8 Tips for Hanging Art

8 Tips for Hanging Art

Design genius Emily Henderson knows that one of the trickiest parts of home decor is hanging art: “Whenever I walk into a person’s home, they always ask me, nervously, ‘Do you instantly start analyzing the design and pick it apart?’ I typically say some sort of generic, ‘Oh no! I just shut it off — when I’m not at work, I’m not at work!’ But the truth is, yeah, I totally do.” One of the biggest mistakes she sees? “I constantly notice art hung all wrong — mostly too high and too small.”

Here, she explains how to do it beautifully…

1. Choose a color story (such as bright and airy or dark and moody) and purchase art within that overall palette.

2. Blend different styles. You don’t want all abstract paintings or all graphic photos. If you’re shopping online, try plugging in search terms like “watercolor,” “abstract,” “original,” “graphic,” “bright,” “modern,” etc. Something three dimensional (like a collage or paper sculpture) is always a nice addition, too.

3. Combine a mix of sizes. You need a few bigger pieces to ground it, as well as a few smaller pieces to help round it out. 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.

4. 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 57 inches from the floor.

5. I like art to be about eight inches above a piece of furniture, give or take. You don’t want it to hit your head.

6. For a gallery wall, treat the whole collection as one piece, and start and stop it where it makes the most sense. You also don’t want your art to be too small for the space, which is a common mistake.

7. 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. Don’t keep all the paintings in one corner and all the photography in the other.

8. Here’s a good trick I do ALL THE TIME: Put up the piece of art, then stand back and take a photo. Pretend it’s not your house and that you have no emotional connection to it. Look at that photo and ask yourself, “If I saw this picture in a magazine, would I think that art is too low or too high?”

Thank you so much, Emily! (Find more tips here and here, if you’d like.)

8 Tips for Hanging Art

8 Tips for Hanging Art

8 Tips for Hanging Art

8 Tips for Hanging Art

P.S. Where to find affordable art, and 15 house tours.

(Photos, from top: Emily and her living room by Brittany Ambridge for Domino; frame wall designed by Emily, photo by Daniel Hennessy; pastel gallery wall designed by Emily, photo by Jess Isaac; Emily’s living room, photo by Tessa Neustadt and Brittany Ambridge for Domino)

  1. Susan Walsh says...

    I totally agree with all of it except for the first tip. As an art consultant, I advise you purchase what you absolutely love and connects with you. It shouldn’t be about building a cohesive colour story. It’s about being personal and buying what speaks to you. If you love it, it works. Then hang it according to Emily!

  2. Great tips for hanging art! Decorating a wall is not easy- This definitely helps!

  3. Great tips! As an artist, I can sell someone a work of art but usually can’t influence how & where they hang it. Often, that can make the difference in how good the art looks. Thanx for cool advice!

  4. esperanzab says...

    Joanna what do you think about family photos hang on the walls of the living room, in my country people think it is tacky , but I sincerely love.

  5. Great tips on hanging artwork. Griplock Systems has art hanging cable suspension systems that make it extremely easy to hang any artwork and adjust vertically and horizontally without putting a bunch of holes in the wall. The art systems are very stylish with fine stainless steel aircraft cable.

  6. Great job Joanna! I always love to place a hanging art in my unit. Thanks for sharing this valuable and great tips!

  7. Such great tips! We really loved the pieces featured as well.

  8. Really good advice! Thank you! I’m about to decorating my new apartment so this will probably come in handy. I have a question though: What’s that lovely painting right above you in the picture on top of this page?

  9. Those walls looks lovely! I am renting and were not allowed to put holes on the wall so my frames are leaning on the wall.

  10. I started hanging pictures by taping up pieces of paper first. It seemed like a lot of extra time and work for my quick-get-it-done self, but it turned out to have great results the first time I tried, so I hung everything at my new apartment that way.

    You can try out all different arrangements, and when you’re ready it’s really easy to line up where the nail should go with the paper there. In fact, I just measure on the paper where the hook would be, hammer the nail right into the paper, and then rip all the papers down when the nails are all in. (I even wrote a blog about it I was so proud of myself:

  11. Shannon says...

    Good tips, lovely space, great art. But no credits for the artists?!?

  12. I LOVE Emily’s style always–great, informative piece. I’m always intrigued by Emily’s photography pics…I found Gray Malin that way and I’m so grateful! XO

  13. This was a wonderful post and came at the right time for my sister who will be moving into her own home in September.

  14. Nicole says...

    Loved this post!!! More like this, please! And now I have a new blog to read. :)

  15. After a few laborious and grumpy experiences with hanging gallery walls with my husband, I have discovered 2 tricks:
    1. Arrange the pictures in a composition on the floor and take a picture with your phone. Keep rearranging and snapping pics for a bit. Then scroll through your photos to see which arrangement you like best.
    2. Hang the pictures with command strips. Unlike nail holes, they command strips are forgiving and you can skootch (sp?? Ha) the picture a bit or straighten it, if needed.
    Thanks for the post with Emily! Love her.

  16. S says...

    Yay! So inspiring and what excellent tips. More posts like this please!

  17. I am in the middle of decorating our house and love art. So these are really good tips.
    xo Kristina

  18. Laurel says...

    I have a question about the suggestion to hang art at eye level (approx. 57″). Would the center of the piece be at this level? Or would the top of the piece be at this level? I totally struggle with this concept.

    • The center. I work at an art gallery and do this all the time.

      Simple trick for doing the math is:

      (Framed height/ 2) + 57 inches – hook level/wire = where you should put the nail in the wall.

