Is there a magic formula for hanging art? I often get asked what is the right height for artwork. A rule of thumb you may have heard is that art should be hung at eye level, but whose eye level and is that the top or the middle of the piece at eye level? Other common questions are when is there too much or too little artwork and how do you choose the right size.
When I am hanging art I follow my instinct. I just know where it should go. There are underlying reasons, however, for my instinctual reactions and these are guidelines which anyone can follow. The first step is to consider the art as an important extension of the room’s décor and understand that its placement can make or break the visual flow in the room. As you take a look around a space, there should be no jarring height jumps or dips. Keeping the tops, middle, or bottoms of art lined up can be a great way to avoid a random level of heights, which will feel disjointed. Consider the height of windows and other architectural details as well.
Perhaps the most important guideline is that art placement should be considered with what is around it. If you are hanging over a piece of furniture, you probably don’t want more than a 5 or 6 inch space between the bottom of the art and the top of the furniture. A larger gap of exposed wall will draw the eye to the empty space instead of allowing the eye to take in the entire vertical visual. Likewise art which is hung alongside furniture typically feels better if it is just below or above the height of the furniture. The height for art which stands alone can be all about eye level, such as in a hallway, with the centre of the picture or the grouping of pictures more or less 60” from the floor.
A successful room has a focal point; a place where the eye is drawn. Artwork can be a critical part of creating the focal point. Consider a master bedroom. There may be a head board, there is great bedding, there are bedside tables and lamps, there are dressers of varying heights, and there may be a chair off to one side of the bed, all of which draw the eye to varying heights. Placing art over the bed raises the bed to the highest point in the room and clinches its highest status in the room.
The size and shape of art are as important as the height it is hung at. One or two small frames hung on a large wall space will look lost. If you have small bits of art you love, consider using them on a shelf or hung on a small wall you might find in the kitchen or bathroom, or create a grouping with other pieces which together form a larger visual. Art which is wider than the furniture it sits over can be overpowering. Follow the shape of the space you are filling; horizontal art over the couch or square over the fireplace. Aim to fill two thirds to three quarters of the space.
If you are selling, choose artwork which is not too personal so that prospective buyers can feel at home as they tour the house. Family pictures and potentially controversial content should be replaced or removed. Chances are less artwork is appropriate for selling. One or two well placed, significant pieces in a room will have much more impact than several smaller ones.