Thursday, May 17, 2012

Don't Hang That On Your Wall! Or, Considering Scale and Proportion When Choosing Art

One of the most common decorating mistakes I see--and one of the easiest and cheapest problems to fix--is art that is too small for the wall, or hung too high. Tiny, too-high art is to interior design what high-water pants are to fashion. It can ruin an otherwise attractive room!
A large, wide wall calls for large art, and a small, narrow wall calls for small art (Thank you, Captain Obvious). Art, furniture, and other decorative items should come together to create a cohesive visual composition. When the art is too small, the furniture beneath it looks graceless and bulky. And when art is hung too high, there is an awkward gap between the art the the nearby furniture, so that the pieces look separate and strange. These are the rules:
  • Hang art at eye level. The center of the piece should be approximately five feet from the floor.
  • Art should be approximately as wide as the furniture beneath it. It can be a bit narrower, but no wider.
  • If you're hanging more than one piece together, don't hang them too far apart!
  • Large walls need large art, and small walls need small art. I can't emphasize this enough!

Hang your art like these folks, and receive compliments from all your friends:
The DIY ribbon garland is just the right size to hang over the bed.
The large, square paintings over the sectional are perfectly proportional.
But I'm not sure why there is a huge buckeye in the middle of the floor?
The single piece of art over the two chairs creates visual cohesion.
The group of four paintings functions as one large piece of art, and fits perfectly over the bench.
These folks got it wrong! Images are not attributed, to protect the dignity of the clueless :

Some people hang their art too high.
Some people hang tiny pieces of art over large pieces of furniture.
This person did both things at the same time!
Doesn't this piece of art look lonely? A group of framed pieces, or a single larger piece, would be better here.

Big blank walls in an otherwise full room look strange.
Where is the art?!
That blank wall is sad, and the garland only emphasizes the empty wall space.
Hanging the garland lower would help.

Some people don't realize that the rules for hanging art apply to shelves and storage pieces, too.
This isn't art, but the same principles apply.
Either use that towel bar, or choose a larger storage shelf!
As it is, the empty space is awkward.
Some people think all the art in the room must be hung at the same height, regardless of its size.
That's how you get mistakes like this:
The neutral colors are beautiful, but look at the tiny painting between the windows.
It's too high, and that space would look better with a tall, thin piece of art.
The grouping on the right is at the correct height because the stuff on the desk is tall and fills in the visual "gap."
Many people are used to art hung too high, and when they're shown the proper place for their pictures, they protest: "That's too low! Won't that look weird?" Not as weird as the gap between the art and the sofa, my dears!


  1. I am completely clueless about interior design, though I do appreciate it well enough. This post was really helpful! Our walls are sadly devoid of art.

    1. Glad it helped! At least you can be 100% sure that you don't have any improperly hung art. :)

  2. Helpful stuff, Jen! I probably have to move every picture I own haha

    1. Ha! The great thing, though, is that it allows you to redecorate without buying anything. :)

  3. Yo mama would be proud.


What do you think? Your comments always make my day.

P.S. All trolls will be fed to the bookworms.