Hang Art on a Wall the Way a Designer Does
This Post May Contain Affiliate Links. Please Read my Disclosure Policy.
In this post I am going to share the easy way to remember how to hang art, pictures, mirrors 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 decorative elements when added to any room in a home will make it feel more cohesive. Hanging are right the first time is not hard after you know a few simple concepts.
The Wall Art Hanging Method I Use
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
Hanging 6 square items in a vertical shape within the vertical rectangle wall space works equally well.
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.
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.
Do you see how even though you are using different shaped items, they are all placed in the same shape as the wall space.
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.
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.
A vertically hung frame or mirror will look nice, or even two with one hung above the other.
Or a vertically hung oval mirror works as it vertically fills the vertical space.
The same rectangular object when hung horizontally, doesn’t work with the wall space around it. It feels off.
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.
Nor does hanging the oval mirror horizontally look right. But it can be hung horizontally if….
…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!
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.
A vertical rectangle looks better. Or as an option, hang an arrangement of frames in a rectangular shape.
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.
Thank you! This makes sense to me and explains why some of my hanging art work looks “off”. I just changed out the art work in a powder room and it took me several months to understand what was wrong. I have 9 ft ceilings and decided to place 4 large frames in gallery formation instead of just 2 and it looks so much better and takes advantange of the tall blank wall.
But now I have a long wall in a large room that has a walkway behind 2 chairs in my living room. I have never liked the two pieces together and this explains why. Though they are matching pieces from the same artist, one is vertical and one is horizontal. I like the artwork and want to keep them togehter but I need a better arrangement. Any ideas?
Hi K- I think I would add a 3rd item to the mix. Visualize a rectangle and fill it with the vertical piece on the left, then the horizontal one to the right so that the bottom is level with the bottom of the vertical one. Then in the space above the horizontal add, a mirror or another piece piece of art or even a wall basket filled with flowers if that would fit into your decorating style. Does this make sense?
What a great post! Now I know how to “get the look” I was lacking. Thanks for covering a subject so helpful!
I love you article. It makes a lot of sense. I do have a question if I may. I have to framed prints 18 3/4 long x 14 3/4 wide. I have a horizontal rectangle. What could I place between these prints to make it work? Thank you so much for what you do.
Hi Wendy – You could hang 3 plates vertically in between the frames or maybe 3 smaller framed art or photos with similar frames vertically stacked in between. Or look around your home for something that is about the same size in height of the two frames, but perhaps narrower – a mirror. I would gather a few items and set them up on the floor as they would be on the wall. Play around with the arrangement until you like what you see and then hang each up on the wall.
This is great, thank you for sharing. It makes a lot of sense with why im happy with some of my picture handing and not others. I’d love your advice on my foyer I struggle with.
Oh my gosh! You are BRILLIANT! Your art/picture hanging article was the answer I have been looking for 2 years! We re-painted our great room a year and a half ago and I was just overwhelmed with the large open space. Your specific article detailing how to approach the space has now motivated me to solve this decorating dilemma. And, I couldn’t solve this challenge despite my Fine Art Masters Degree! LOL!
I’m super excited now! I bought two 60” floating picture ledge shelves for the large wall and am happy to send before and after pictures if you like. Just let me know how to direct them. I am forever grateful! Thank you!
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 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.
Hi Erin – I understand your question, but is it possible to take a phone photo of the wall space and send it to my email? [email protected]
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?
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.
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?
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.
Thank you! That is the the vision I needed to see to make this room work! You’re awesome!
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!
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.
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!!
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!
Perfect examples for all to follow.
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!
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.
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!
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!!
Hi Cindy! I came across this site and see you have a similar great room as I do. 15′ x 9′ tv wall and I’m frozen. I’ve purchased 2 botanical fern prints, 39×27.5. When hung as group side by side they are about 68″ wide. There is still a ton of space above…. a gallery wall seems too much. Of I get a 3rd print it will be wider than tv console. Any advice Diane or Cindy??
Hi Carol – If I am visualizing this right, could you place one of the larger botanical prints on each side of the TV? Then across the top get similar botanical prints but in much smaller frames to place across the top of the TV. The print frames would all be the same. It would also keep the TV in proportion to what is around it.
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..
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.
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.
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! :)
So Helpful and SIMPLE! Thank you.
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.
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. :-)
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.
Hi Joy – OK Yes I have a post about how I made that screen. You can find it here: https://inmyownstyle.com/how-to-make-a-fireplace-screen-using-a-window-sash.html
Thank you so much! I love this and will try to replicate it.
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!
Thanks Cathy – So nice to hear that my post has helped you. :-) It is a little instinctual which makes it easy to remember.
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!
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. :-)
Super helpful advice, Diane! Thank you for making decorating so accessible!
Thanks Susan – So happy that I have a blog where I can share what I know.
Thanks Diane! This makes total sense and I GET IT! How much fun it will be to hang things now. I so appreciate you.
Hi Cate – Once you start hanging things on the wall this way, you will never look at a plain empty wall the same way again. :-)
this is a really good tutorial. thank you! Will share this on the Weekend Edit this weekend… laura
Hi Laura – Thank you and thanks for sharing it on your blog this weekend. XO
Wow! Who knew! Such a great concept to learn and it make so much sense! Thanks for the tip!
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. :-)
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.