Hang Art on a Wall the Way a Designer Does

In this post I am going to share the easy way to remember how to hang art, pictures or decorative objects on walls so they look in perfect harmony for the space.


When decorating there are elements that come into play that we tend to forget about. These elements when added to any room in a home will make it feel more cohesive.

As a blogger who writes about budget decorating and DIY ideas, I receive quite a lot of questions from readers asking for ideas on how they can make a room in their home look better, bigger or brighter.

They ask how to make a piece of furniture look updated, more colorful. Other questions are more specific to the reader’s home and style, but all the questions I receive have one goal in mind.

In a nutshell… they are looking for ways to make their home look prettier and more cohesive as a whole. I think we all want this, right? I know I do.

So today, I am sharing the method I use when hanging art.

Hanging art need not be stressful if you remember the wall art and picture hanging method that interior designers learn early on.

I learned this method back in college. It makes so much sense and is so easy to remember. If you follow it, every piece of art, photo or object you hang on your walls will look like they were meant to be there and will make your decor look pulled together in a very eye-pleasing way. I promise!

Easy to do and can be done on any budget equals a decorating win for most of us.

Most tutorials on how to hang art on a wall are focused on how high it should be hung from the floor or the back of a sofa.

Guidelines like these explain to hang art at eye level, have calculations or formulas to follow and other complex guidelines. But let’s forget about all these picture hanging methods for now.

How to Hang Art on a Wall the Way an Interior Designer Does

All you need to know to hang art on a wall correctly is to first look at the shape of the wall where you want to hang objects. The method is called…

Relating Shape to Wall Space

When you hang something on a wall, be it framed art, a gallery wall, one large statement piece or a grouping of platters and plates. The single item or the grouping of objects should be arranged in the same shape and orientation as the wall space you are trying to fill.

Does that confuse you even more? Keep reading, it is a very simple concept that works beautifully when hanging any decorative item on a wall.

Relating Art/Picture Shape to Wall Space

When you are planning to hang wall decorations on a wall you want to first consider the shape of the wall space in which they will be placed.

The simple guide to hanging wall art the way a decorator does.

Take a look at the above illustration. Do you see the shape of the wall between the bookshelves? It is a horizontal rectangle. Anything you hang in this space should follow that shape just like this rectangular flower art in the illustration shows.

How to hang art on a wall around bookcases.

But the shape of the wall does not have to limit your options.

Look at this illustration above showing the same wall, but with 3 vertically hung pieces. What makes them work is that as a group, they form a horizontal rectangle that is the same shape as the wall space.

How-to-hang-plates-on-a-wall

The same goes when hanging round plates on the same wall. When you hang them to form a horizontal rectangle as a whole, they look in harmony with the wall space around it.

Here are a Few More Visuals…

when is a picture too big for a wall

The wall space in this bedroom photo above is a vertical rectangle. This is the shape your frame or arrangement of hung art should follow.

rules for hanging pictures in groups.

Hanging 6 square items in a vertical shape within the vertical rectangle wall space works equally well.

Picture-hanging-tricks

This wall space is another vertical rectangle. It has furniture around it and a table and lamp in front of it.

Ignore the lamp when placing your art. Using the whole rectangular space will look better than if you add something smaller thinking you need to hang it above the lamp. Think of the lamp as a layer in front of art. It will look more cohesive.

How-to-hand-art-the-right-way-on-walls the way a decorator does.

Two smaller horizontal items fill the vertical space when they are stacked one above the other to create a vertical shape. This placement fills the vertical space in an even manner.

tips-for-hanging-art around furniture

Do you see how even though you are using different shaped items, they are all placed in the same shape as the wall space.

Easy, right?

Wall-art-arranged-in-a-grid-pattern tip

Here is another example. The wall space above the TV is a horizontal rectangle. When arranging the art in a grid pattern, I kept it within the horizontal rectangular shape.

Living room wall with a 9 grid black and white photo gallery wall.

I followed the Relating Art/Picture Shape to Wall Space method when creating the gallery wall in my living room. It always works.

Now You Try It: Hang Art on a Wall the Way a Designer Does

Suppose you want to place a framed mirror on this wall. What shapes harmonize best with this space?

It is a vertical shaped space.

What is the best shape art to hang on a wall between two windows?

A vertically hung frame or mirror will look nice, or even two with one hung above the other.

