That blank wall can be intimidating. The possibilities are endless, and so, you feel, are the chances of making a mistake. You’ve seen those homes: fabulously decorated except for the “vast wasteland” of walls drawing attention away from the beautiful, sumptuous furnishings. Those homes belong to the faint of heart. That need not be you. Take the leap into decorating your walls. Let your inner artist free. You may, indeed, make mistakes, but none of them will be irreversible.

The first step is the most difficult. To get you started, we are sharing some of the underlying principles that professional interior designers use to create aesthetically pleasing and imaginative walls.

Height Matters

The most common mistake we see is art hung too high or too low. In general, the center of the work (or the center of a grouping) needs to be about 152cm from the floor. If you are considerably taller or shorter than average, you may adjust the height to 160cm or 144cm accordingly.

When you hang multiple pieces around the room, don’t match up the bottoms of the frames nor the tops. Neither should you hang them willy-nilly. Use the same 152cm rule, so that all the centers are at the same height.

If you are hanging art above a piece of furniture, leave between 3 and 8 inches of space above the sofa or table.

They Need Their Space

Whether hanging one piece of art or assorted pieces, leave 15 to 30 cm of space on each side of the wall. For example, if a wall is 122cm wide, cover no more than 91 cm.

When hanging a grouping of art, leave at least 5cm of space between pieces. You may leave more if the wall is very large, but the spacing needs to be consistent: If you decide, say, that 7cm works, you must leave 7cm between all the pieces.

Canvas Print "David"

Go Big

When you have a very large wall, you can decorate it with one very large piece of wall art. It adds drama to the room; it provides a focal point; it is certainly a conversation piece. Follow the rules we’ve already established concerning height and spacing.

If you are hanging a large piece above furniture, it cannot be more than 2/3 the width of the sofa or accent cabinet. If the sofa is 2.7 m long, the art work cannot be more than 1.8 m long. Also, a large piece is best displayed where there is room to stand back from it, in order to “admire it from afar.”

Create a Gallery Wall

While one large piece of wall art is striking, a grouping of works can say, “This is who I am.” Find the wall art that “speaks” to you and display them with your favorite plants, books, plates or souvenir tchotchkes on picture ledges. (One idea: An arrangement with a world map at the center could include items significant to your travels.) Include large and small pieces, as well as vertical and horizontal, for variety and a common theme, color or frame style for unity.

Once you have a group, visualize a vertical line down the center of the wall and make sure that the two sides are balanced. If one side is “heavier,” the arrangement will be unsettling to look at. Also for balance, keep heavy pieces to the bottom and left because that’s where our eyes tend to go first.

Once you have chosen the paintings and artifacts, lay them out on a table or floor and move things around until you have the arrangement that pleases you.


Symmetrical vs. Asymmetrical

Symmetrical arrangements work best when pieces are similar in size, shape, or subject matter or when, for instance, using all white frames—when there is a unity among the works. Also, symmetrical creates a visual balance when hung over a grouping of furniture or over a fireplace mantelpiece.

Asymmetrical works best when a group arrangement is made of up of works that are essentially dissimilar but share an element or two, such as a color or the subject matter. Hanging the works asymmetrically provides a natural balance to the grouping that is especially pleasing to the eye.

We left for last the most important rule of all: Don’t be afraid to break a rule! We hope you now have enough confidence to get started on your walls.