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Nailed It: The Art of Hanging Wall Art

Wooden black lamp next to white cupboard with decorations against the wall with posters in flat interior

Here’s a secret: a piece of art hung the right way in the right place doesn’t have to be expensive to make an impact.  In fact, it doesn’t even really have to be art.  But a pricey piece hung wrong?  Not so much.  That being said, getting it right is as much a matter of trusting your instincts as it is following a formula.

There are really only three questions to answer when you set out to hang a piece of art.  How high do you want it?  Should it be part of a group or hung alone?  And are the wall and the hardware sturdy enough to keep it safe?

Safety First:  Even if your piece is heavy you don’t have to limit yourself to hanging at the studs or to using cumbersome and wall-damaging drywall anchors.  The secret is in using actual picture hanging hooks sized for the weight of the piece you are hanging.  However tempting it may be to skip a trip to the hardware store, a big nail is not the same as a picture hanger–the picture hanger goes into the wall at an angle and rests the picture’s weight against the wall to give it security and stability.  Anything that weighs more than 50 pounds should be hung with a two-nail hanger; after 75 pounds you’ll be safer with a three-nail hanger.  Two hooks is always better than one–not only is the artwork more secure, but it will stay straighter than a piece dangling from a single point.

Find your spot:  Before you pick up a hammer, recruit a friend to hold your artwork up where you plan to hang it so you can step back and see if it looks the way you hoped it would.  While in the end the only ironclad rule is that you feel good about it, here are some helpful rules of thumb.

  • The center of the piece should be about 57 inches–eye level–above the floor.  If you are hanging two pictures vertically treat them as a single unit: space them about two inches apart (an inch and a half if they are small), find the center point of the pairing and hang so that that imaginary point is 57 inches off the floor.
  • The exception to the 57-inch rule: spaces where people will be sitting more than standing.  If you are hanging a picture over a sofa, for instance, space the lower edge of the frame about a hand’s-width above the sofa’s back–lower than you would hang art in an entryway or hall.
  • The best way to make a successful grouping is to start in the middle and work your way out.  Forget matchy-matchy: for the freshest look mix it up with sizes, shapes, materials and textures, and play around with high and low art (a rusted found object next to an original painting, a souvenir plate next to a Lowestoft platter–you get the idea).  If you want to be extra sure about your group, trace your art on big pieces of paper and arrange the cut-outs on the wall with painter’s tape.  Move them around until they feel right.
  • Consider the scale of nearby furniture.  Artwork should take up about two-thirds of the space above a sideboard or sofa (e.g. six feet of art over a nine-foot table).

Sometimes a wall is not a wall.  As you scan your home for places to display your work don’t overlook your non-wall opportunities: hang art from the face of a shelf, inside a bookshelf, on the door of an armoire.  Or try this twist: hang your favorite objects, however humble, directly on the wall and then hang frames around them.  Bottom line?  Have fun—there’s not a mistake you can make that a little spackle and some paint won’t fix.

 

Make sure you ‘nail it’ when you hang your art. Have some other fun tips? Share them below!

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