A Guide to Hanging Artwork

It’s so frustrating when framed pieces are hung incorrectly. I just can’t help it; it truly hurts my heart when I see gorgeous artwork hung too high or too low. It may sound dramatic, but in the same way the right picture in the right place can tie an entire room together, so too can the wrong place make it all fall apart. So, what’s the “right way” to do it?

The answer? A big fat “it’s complicated.” One ‘height’ doesn’t fit all, and there are no set calculations for finding the perfect arrangement. It’s important to remember that the art you select for your home, and how you choose to experience it, is a deeply personal decision. Your goal in designing your space is to have it best take care of you, and so if your instincts tell you to ignore any or all of the guidelines listed below, do it. Turn it into a place that’s designed for you, not to follow all the rules.

That being said, things like symmetry and asymmetry, proportions and angles, are helpful hints in these regards because there are simply things that our brains like to see, things that, in general, the eye finds pleasing. Those hints can equip you to make the most informed decisions when placing the artwork you care about, both for your well-being and the overall feel of your home.

Ceiling Heights

Different ceiling heights can impact the best height for hanging artwork. Typical ceilings range anywhere from 7ft – 9ft (9ft being pretty generous). Artwork that isn’t placed over furniture is meant to be experienced and taken in while standing, which is why, with typical ceilings you typically want the center of your piece to hang at just below average eye level, about 58 inches off the ground. See Above.

For those of you whose ceilings are a bit more generous, you don’t want the space above the piece to overwhelm it and the room, but, still, it should be easy to view while standing. Raising the center of the image to between 60-66” from the ground strikes a good balance. See below.

Above Furniture

Artwork that hangs above furniture should be big enough that whatever it is, a couch, a credenza, etc., doesn’t dwarf the piece above it. I typically recommend that a length of at least ⅔ the corresponding piece of furniture; this lets the art and furniture play off each other with neither being overly dominant.  This way the art can really be appreciated in a room that’s comfortable and appealing. As for height, many suggest the bottom of any artwork should hang anywhere from 7″ – 10″ from the top of the furniture piece below it, but this is one of those places where I’ll tell you it’s best to trust your gut. The image below is a nice guide, but provided you don’t deviate too wildly, you should end up happy with the result.

The 2 /3 rule remains true whether you are hanging one big picture, two side by side, or going for more of a gallery wall effect. If you are hanging multiple pieces of artwork, I recommend spacing them anywhere from 2″ – 5″ apart. Again, this is a judgement call, just remain consistent. See below.

Final Tips

  1. More times than not, people hang artwork too high… so when in doubt, go lower!
  2. Pick art that is a little on the bigger side… too small can often leave a room feeling unfinished. I know bigger pieces of art can be an expensive investment, but there are plenty of affordable retailers out there that can help you capture the look you’re going for without breaking the bank! 
  3. For lower ceilings with crown molding, don’t let the top of your art cover it up. Leave some space between the top of the piece of art and the molding. This way you’ll avoid your wall appearing too crowded.
  4. Spend the time to figure out where you want something hung before taking out a hammer! Make a template by cutting a piece of paper to the exact size of your artwork and hang it on the wall with painters tape to be sure you get it just right!
  5. Again, all rules are meant to be broken, so don’t be afraid to go with your gut!

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