How to hang an oval mirror on a wall the right way.

Or a vertically hung oval mirror works as it vertically fills the vertical space.

Hanging pictures on a wall rules.

The same rectangular object when hung horizontally, doesn’t work with the wall space around it. It feels off.

What does eye level mean when hanging pictures on a wall?

A square object doesn’t work either. It isn’t awful looking, but it isn’t in harmony with the available vertical rectangle shape of the wall space.

Do not hang an oval mirror like this on a wall.

Nor does hanging the oval mirror horizontally look right. But it can be hung horizontally if….

Proper way to hang an oval mirror over a piece of furniture.

…you add a piece of furniture underneath it. The furniture against the wall closes off the bottom part of the wall and changes the wall shape to more of a horizontal rectangle. Perfect!

How high on a wall do you hang art?

A square object just doesn’t look as pleasing to the eye on the same wall with any low piece of furniture placed against the wall. If you want to use a square shape on this wall, consider adding a taller piece of furniture or two square shaped objects one placed above the other.

Wall art hanging guide

A vertical rectangle looks better. Or as an option, hang an arrangement of frames in a rectangular shape.

vertical-oval-mirror-over-sofa

But the best piece for the wall with a curved top sofa would be a vertical oval.

The Easy Way to Remember The Art of Wall Hanging Like an Interior Designer

Before hanging anything on wall, remember to ask yourself…

Is the wall space I want to hang something on, vertical or horizontal?

  • If the wall space is horizontal, use a horizontal shape.
  • If a wall space is vertical, a vertical shape is best.
  • If a wall space is square, a square or round shape works best.
  • When hanging more than one object on a wall, remember to arrange the items in the same shape as as the wall space.

Look around the walls in your home. Does any of the art or pictures hanging on a wall feel off to you. If so, try this art and picture hanging method to easily make the art or grouping of objects look their best in the room.

The-Correct-Way-to-Hang-Art-and-Photos-on-Walls

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39 Comments

  1. Hi, I have a question about hanging art on a wall that is “high/low”. I have a wall that has a low section (which is in front of a staircase, and then it goes up into a vaulted ceiling. So, the shape of the wall ends looking like this:
    ____I I
    _______I
    I have a sofa on that wall, with 2 side tables. The sofa’s center is in the center of the (whole) wall, but the left half has the low side, and the right side has the high wall to the vaulted ceiling.
    On the right side (higher side), I was wondering if putting a painting would look out of place. It would be centered on the high wall.

    Should I treat each section of the wall as independent walls? Is this a silly idea? Thanks for any tips.

  2. I have a wall that a dormer juts into. So the space over the bed would be rectangular except the ceiling slopes down on the righthand side. What shape is that?

    1. Hi Janice – Is it a triangle or half a triangle? I would use a few smaller frames or objects and hang them in a gallery style group using the wall shape as your guide. Hanging only one item may not look right. For instance, where the wall gets closer to the dormer and gets smaller, hang the smaller frames or objects in the gallery/group and the larger ones to the larger expanse of the wall space. I hope this makes sense.

  3. This is helpful, but any suggestions on what to do for a bare wall that is across a small hall from the family room (basically borders the family room without separating it from the rest of the area). I have a series of black and white city photos that do not really go along with the family room, would it be okay to hang them since it’s not officially part of the room?
    Thanks,
    Rachel

    http://www.homesweethomestore.com

    1. Hi Rachel – To make the wall feel like it’s own space, paint it and the hallway another color then the room. Then hang your collection of black and white photos. If you want to make it more cohesive, simply add something black to the room to balance the strong visual of the black and white. I hope this helps you.

  4. Great suggestions that make perfect sense! I do have a question though. What if your space has a vaulted ceiling this creating triangular shaped trapezoid. Thanks so much for your input!

    1. Hi Sherrie – If you want to hang items on the wall where the two angled lines of the vaulted ceiling come together you can do one to two things.

      1. Ignore it, just use the height of the walls in the room that are the regular wall height – 8′ or 9′.

      2. If you want to accent the wall so your eye is drawn up to the vaulted space, then you can create a gallery of frames and place them on the wall in a triangle or Christmas tree shape. You can do this by creating a 9-grid wall gallery using frames. I did this and shared in this post: https://bit.ly/3haq5Zl

      I used 3 frames across and 3 frames high so I had 9 frames on the wall. For your wall – extend this by centering two more frames on top of this 9-grid and then on top of the two, add one last frame.

