Arranging art is tough! Actually, let me back up – picking out art and THEN figuring out where and how to hang it and arrange it is tough. Which is why this is definitely my favorite post for The Forever Home Project ever – hands down.
For this mega informative post, I brought on two partners… First, my new styling guru and founder of Sun + Dotter, a personal shopping & styling service for design-conscious parents, the lovely Janette is back.
You may remember that she stopped by The Forever Home Project a few months ago and shared what she had in store for my living room. Today we’re revealing how some of it turned out and she’s also providing TONS of tips on how you can get similar results in your own homes.
Second, I’ve also partnered with Minted, who graciously sent me several pieces from their fabulous selection of limited edition art. And here’s the best part, they’re offering MPMK readers a special deal:
For me the hardest part about selecting art is narrowing it down to the good stuff – there’s a lot out there to choose from. The collection put together by Minted makes it so much easier because it truly is all good stuff.
It’s also a surprisingly affordable option for getting large, framed pieces to fill your walls even without the special MPMK reader discount.
Without further ado, here’s all of Janette’s tips and the photos – enjoy!
Mantel & Shelf Styling with Art
A mantel is a perfect place to show off artwork. For an easy trick to complete the styling around a large art piece (or mirror), arrange your decor in three levels: low, medium and high. A simple example of this might be a tall, centered piece of artwork, a medium-height plant on one side, and a small art object on the other.
Steph’s mantel is really large, 76 inches wide, with a 30-square-inch art piece in the center. Based on her style and her existing decor, I gave the tips below, and she took it and ran with both her fireplace in the living room and the space above her hutches in the dining room.
- The more plants, the better! You can contrast the levels: a plant that stands tall, a plant that spills over the edge, etc.
- Collections: I love her pair of white ceramic owls, it could be a fun theme to build on. Any collection brings a lot to the styling of mantels or shelves. A variety of pillar candles can be a really cost-effective way to build a nice collection on a mantel.
- Vases or art sculptures always add unique color and shapes.
- Play with a color palette. It can be really striking to repeat a bold color a few times in the same vignette.
- Stacking: To add height to smaller items, stack them on a cigar box or a stack of books.
Highland Cows limited edition print by Amy Carroll / Seattle Space Needle Flare limited edition print by Serenity Avenue
Next, the coveted gallery wall. For Steph’s wall, we ended up using only three pieces, so we kept it pretty simple. Whether you have three pieces to hang or 13, my first piece of advice is to find an example you love, and emulate it.
Here are a few tips and trends to start you out with:
- Asymmetry and irregularity. I’ve always preferred an arrangement that is a bit cock-eyed: taller on one side, uneven on the bottom, spacing between frames that varies spontaneously. To me, this is where gallery walls get fun. You can use matching frames or a variety of styles (which thrift and antique stores can be great for), it’s up to you.
- Go low. I’m seeing gallery walls extend lower than ever, even down to a few feet off the floor. I love this for how the artwork is hung in a way that complements the lines of the furniture around it, filling any visual voids. In any case, follow the lead of the space you’re working with.
- “What Would West Elm Do?” The styling in West Elm catalogs is some of my favorite, and their artwork arrangements are no exception. If you’re laying out your gallery arrangement and feel in a rut, look at a few of their art walls for a fresh idea, like a new idea for spacing or even adding a mirror or a non-art object.
- To start your own gallery wall, first lay your frames and art out on the floor. This typically takes me through multiple variations, and I take phone pics of each variation as I go, so I can compare and contrast later. Remember that you can extend the size of any piece with a mat and frame larger than the art piece itself. Then, trim tissue paper to the size of each piece and tape those cuts to the wall in your desired arrangement. Live with it for a day or two, and move the pieces around to play with placement and proportion as needed. Complete the job by measuring out where your nails should fall, hammering and hanging.
For Steph’s gallery wall, we first considered using up to five pieces. Once we narrowed it down to three, I created two simple layouts, and she chose the one she liked best.
One Art Piece
For hanging a single piece of art, there are two rules of thumb to follow, depending what else is happening around the wall:
- On an fully empty wall, like in a walkway: The traditional rule for placement is to hang the mid-point of the piece at eye-level for an average person’s height, about 57–60”. Don’t go higher than this, as the most common mistake people make here is to hang their artwork too high. But if it feels natural to go lower, give it a shot. Just like with gallery walls extending lower now, I’m seeing a trend of placing single art pieces 6” or so lower on the wall than that typical eye-level spot. At Steph’s house, we’re hanging a single art piece in a walkway, where there’s no furniture. Without any other influences to pay attention to, I recommend that she hang a tad higher than her own eye-level.
- On a wall with other things against it: If you’re hanging art above a piece of furniture, rather than focusing on the eye-level rule, consider its proximity to the furniture around it. For example, if you’re hanging art above a couch with a low back, consider cheating the artwork down on the wall. Grouping it with the sofa will make sure it doesn’t feel like it’s floating on its own.
That’s it! With these tips you should be well on your way to giving your walls a designer touch.