Hanging art correctly is an art in and of itself. The 12 holes in my wall will attest to that. What seems as simple as hammering a nail and hanging a frame is actually a much more involved process with certain rules you’d be wise to follow. So take down that crooked photo of the New York skyline from IKEA, throw it away, get something way better, and then follow these tips.
Know the right height
There are whole armies of design bloggers and interior decorators who insist that "57in on center" is the best position to hang your artwork. What does this mean, exactly? When you measure your wall, you’ll want the center of your art piece to be 57in from the ground. Apparently this is because the average human eye height is 57in... which is weird, when you realize that equates to 4ft 9in. So other experts recommend hanging your art a bit higher, around 60-63in. Obviously, you’ll want to figure out a height that works for your space, but try to stick within 57in to 63in on center for museum-quality results.
What about small groupings?
Glad you asked! The same rules apply, but there are two ways to go about this.
Here’s the first option: let’s say you have six pieces of various sizes and want to hang them in a group. You’ll want to choose one piece to be the focal point (the largest), hang it at 57in on center, and group the others upward and out to the side (don’t go under it. Don’t you do it!).
The second option: measure 57-63in up from the floor and make a light mark on your wall. Then start hanging your art around that specific spot, always going up and out. This option usually works best for a smattering of smaller pieces, like 8x10s of your favorite politicians and/or family members.
Bigger is better over beds and couches
If you’re wondering what you should hang above a bed or a couch, go big. Also, let it roll solo and don’t put anything else around it. These larger furniture pieces take up a lot of space in a room, and having one large frame centered above effectively creates a clean focal point that will keep the room from feeling cluttered.
Get a frame
Notice above I said, "frame." Your home isn’t a dorm room, and frames can take a photo that might otherwise be a five and turn it into a seven or eight. It’s like you're Richard Gere and that custom Queens of the Stone Age print is Julia Roberts. It looks a little rough by itself, tacked up to your wall, but dress it up in a nice, sleek black frame and voila! And you don’t need to break the bank to get a good frame job -- IKEA has some great options.
Now you're ready to nail it Okay, you’ve picked the room, the wall, and the art. You've got this.
- Starting from the ground up, measure to 57in (or up to 63in, depending on preference) and mark it with a pencil.
- Measure the height of your frame and divide it by half -- this is the location that will sit centered on the 57in mark you just made. (For example, if your frame is 18in, the center point is at 9in.)
- Your frame will either have a wire to hang it on, or you can use the frame itself. Either way, measure how far down the nail will sit from the top of the frame. Usually it's about 1 or 2in. Now subtract this amount from your center point. (For example, 9in-2in is 7in.)
- Add that much space directly above your 57in center point, and mark it with your pencil. That's the spot where you nail your nail!
Once hung, you can use a level to make sure your art is perfect, but eyeballing usually works fine. Now prepare to have your rooms rivaled by only the finest European art galleries.
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Alex Robinson is a writer and editor at Thrillist Media Group. He once framed a napkin that had a drawing of a tree that a random stranger gave him in Costa Rica. He doesn't know why. Follow him on Twitter.