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  • Writer's pictureBeverly Todd

#1 art mistake: Too high, too small

The top mistake people make when hanging art or photos is too high, too small. You know it when you see it. The piece is floating miles above the bed. Detached from the couch. An outsider left a good day’s walk above the buffet. So lonely and lost.

It’s a common mistake that’s easy to fix. Take a stroll through your home and see if you have orphaned art. Then grab a tape measure and go to work pulling your interior together.

Here are a few simple guidelines:

Art should be hung at “eye level,” except if your ceilings are really low or if you’re really tall. Typically, art should be centered around 56” to 58” inches from the floor. You can measure this out precisely, or if you are like me eye-ball it. I’m a little shorter than average at 5’ 4”, so my art is lower; and if feels cozy and connected.

Art should be anchored about 6” to 12” above the furniture – couch, credenza, bed, fireplace mantel. Make sure your head doesn’t hit the art when you sit on the couch or chair. Large horizontal pieces that have weight can hang a little higher, up to 12” to 18”.

Couple the art and furniture. Center the art above the furniture. If you have a tall lamp or figure on the table top, move the art to one side and make an interesting composition. Avoid centering art on the wall, which may look like it is floating away.

Gallery wall collections are treated as one piece. Start with the biggest piece and put it off-center. Then build around it. Keep at least three inches between each piece, and make sure to pepper art evenly. For example, don’t put two really dark pieces next to each other or really light pieces next to each other.

Combine a mix of sizes. Bigger pieces will ground the collection; a few smaller pieces will balance it. Make sure you have vertical, horizontal and square. And the more strange-sized the better; sometimes when you have a whole wall of standard sizes, your eye can just tell, so throw in a few odd sizes.

Go big! I call this the statement piece. The art that makes you go “wow” when you walk into a room.

Keep in mind the scale of your room. Big open spaces with high ceilings call for big art… I’d even go far to say huge art. Smaller rooms with lower ceilings will feel overwhelmed with huge art… so go big to medium. Yes, I love big art and have large pieces in every room… even hanging over the bath tub.

Too low? Visually low-hung art can always work, as long as the art or a grouping of art starts at eye level.

Eye test. How to know if you got it right? Hang the art, stand back and take a photo with your smart phone. Look at the photo and ask “If I saw this room in a magazine would I think the art is too high, too low, too small, too big or just right.” I use this technique often; it gives a totally different perspective than the naked eye.

PHOTO: Here's an example of art anchored to my dining room table and at eye level. "Messy Sweet Joyful Life", (available here) at 40" x 40" is big... but I have many more in the works that reach 40" x 64" and are stunning statement pieces for big soaring spaces.

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