Some basics to grouping and hanging wall décor

Photos by Shoshanah Siegel/Signal Tribune A picture, painted by one of my clients, found a perfect location in her master bathroom.
Photos by Shoshanah Siegel/Signal Tribune
A picture, painted by one of my clients, found a perfect location in her master bathroom.
Shoshanah Siegel

In my last article, I wrote about making your unique statement with art and wall décor for your home or business. I also emphasized that whatever and wherever you find pieces to display, be sure you love it. (For more details, or a review, you can find my last article archived at .)

Framing your art

One question I am frequently asked is whether to re-frame or not. It depends. Art should be shown at its best. If that means re-framing, do it. Recently, a client of mine had a painting that was great, but it was in a frame that was obviously from the 1980s. The frame was a shiny plastic, with mauve and teal matting, not the look they were going for. I always look for frames at yard sales, antique shops and thrift stores. You may not like the picture, but the frame might be just right. I find that most artwork, even basic scribbles, looks good framed.

What art goes where?

If you can, first place your furniture the way you want it, then select the art that works best for the space and décor.
The direction your artwork hangs on a wall can have a dramatic impact. Whether you are working with one large piece or a group of smaller pieces, choosing to hang them horizontally or vertically is as important as finding the right scale and color. Some artwork can only be hung either vertically or horizontally. In most cases, your walls determine the proper direction, but sometimes it is just a matter of opinion. Recruit a helper who can hold the artwork against the wall. Take a step back to see what the space is going to look like with the piece there. You get a sense of the proportions and colors, and see it against all the other design elements. Taking a photo of the art can help you see whether it should be horizontal or vertical. I also do this when I am out and about and find a piece of art I am considering buying.

Here are some ideas that I hope will make the task of what art should go where a little easier
• Fireplaces Choosing a work of art that carries itself on a narrow wall above a fireplace can increase the magnitude of the fireplace. The scale of this piece, along with its deep tones, balances the fireplace below, pulling your eye up.
• Large furniture— A wide piece of art balances out a large piece of furniture, below it, but it can appear overbearing if it is wider than your furniture piece. Try hanging one medium and two smaller pieces next to it to fill the space. This is a perfect place to create a gallery.
• Vignette— Artwork is a great way to create a second space in a large room. The artwork pulls your eye into a vignette, visually creating a separate space in a big room.
• Bedrooms— To increase the height of a headboard, hang art vertically above it. It draws your eye up, adding to the drama. With the constant possibility of earthquakes, I would suggest selecting art that is lightweight or using Plexiglass instead of heavy glass. In my master bedroom, a large, lightweight picture works as a visual headboard.
• Narrow walls— Relate the direction to your wall size. Two smaller pieces of art hung vertically might work better than just one. To create interest, group two pieces of art that are different.

Welcome to the gallery
Want to create an interesting gallery feel? Choose to hang some pieces vertically and some horizontally. By changing up the direction, you are increasing the significance of each individual piece. A gallery arrangement is the perfect place to hang items of different shapes and colors, same or different subject matter, 2D items next to 3D, such as shelves holding interesting items. David Kassel, the founder of ILevel, a company that hangs and displays items for clients in New York, writes that, “When arranging multiple pieces, don’t just think in terms of a grid. What’s really becoming popular are salon installations— a group of often disparate images or frames clustered together,” says Kassel, who notes that such installations often stretch from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. “There’s no right or wrong way to do it,” he says. “We just start in the middle and work our way out. It’s something you feel proportionally, or you can decide based on whether Aunt Rose should be next to Uncle Jim.” You can find inspirational samples of client work on his website,

Hanging basics
Here are some basics about hanging art from David Kassel, the founder of ILevel.
•Use picture hanging hooks, rather than heavy nails or screws. Although they may seem dainty, they are very secure. “It’s all based on sheer weight,” says Kassel. “The picture hooks go into the wall on an angle, like a cat’s claw— it’s a whole different set of physics.”
•Buy the right type of hook for your artwork’s weight. “There are basically three types,” says Kassel. “A one-nail picture hook holds things that are 30 pounds or lighter. A two-nail picture hook holds pieces that are about 50 pounds. A three-nail picture hook holds pieces that are about 75 to 100 pounds.
•Use two picture hooks per artwork. Not only does this provide added security, it also helps art remain level over time, compared to items hung from a single point.
•When possible, install two D-rings, rather than a wire, on the backs of frames, to hang from the picture hooks. “Then it’s stationary, and not swinging on a wire,” says Kassel. “There’s no pendulum effect involved.”
•Use a level and ruler to ensure that both the picture hooks and D-rings are aligned when installed.

Measure up
One design tip that will help you maximize the use of your wall space without losing sight of your art is to always hang your art at eye-level. You must be able to see your art pieces without having to crane your neck up or look down your nose to see what you’re hanging on the wall. Eye level is generally between 57 and 60 inches. Most galleries and museums use 57 inches. I have discovered that if you stick to this standard, you create a harmony among all the pictures in your home, as they will always hang in relationship to one another from their centers, not their sides. Additionally, I have found that this helps solve the problem many people have, the tendency to hang their pictures too high.

Lay it out first
There’s no need to try and hold your art or frame up to the wall while simultaneously marking or drilling holes in it. Put the art on the floor. Trace the art on paper to the size of the art piece you want to hang. Then use the sheet with the same-size tracing as a guide that you can tape to the wall, mark your holes and even drill your holes through the hanging paper without worrying if you’re in the right spot.

Hole in one
Here is an example of making sure that your picture’s center is always at the same level
1) Your picture is 10 inches wide and 20 inches tall. The center is 5 inches across and 10 inches down from top (or 57 inches).
Lightly mark that on the wall with a pencil.
2) The mounting wire comes to 2 inches below the top.
3) 10 inches — 2 inches = 8 inches. Lightly mark 8 inches above your first mark or 65 inches on the wall. This is where your first nail will go. Though this may seem complicated to read, it is quite simple when you do it. The thing to always remember is that the center of all your pictures are hanging at the same 57 inches, and you are just figuring out where the hook goes above it. This 57 inches also applies to groups of pictures. Think of a group as one picture. After you arrange how you want them all to hang (doing this on the floor makes it easier), start with the center picture/pictures and get them at 57 inches on center. Then surround them with the rest of the group.
Once you’ve measured, centered and mounted your hardware, placing the art on the wall should be a simple task, and you shouldn’t have to spend too much time tilting the art to make sure it’s level. For large pieces of art, you can save the paint on your walls from scuffs and scratches though by adding a small piece of masking tape, or a Post-it to the corners or bottom of the frame where it’s in direct contact with the wall.

How’s it hanging?

One of the most important tips I can give you is to have fun when hanging art and not to worry too much about getting things perfect. You are not doing any structural damage to your home. If you hang something up and want to move it, it’s easy to fix. This is one of the reasons why Spackle was created. Recently, I inherited some wonderful artwork from my parents. With limited wall space, and too many great pieces to feature, I will be using some of my own advice to create a rotating gallery.

Shoshanah Siegel provides color consulting as well as space planning, remodeling, upgrading and staging through her firm Your Color Diva. She can be contacted at (562) 427-0440, shoshanah.siegel@ or . Also, check out her idea books and portfolio at .


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