Picture Perfect

Art displayed in a reading nook, with sofa and cushions in front of large picture window
So. You got a great deal on a piece of art work, you really love it.

You’ve broken the bank getting it framed (why IS framing so expensive??) and you want to do it justice. There you are, hammer, nails, (and screws and a driver in case it gets messy)… and now what? What height should this thing hang at? Should I line it up with something? Do I need complicated trigonometry to get it centred? We’ve all been there! Here are some handy hints on the most common ways of getting your art out where you can enjoy it.

Eye-line hanging

Most galleries and designers use eye height as the guide. That is, the centre of the art work should fall in line with average eye height. In a public place they will have to work to large population averages, but in your home you have the joy of a smaller population to work from. In our home the art hangs at 61″/155cm from the floor. We could go a little higher as my husband is quite tall, but I’m the one doing the hanging… The average is 57-63″ for comfort. As it is the centre of the art you are positioning, it affords a sense of balance with all art works, regardless of shape and size differences.

There are clear exceptions to this. If you are unusually short or tall, hanging to your own preference is fine as long as you don’t mind it feeling odd to visitors. Also if the artwork is very large you will need to play with positioning, potentially even resting it on the floor. If you are hanging art in a children’s room, consider hanging it lower for their comfort.

Likewise if you are hanging over a low bed or in a grouping to the side of a sofa, lower works well as your natural eye level in the space is more often than not lower. Some may find this cosy, others will find it busy.

I happen to think it is rather fabulous and helps create a focal point, a wonderful example of this as shown in this image by Studio McGee.

Group hanging/ picture wall

Use the principle of eye height being the centre of the grouping. This can be quite a complicated pattern to pull off successfully as not only does it rely on finding a balance of size and shape of the frames but also the colours of the artwork within.

Frame your pieces in a similar frame, or a small number of different colours and try to keep a similar spacing between the frames. Lay all your work on the floor before you hang it to get an idea of how it will best look. Take a photo when you have a layout you like, then do the maths (yes, this is the most maths intensive). I have seen options where people have suggested using massive sheets, drawing the frame outlines on them, pinning the sheet up and hanging accordingly but I have not found this either easier or more helpful than sitting with a pen and paper and just working it out.

Too much like hard work?? Then…
Why hang at all?

Let’s be honest, many of us like to swap things round, or live in rented accommodation where hanging simply isn’t an option. So, unless you have a handy picture rail to make use of, just lean it. Prop it on a chair, on a ledge, a fireplace… on a console. And don’t worry if you already have lots of hung art, it all works well in combination. Leaning is great to create a vignette and gives the opportunity to layer multiple pieces (so is space efficient too!).

Further inspiration…

If you are renting and want more ideas on how to personalise your space without making permanent changes, read my rental hacks article here.


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