The key to art looking good on your walls is more about how you frame and hang it rather than the art itself. Whether it's a Picasso masterpiece or a cluster of affordable prints, it's all about how you choose to display it. We're even fond of using books of prints as sources, and you can see a beautiful example of this in one of our favourite decoration shoots here. Nicky Haslam did the same in his famous Hunting Lodge: 'Behind the bust of Marie Antoinette is a group of sepia engravings of Old Master drawings. The whole lot cost about a fiver; but I framed them up "grand" in rubbed gilt.' If it's good enough for Nicky...
Using the space
- Think about the practicalities of the room. A small picture can be lost on a large wall, while a more substantial artwork could dominate a room. Freddie de Rougemont, a specialist in the Old Masters Group at Christie’s London, advises, ‘The impact of an artwork, however grand, can be greatly reduced if it is unsuited to the space.’
- Consider what will surround the artwork and how the light will fall in the room during the day. Do you want the art to be the focal point, or would you prefer it to be placed more subtly? Bear in mind sight lines and what you want to see first when you enter the room.
- Don’t be afraid to hang a picture somewhere surprising. As David Macdonald, head of Sotheby’s UK single-owner sales, notes, ‘The relationship you have with a piece should be central: the decoration around it secondary.’ Contemporary pieces can look brilliant in traditionally decorated rooms and vice versa.
Where to hang your picture
- As a rule of thumb, hanging pictures at eye level is a safe option. This generally means positioning the picture so its midpoint is 57-60 inches from the floor, depending on the ceiling height of the room – and your height, of course.
- Obviously, as with any rule, some flexibility is necessary – you may have other artworks to manoeuvre around, or an inconveniently placed mantelpiece. If the picture’s midpoint is not exactly at eye level, don’t panic: go with your instincts and hang it where it feels natural. In fact, Freddie advises against using tape measures at all and suggests ‘trusting your eye’.
- What if you are hanging several pictures? ‘It’s generally sensible to hang your largest picture first and work around it,’ says Freddie. Visualise how you want the completed wall to look and play around with a few arrangements laid out on the floor before you start to make any holes in the wall.
Things to avoid
- Never position a picture in direct sunlight, as this will damage it irreversibly. This is particularly important for works on paper, but applies to all artwork. The interior designer Martin Brudnizki suggests using picture lights, such as those by Hogarth Lighting or TM Lighting, to illuminate key pieces. Spotlights and angled ceiling lights work well, too.
- Art advisor Arianne Piper says, ‘No glass will safeguard from direct sunlight, but consider UV-protected glass for art in frames.’ Museum glass is preferable but expensive.
- Think about the conditions of the room. Due to their humid and hot environments, kitchens and bathrooms are not always ideal places to hang art. Similarly, above a radiator or fireplace might not be the best spot.