The Challenge of Hanging Artwork In The Home
The Challenge of Hanging Artwork In The Home
Lauren Jacobson Interior Design Newsletter
May 2018

Hanging Artwork Is A Challenge. 

Roland Bello Photography

Photo by Roland Bello at

And an art.

As a residential interior designer, I have installed a lot of artwork for clients, and hire the best installers to ensure that the work is done properly.

Have you ever had the experience where you have just completed a wall, you step back, only to notice that one piece is 1/4" off?  Nudge it all you want, you can’t change the mathematics and you may end up settling with artwork that is askew.  You find yourself hoping that no one will notice but, you see it every time you look at that wall.
Here are a few tips to help avoid this scenario.

Two Techniques to Determine The Positioning The Art

1.  Let’s make an outline of the wall dimensions on the floor with painter’s tape.  Usually there are several pieces in different sizes, so I start by moving them around until I have a balanced layout.  It’s like solving a visual puzzle.  I decide whether I want the frames to line up on the top or the bottom or, should they intersect at the middle point.  If we’re planning a grid styled layout, I like to give equal spacing between the artwork.  I like to place the layout on the floor and then transfer it to the wall. Why do I do this?  Because I can see it as a whole and I can do it fast.

2.  Create a layout by using drafting paper (or brown paper) and drafting tape.  Outline your frames on the paper, cut them out and tape the paper to the wall into place. Once you decide your layout, you can use this as a guide for the final installation.
Note:  If the artwork already has hardware on the back, be sure to measure the drop from top of the frame to nail.


The scale of the work in conjunction to the space is very important!  The most common mistake is placing small pieces in large areas where there is too much space around the art.  You would also want to avoid not placing large pieces in small areas.  Learning to see the space as part of the layout is key to understanding scale and creating a great presentation of the work. 

Pinecrest Residence
Anders Lasater Architects
Photo by Chad Mellon

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

Standard Height Measurements

The standard height used in many galleries and museums to hang their art is 57" on center (“on center” referring to the middle of the artwork).  
The hanging hardware will be higher.  This measurement of a 57" standard represents the average human eye height.  This is a good place to start the center of your grouping so the final result will feel comfortable on the wall.  European preference sets at 61".

When you're planning on combining or stacking works, take in account the total height, including the space between the frames.

If you're hanging large works that are too tall to hang on a center line, try placing them about 15" off the floor.

A Grand Statement

Then there are some layouts that break all of the rules—and they can be terrific.  They are free form and based on content and scale.  They can elongate the height of a room, add a dramatic flare, and create a very stylized effect.
The variations in frame styles work well to create a “salon-style” look, as opposed to a collection styled wall where same or similar framing creates 
Robert Brown Interior Design music room

Robert Brown Interior Design

Gallery Setting

You may also wish to have a classic gallery styled or a track mount system installed. They use rail systems that can either be placed butt up against the ceiling or molding or lower, and have moveable hangers that allow horizontal positioning and adjustable hooks that slide up and down for vertical positioning.
Mounted artwork photography by Adam Angel

Kalākora Gallery in the foothills of Mt. Rainier

Adam Angel

The hanging system (above) was designed and built by the artist/photographer to display heavy works of art anywhere within a room with exposed beams. The metal bars were plumbed to vertical while installing and you could probably hang a Volkswagen off of them.

Weigh The Project

Consider the total weight of the framed piece and choose the appropriate hardware that will support that weight. I work with an installer who only uses "D" rings in the installation. He believes using those with framing wire are the most secure.
Heavy Duty Hangers

Photo by Eric Park on Unsplash


Another important factor in a successful display of artwork is the lighting.  Your choices range from track lighting systems, to directional recessed wall washers, or picture frame lights.  Height, space, electrical, and of course, location will help to determine that decision.

Bulbs.  The “Precise Constant Color” incandescent (halogen) lamp by G.E. is suitable for art and LED Waves’ LED lamps are also safe for art.
If you are wondering what the pro’s use.  Solux bulbs provide an unparalleled replication of natural daylight and are used in many of the world’s top museums including the Musee d'Orsay, Van Gogh, and Guggenheim Museums.

Image courtesy of Tech Lighting
@techlighting official, @techlighting

Natural Light

Natural light is a major factor in deciding the placement of the art as well.  Be aware that Ultra Violet light rays will damage artwork, especially fine art and photography. Watercolors and textiles should be framed with UV Plexiglas. 
Even indirect natural light will take a toll on such pieces.  It can also cause harsh reflections and glare on the pieces as well.  This is where staircases and hallways come in handy for locations.  This is where the D-rings come in handy since there is more traffic in halls and staircases.

Design by Shift Interiors
Tracey Ayton Photography

Robert Brown Interior Design music room

Robert Brown Interior Design
Emily Followill Photography

Placing artwork in the home is a challenge and an art for even the most experienced of designers and professionals.  If you are still reticent about successfully hanging your artwork, try leaning it against the wall.  That’s a nice design look too!
Studio Revolution Living Room design

Interior Design: Studio Revolution
Photography: Thomas Kuoh

Don’t be afraid to utilize negative space above a sofa or table and set your art asymmetrically to one side while maintaining a lot of empty space one the other. It is all about balance and interest really. I have seen art installed right above the floor and under console tables.  It just has to feel balanced in the space it holds.  So, you have the basics mapped out for you above, now go ahead and color outside the lines.
Have a great day, and hang in there.
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