      Let me know if this makes sense.

  5. What a helpful and fantastic post, my friend!
    I’ve always hung artwork with the tops of the frames, etc., as high as the top of my head (I’m 5.5) and that has been helpful, but THIS is a whole new perspective. (And explains why sometimes wall ‘layouts’ look great and other times not so much. )Thank you!!

  6. Great tips! Taking in to account the placement and lighting from doors and windows is important. It is nice to have some basic dos and don’ts!

    1. Had a dream last night about trying to figure this out. Today I read your post that answers the question! Funny how that works sometimes. Thank you for the information and illustrations. It is crystal clear to me now!

  7. Thanks for the tutorial. My mother taught me how to hang artwork, plates, etc.. and most of her knowledge was learned by experience, and now I know there is a science to it. NOTE: I’ve been viewing several British decorating programs on my laptop – and notice that the designers hang artwork higher on walls than I ever would – plus they hang small artwork in large spaces – and it seems to be the norm for that part of the world. Interesting that these knowledgeable decorators and designers have a different take on it than most American decorators.

  8. Wow Diane, Fantastic! This makes perfect sense but is not at all instinctual to me:)
    Any suggestions for a 15′ TV wall in open floor plan? Right now, all I see is a big black box on the wall, and is not at all very pleasing to the eye. The ceilings are 10′ tall and makes the horizontal space above, and vertical space beside, feel naked!
    Not a good look. Any suggestions are encouraged!

    1. What about a series of botanicals, etc., placed above the TV? You could sketch it out on paper first and that might help with the ‘big black hole’ feeling that paralyzes your thinking. All the best!!

  9. How did I not know this?! Instinctively you might eventually figure it out but not until much aggravation and time! This is great to have an actual formula..

  10. Any tips: I want to hang many sun-shaped mirrors on the same rectangular wall. They are different diameters and different colors, ranging from gold to silver to rusted iron. I’ve had them for years and never knew how to space them or arrange them. From this, I gather that the overall perimeter should maybe be rectangular. But I am so lost as to whether larger ones get interspersed with smaller ones; or do larger ones mostly go at the bottom; and will the different finishes just be too busy, so I should paint them all the same; etc.

    1. Hi Liz –

      Hanging a collection of round items in different sizes can be tricky. I think what would look best is to place the largest in the center and work out from this center point placing the medium sized mirrors and then the smallest on the outer edges. If you have time, you could trace each mirror on brown bags or newspaper and cut the shapes out. Play with these cu-out shapes by hanging them with painters tape within your rectangle until you like what you see, then hang your mirrors.

  11. What a fantastic article! I now have to go home and look at all of my walls with a different perspective…maybe I’ll need to shop for new things…hmmmm! :)

  12. I totally get this now. Very helpful. I’m working on a gallery over the sofa and will use this tip.

    Also, have you told us how to do the fireplace screen you have? Is a DIY tutorial in the future? I love it.

    1. Hi Joy – Are you asking about the fireplace screen in my current living room? If so, it isn’t something I made. It was left with the house when we bought it. It doesn’t quite fit and I have been searching for another, but can’t find one large enough. I may have to make one eventually myself. :-)

      1. The one I mentioned is in the pic above, an old window on a stand. I call it a screen but that may not be the right name for it.

  13. That’s awesome! I hadn’t heard this before! Some of it is instinctual, but when I’m stuck, I’ll know why next time!! THis is awesome Diane!

  14. So helpful! I’m going to add a couple of things to a gallery wall to make it fit the shape. I’m a long-time reader, first- time commenter. I’ve stuck with your blog for years. Thanks for all your practical tips!

    1. Hi Debby – You are welcome. Happy that I can share tips that can help others. Thanks for being a long time reader and commenting for the first time. :-)

  15. Thanks Diane! This makes total sense and I GET IT! How much fun it will be to hang things now. I so appreciate you.

  16. Wow! Who knew! Such a great concept to learn and it make so much sense! Thanks for the tip!

    1. Hi Susan – There are so many picture hanging tips and tricks on blogs and decorating sites. I have never seen this one posted and remember it so well from a college course. Time for it to be known again. :-)

      1. This is great. I have an area above my fireplace that is square with a trimmed out square of molding set in it. It bugs me because I feel like my options are limited to square art, which is harder to find.