7 things I've learnt about hanging art and dressing your walls
Updated: Apr 27
A lot of clients tell me they struggle to hang art and they are not sure what to put up and where to put it, so I hope this is useful. If you are an expert art hanger and wall dresser I hope there may be the odd pearl of wisdom for you too....
I grew up with artwork all around us, my dad is an artist so there were constant drawings, paintings, sculptures, ceramics and mainly doodles everywhere, we grew up going to galleries and occassionally buying art from makers. When I was about 16 my dad and I went halves on an artwork by my friends' brother - it was part of his foundation art show. It cost £30 and I paid my half from my waitressing money. It's still one of my favourite artworks and the artist went on to win the National Portrait Gallery Artist of the Year. I have also never forgotten the painting I thought I was buying - I can still clearly see it in my mind, about 30 years later, a painting I only saw once - which his art-teacher took instead!.. I digress but it shows all the memories, pain and fun that artwork can bring you.
I've been inspired by Anglesey Open Studios over this Easter to come up with my top 7 considerations for hanging art and dressing walls so here goes....
Picture & Styling by Mairead and Co Interiors
1. THINK ABOUT THE COMPOSITION OF THE WHOLE WALL AND THE SECTIONS OF THE WALLS…
What composition works for you? - By composition I mean the shapes and sizes of everything on the walls, against the walls and how they relate to each other - so the furniture near the walls, the pictures and the lights, windows and doors included in the wall. Does it look interesting and balanced? Do all the colours and patterns work together? I love to have a play around and try hanging different stuff in different places, I am constantly changing my artwork around to see what works. This is definitely a time to have fun...Is there enough empty space or space for everything to breathe? You may have to ask someone to come and hold stuff for you to look at. My kids are well used to that request....
Small nails leave holes in wallpaper which I don’t notice and if you are happy to re-fill, sand and paint you can go crazy on plasterwork. If not you need to be more of a planner and a measurer. I don’t measure for pictures as I like to judge by my eye where I think stuff should go….once you get practiced at this I think your eye will make adjustments and naturally find the right gap and place.
Think about everything on one wall as making one complete composition. Your eye may see one wall in sections too so everything to the right of a window and everything to the left etc so consider the wall as a whole and the section. You may find it easier to take a photo of a wall and look at that as photos flatten things and the eye finds it easier to read the whole composition.
Looking at inspirational walls you like will help so do you like a formal look where everything is aligned and equally spaced or a more asymmetric and relaxed look?
The way the wall is treated will also need to feed into the overall composition. Walls painted in a dark colour make paintings or frames pop more. Gallerys are great for showing this.
Wallpaper will impact on how the pictures are read too - I'm a great fan of hanging work on top of wallpaper.
The gallery wall is an on trend look where you put a lot of artwork together which you may like to do. These can be really wow and often works up stairwells in homes, unless you live in a bungalow and then it becomes an imaginary piece of conceptual art. If you want tips on how to do this I recommend searching out queen of gallery walls Lisa Dawson who has written a great blog about how to plan and execute a gallery wall - its here!
Image by Interior Designers Turner Pocock
2. THE FRAME AND MOUNT IS A BIG PART OF A PICTURE OR ARTWORK...AND CONSIDER GOING NAKED….
Frames make a big difference - reframe artwork and change the frames if it’s not sitting right. We buy lots of stuff from charity shops just for the vintage frames and reframe other stuff into the vintage frames, It is a great way to give more character. Of course you may want to pay a professional framer to frame work and I do this with some special pieces.
Don't be too precious, you can be relaxed about painting frames and painting mounts, using cheap frames for some work may look fine.
You can leave stuff unframed and hung with tape, hooks, bulldog clips or anything really and this can give a really bohemian and relaxed look too.
Image credit by Joe Lingeman
3. GETTING THE HEIGHT RIGHT
Generally pictures and TV's should be hung so that your eye level is to about the middle of the picture, so you can appreciate the picture. People tend to hang pictures and TV’s too high….but of course like all rules this can be broken (apart from with a TV - then the rule is absolute - like all left wing liberals I'm a stickler for absolute rules)
Again this goes back to composition too so pictures above a sofa may be at a higher height just because it's practical and will look great. This rule goes totally out of the window if you are doing a gallery wall.
4. MAKE SURE THE ARTWORK SPEAKS TO YOU
Buy anything you love - I buy stuff from antique shops, charity shops and directly from artists - artists open studios, art shows and student shows are great. I buy stuff I love and work out where it goes later in terms of my own home.
For clients I'm looking at the scheme, the wall and thinking what size and shape and colours do I need? Do I want work which is abstract or portraits or has meaning to the client? Do they like black and white photography or prints with words on? Does the artwork want to make a statement and be the focal point or just sit quietly in the background.
I really admire the way Interior Designer Em Gurner uses very modern pop-py artwork like in this image below which of course relates to everything else in this picture and painting a rectangle behind the picture is a brilliant twist.
Photography by Anna Yanovski
5) YOU CAN PUT A LOT OF STUFF BEHIND A FRAME…
You can frame anything - wallpaper, scarfs, fabric, dried flowers, kids drawings, doodles whatever does it for you. I love textiles so often buy scraps of needlework, embroidery and feltwork.. I often buy embroidered fireguards in junk shops and convert them to pictures by taking the legs off, it's really of course a reflection of what you like.
Here's one of my favourite junk shop embroidery pictures....
Image & Styling. Mairead and Co Interiors.
6) WALLS LIKE TO BE DRESSED WITH MORE THAN PICTURES...
Consider what else can go onto walls such as shelves, clocks, hanging vases, mirrors and wreathes. I personally love a circle as of course pictures are generally squares and rectangles and so this may be why wreathes, clocks and wall lights can look so lovely as they are a different shape in the mix and circles soften everything. Again I love an eclectic, relaxed look so like to curate little vignettes which mix shapes and styles but if you like a more formal look you need to go more straight lines and symmetry. So in this image below I'm rather taken with this composition, even if I do say so myself, which is mainly the furniture, the clock and a mirror and a light so its not just pictures that make a well dressed wall...
Image & Styling: Mairead and Co Interiors.
7) PROPPING AND OVERLAPPING
Stylists and designers love propping up pictures and overlapping them, it gives a very relaxed and bohemian feel. You can do this on top of any surface or you can buy picture shelves just for this look. This trend continues on top of panelling and if you like this look and are putting in panelling it's worth considering whether you will finish your panelling with a shelf that is deep enough to hold artwork without it being too precarious.
Image & Styling: Mairead and Co Interiors.
TO END IT ALL.....
Artwork can make you happy, it can make you melancholic, some artwork is challenging and political. You may like to consider representation, what your artwork says about you, who made it, who the money went to and so on. You may like to seek out artists you admire and support them and their work. Galleries may run loan to buy schemes if you wish to invest more seriously in pieces. You could consider commissioning an artist for something extra special....
I hope I've shared some of my passion for artwork with you.
Pictures and a vase of flowers make a home for me. My pictures and artwork are my most treasured items because they have such memories, meaning and stories attached.