Nine insider tips for hanging art at home

Go easy on the family photos, and don’t be afraid of different frames or asymmetry

Keep some consistency, for example, use all similar frames, but any shape, size and style goes.

Keep some consistency, for example, use all similar frames, but any shape, size and style goes.

 

The right artwork can pull a whole scheme together, and elevate a room from nice to wow. But hanging art can be daunting, resulting in bare walls for far longer than planned. Catherine O’Riordan of So Fine Art Editions offers the gallery owner’s guide to displaying art at home.

Don’t match everything

Mixing and matching frames of different styles will give a room a lot of personality. Try grouping interesting frames together. “Make sure that the frames complement each other and don’t clash,’ says O’Riordan. Keep some consistency, for example, use all timber frames or all black frames, but any shape, size and style goes.

In the paintings themselves you could group a common theme, such as seascapes for example. Or similar colours.

Asymmetry is OK

“Art doesn’t have to be centred,’ says O’Riordan. Sometimes, the opposite is what works best. Try hanging a piece off centre on a wall and balance it with a floor lamp or tall plant on the other side to fill the empty space. This technique works exceptionally well with smaller pieces.

Prepare

Before you hang anything, lay out the works on the floor and make sure you’re entirely happy with the final composition. “Take your measurements but don’t be afraid to use your eye to set the height. Get someone to hold up a painting to establish the best position,” O’Riordan says. To plan a layout there are a few golden rules to finding the perfect placement.

– When hanging pieces together don’t match the bottom or top of the frame to line them up, instead use the centre of each artwork as your guide. O’Riordan recommends setting the height for the midpoint of the painting on the wall at about 1.4m to 1.5m from the floor. This guarantees that you’ll avoid hanging your picture too high.

– When you have a long wall to fill and want to hang some complementary pieces together, don’t be tempted to space them out to fill the wall. Typically you should leave no more than 50mm – 70mm between each frame.

– To display a favourite piece, right above the sofa in the living room is ideal since that’s where you’ll spend a lot of your time but don’t leave too much space between the bottom of the frame and the top of the sofa. “The gap should be approximately 100 mm,” says O’Riordan.

– When hanging two pieces one on top of the other, the trick is to treat them as one piece and keep the gap between them to about 50 mm. Take into account the total height, including the space between the frames, and centre the composition as a whole. For paintings or other works that are too tall to hang on a centre line, it often works to place them around 400mm off the floor.

Create a gallery wall

A gallery or salon wall is where the entire wall space is filled with pictures. It’s a lovely way of grouping a mix of types and sizes of artwork. When faced with a large blank wall, it can be tempting to go for a gallery wall but a sitting room or dining space requires more of a focal point so is better suited to a statement piece. Cut out the shapes of pictures for hanging and experiment with various placements. Start with a central, dominant image and radiate the other pieces out around it. Keeping to pieces with similar frames works particularly well for family photos.

Less is more

“Resist the temptation to fill every wall in your home,” says O’Riordan. “Start with a few pieces and build on that over time.” By introducing too many pieces you lessen the impact and risk the space feeling cluttered.

Use your artwork to pull your room together.

“Pick up a pattern in abstract art and echo it in your cushions or upholstery,” suggests O’Riordan. Using your artwork as a starting point for your colour scheme will give your room a very considered and unified feel.

“Family photos are ok but don’t overdo it,” says O’Riordan. Choose your absolute favourites and hang them in a group.

Commitment issues

If you don’t have much wall space or you are nervous about committing, there are other ways to display art than merely hanging it – picture rails are a great idea, and because you are not hammering nails into the walls, it allows you to rotate pieces and try out different looks without damaging your walls. Another excellent idea is to display pieces on shelves.

How to buy

Art doesn’t have to be expensive. “Look out for emerging artists. This is a great way to get paintings at an excellent price,” says O’Riordan. “Go to the graduate shows and keep track of people you like.”

Fine art prints are a great way to get your hands on original artwork at an affordable price. There’s a lot of confusion about prints says O’Riordan. They are original artworks and not reproductions, she explains.  

Unique works on paper are another affordable option as they are less expensive than paintings. “Galleries often accept payments in instalments so although it might take you longer to own the piece, if it is something you love, it can make it more achievable,” says O’Riordan.

Get help

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get advice. “Many galleries provide an excellent consultancy service advising on all aspects of purchasing, collecting and framing, with delivery and installation often included,” says O’Riordan. Many galleries will also allow you to take a piece home on trial to see if it works in your room.

Finally, “only buy what you love”, says O’Riordan. A piece that resonates with you will provide enjoyment every time you look at it.  

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant @optimisedesign

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