We are a savvy society. With HGTV, numerous home and DIY televisions shows, magazines and popular apps such as Houzz and Pinterest, we feel empowered. Even big box home renovation stores' TV commercials send us messages of encouragement.
Although we have so many tools at our disposal, it seems there is still a lot of confusion and contradicting advice when it comes to hanging art ‐ where to hang it, how high, how many and even IF to hang it at all.
We have embraced new terminology and ideology into our everyday vernacular. For inspiration, such terms as JUMPING OFF POINT, DRAWING INSPIRATION FROM or TO PLAY OFF FROM, roll off our tongues, avoiding dated terms such as MATCHY MATCHY or THEME‐Y.
We have learned that a patterned rug is a good JUMPING OFF POINT for determining colours for a room. Big ticket items such as sofas determine the style. When it comes time to address the VERTICAL SPACES in a room, all activity comes to a stop.
A-R-T. Three small letters which seem to bring on a lot of fear and hesitation. So why not consider art as a decorative accessory in a room? Why not ensure that your lovely reproduction canvas matches in colour and style? Imagine hearing that your gorgeous Swiss Alps vacation photos aren't right in a room because the snow capped mountains are the wrong white, or that your child's outfit doesn't match the sofa cushions.
Art in their many forms, should be considered as STAND ALONE items which tell the personal stories of you. They are your memories and souvenirs of a life well lived thus far. They are also impulsive purchases made at a new gallery opening, or abstract watercolours from your child's kinder class.
A little tension in your interior space creates interest, not enmity. Imagine a Parisian apartment with original herringbone floors and intricate plaster mouldings, which has a Picasso boldly adorning the wall above the fireplace and an Italian mod sofa beautifully sprawled on a floor which could tell a thousand stories of centuries past. So hang what you like to look at every day. Because if that abstract canvas did match your wall colour, why would you ever look at it again?
I remember being at a friend's home one evening. With wine glass in hand, I casually walked around as one would do, at a place which is new to you. Lights were dimmed for that calm, sophisticated atmosphere. Music and the aroma of deliciousness wafted through the air. Then it hit me ‐ I could not see any of their art clearly. I needed an extra 2 feet of legs to reach their heights. It was as though the art was slowly creeping upward for a quick getaway, like a frightened lady on the coffee table who was trying to steer clear of unexpected rodent activity. I wondered why they were all hung so high, with their tops all purposely aligned.
Biting the bullet, I asked. They had numerous reasons:
One ‐ the husband was the one who hung them, for his eye level, not hers. He is well over 6 feet tall, she is nowhere near.
Two ‐ they thought the art should all be hung mid way between the tops of furniture and the ceiling. Where there wasn't furniture, they really didn't know what to do, so they hung art the same height as the others, leaving giant expanses of wall underneath.
It seems difficult enough to chose art for a home. But where and how to hang them, seem to be minefields of uncertainty.
Here are some basic tips.
A single piece of art should be hung so that the middle is at eye level. So how would the above couple have dealt with this as they differ in height by a foot?! Go somewhere in between, for the homeowners to enjoy. That may not work for extremely tall or short guests, but at least they would be hung at human scale, not pushed up towards the ceiling.
Art needs to have a reference. It should be part of the story that includes adjacent furniture and/or architecture. If you decide to hang a mirror above a console table, do not centre it vertically on the space between the top of the furniture and the ceiling. That will make the mirror look like it's floating with no apparent reason to be there. Rather hang it so the bottom is a few inches from the table top. Smaller, well chosen pieces which sit on the console, will reflect beautifully in the mirror. More is more, in this case.
With smaller pieces of art, don't be afraid to stack them one above the other, as long as there is some sort of relationship between them in terms of frame styles or subject matter. You may not want to put Grandma's embroidery with a landscape, nor a gilt frame with a frame-less poster board. Art is to be enjoyed. If they're unable to be viewed properly or just sitting in your flash drive because they don't match your interior, then what good are they?