colors. Allow your art to stand out. Buy art because you love it, not because it matches something. You are not trying to create a camouflage space, so get out of the comfort zone and buy something with COLOR! Also, do not be afraid to mix up styles. Put a traditional painting in a modern space or a modern painting in a traditional space. There is more than one way to avoid matchy-matchy issues because you can mix styles as well as colors and make it look amazing!
- Collage messes – stop hanging the little guys willy-nilly all over the wall only to have to re-hang them over and over again. Lay the art on the floor and decide how you want it to look first. Do you want it to create a calm, relaxing feel? then you want each piece evenly spaced and maybe in a neat row. Do you want it to feel upbeat and energetic? then lay out your look with a variety of sizes and shapes and not all evenly spaced. Once you have a look that you like when laid out on the floor, measure it. I have a piece of paper and a tape measure. I draw it out and take measurements so I know exactly where to hang the art. This takes time and minimal math skills (tape measures are friend to those like me who are mathematically challenged!)
- Wrong scale – If you run the risk of the side of your painting slamming into a corner or flying off the edge of the wall then it is too big. My personal rule is there should be an elbow to finger tip length between edges or corners and the art. This rule makes sure you won’t get too much art for the little wall. If you can line your entire family up on the wall and still have space before you reach the art, then the art is too small. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the point. You do not want your art to get lost on the wall. Consider moving that little piece to a smaller wall or creating a collage. Do you have a larger piece of art somewhere else that may be better on that wall? consider moving some art around. Not only will it freshen up your space but getting the art on the right walls for the room will make you feel better in the space.
- No variety – creating a look of art collected over time is a very good thing. Art should tell your story – art hung for a show in a gallery is supposed to work well together to make a cohesive show. You are not creating a show in your house so don’t be afraid to get work that is not all the same. Hang the drawing given to you by your 1st grade son next to the expensive painting your husband bought you on your honeymoon. Your art tells the story of who you are and that is something to be proud of.
- No negative space – That has always been a tough one for me. I live in a small house and I LOVE ART! I love to make art, I love to collect art… I just love art! I have way too much of it for my house. Between collecting art, kid-made art, photos and sentimental things I have so much art I really need a house 3X what I live in just to properly hang it all. Alas, I cannot stop buying and gathering so what should I do? Well, besides hanging on walls and creating groupings of art, or layering art in some other way I rotate. I keep art in closets and under beds and I rotate it. Yes, it creates work for me just so I can have some blank space on my walls, but for me, as an artist and collector it is worthwhile to have a nice home space and a way to have the art I love! This may not be a realistic option for everyone so you have to decide that one for yourself. Stop collecting? ignore the negative space rule? or stack, layer and display art in another way?
- No layering – its OK to allow a few plant leaves to overlap the painting. It is also OK to place the floor lamp in front of the art. Another thing that is just fine is to have one on the wall and another on an easel placed strategically in front of but not fully covering. Get creative and incorporate your art into your space. It is not diseased and does not need to be quarantined away from all other things in the room.
- not hanging art properly – hang on two hooks. This will keep the art straight so you won’t have to fix it every time someone closes a door. Also, unless you like trips to the E.R. do not hang on a regular nail. Get picture hanging hooks that are the right size for the art. Getting knocked out by falling art or cut by broken glass is not a fun thing.
- Keeping art only on the walls – stack it! dressers or buffets are great places to do this. You can also layer them there which is a great solution to problem 8 – two birds with one stone WOO HOO!!!! Don’t be afraid to stack on the floor. This is tricky but well done can be great! I do not recommend this if you have small children though. They tend to knock things over. Also, you have to be careful about how you do this because you don’t want it to look like you are getting ready to pack up and move. If you have doubts of how to do this stick to the dressers and buffets – its a great way to layer and allow art an escape from the traditional display location of the walls. You can also get easels, available in table-top and floor versions and work well for layering and getting art off the walls.
- Generic art – like I said, unless you are saving money in a work space or striving to get work that is impossible to be seen as offensive (except for those whose eyes hurt at looking at work so generic…. ) then don’t get anything. Or, create your own. I have a collection of heart shaped rocks given to me by my husband and kids. Every time we go on a hike or play at the river they find a rock. I don’t even know how that got started but I love my little collection. You can take collections of things and frame them. Professional framing is great ( I have a frame shop so I frame all my work) but if you can’t do that then go to the same store where you get the generic art and get a shadowbox frame or any frame you like. If you have something dimensional, like I have my rocks, take the glass out and glue your item inside the frame. You have just created your own art for the wall and did not have to resort to the painful generic art just to fill a space. Art from your kids? frame it! Way more attractive and special than generic art.
Summing it up.
There is a lot to think about when buying art and displaying it in your home. There are rules for everything but what it comes down to is this: buy what you love and you can always make it work. If you have any thoughts of questions, please do not hesitate to leave them below in the comment section and I will get back to you!