      So if the frame is 12 inches high, divide that by 2 and you get 6. Add 57, which is 63, subtract 3 for hook/wire level and you should nail at 60 inches from the floor.

    • tracey says...

      According to the post above “Typically, art should be centered around 57 inches from the floor.”

      So the answer to your question is centered.

  19. I’m moving in a few weeks, so these are good tips! Though I’m kind of stressed about hanging things wrong now!

  20. Jen says...

    These are great tips! I have been a black and white art kind of girl for so long, that I’m a little intimidated about stepping out into color. This post has given me motivation to look more into it for my upcoming move! I have another question. You show pictures of some beautiful displays of various sized pieces of art mixed together. I’m right out of graduate school, not a ton of money, and so I buy one or two pieces at a time. How do you arrange the art when you know you’ll buy more without completely redoing the whole scheme every time? Thanks!

    • I didn’t hang anything until I had bought everything I wanted and decided how to arrange it. Almost 9 months of blank walls!

  21. Sasha says...

    More details on that textile installation in the last photo please! Artist name?

  22. Meg says...

    I have always heard the tip that most people hang art too high but I can’t help myself, I often feel like the inspiration pictures (like those you’ve posted above) have the art hung too low! It just looks awkward to me when it’s right above the couch. (Perhaps I have an unsophisticated eye, haha!) Also Emily mentioned not hanging art so low that you’d knock your head on it while sitting on the couch, but I think that’s exactly what would happen in a few of those pictures. Just my two cents ;) But I love the advice about choosing a theme like dark and moody or bright and airy. And these gallery wall inspiration photos are really beautiful!

  23. Thank you Joanna and Emily! I specially like the last tip: “stand back, take a photo and pretend you saw this picture in a magazine”. I always find difficult not to have an emotional connection when I decorate my home, so thank you for sharing this great tip.

  24. Clarissa says...

    Thank you for these tipps – I’ll try to remember them next time I hang something! While all the rooms in the pictures look great (art and furniture are totally my taste) I notice that with the art hangig so low above the seating furniture, you’d have to be really careful not to hit your head on a frame when sitting on them. On the benches you could really only sit with a very straight back or you’d have to move to the sides where the pillows are (probably that’s why they are there?!). For my own space, comfort comes first and I’d rather hang my art above head level :)

  25. I’ve been reading Emily’s blog for a while. Last week I was hanging some photos and I was thinking all the time “what would Emily think?”. I have to buy a rug and I will also follow her advice. She’s a genius!

  26. Oooh, thank you for the lovely and helpful advice from Emily! This would also come in handy when designing prints!

    xx Jia

  27. Kim says...

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I do the same whenever I walk into someone’s place. Small pieces that are hung too high is a huge pet peeve. Also, my friends in their late 20s/early 30s who only have *unframed* posters tacked onto their walls… time to grow up!

  28. Jen Humphrey says...

    I have been a fan of Emily’s since I watched her win Design Star. It’s nice to see her continue to be a design icon in the field. Thank you for sharing her wisdom on A Cup of Jo.

  29. belinda says...

    I’d love to know who that piece is by behind her head in the first photo! Can you tell me Jo?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ll ask her!

  30. Fabiola says...

    I LOVE these tips! Thank you! Can we have more interior design posts? :)

  31. Erin says...

    What I REALLY want to know is: what color/brand lipstick is she wearing in that photo? I want!

  32. For some reason, I’m always hesitant when it comes to hanging Art, it must be because whenever I try doing it I start on the wrong foot, next time I will try picking a color palette and I’ll start from there, thank you for this post, I definitely will be trying the photo tip :)
    Malika Heart

  33. Mallory Miller says...

    Art that is too small for the space is one of my biggest pet-peeves. These are great tips. I remember watching Emily on HGTV years ago, where she remodeled a tiny kitchen and installed dark blue cabinetry. It was so surprising but worked so well, and I’ve been a fan ever since!

  34. Krystn says...

    LOVE this post. Where did she get that long print of the redwood tree/pine tree? Thank you!!

  35. Aidel.K says...

    Emily now that I know you will view my place with a critical eye, I’m totally not inviting you to my next dinner party! ;-) JK. I love your blog and IG, and I’d be thrilled to have you and the boys over.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      agreed, the color story part was so smart. i never would have thought of that.

  36. This is so helpful! I have a wall that is currently bare, near the kitchen but in the dining area and can’t decide what exactly to hang (a clock, a picture or a painting) or how to hang it. I will definitely follow each and every one of these helpful tips!
    Thank you!


  37. Karen says...

    My eye totally wants art to central to my home like this, but I have young kids who still climb and bounce on the furniture. Can’t wait until I can finally hang my frames a little lower down the wall!

  38. Man, this is helpful. Thank you!

  39. Amy says...

    Ever since reading about how art should be hung lower than most people think, I lowered a few of our frames in our house to be more in line with that. Now my tall husband complains that it looks silly ;)
    I like to take a photo of a room with recently hung frames/art and see how it looks in the photo. Sometimes seeing your room in a photo can help distance yourself enough to see it critically.

  40. Liz says...

    Why wouldn’t anyone put their art at their own eye level? Only one of my kids is below 5’10” and she is 12. We also have pretty big furniture to accommodate bigger people. Having the art so low would look bizarre. Where should I hang it in proportion to my furniture and body? For reference, I am 6′, my husband is 6’6, my sons are both 6’2″ and still growing, my daughter is 5’9″ and still growing.

  41. This is such valuable information! I am moving to a new place with lots of light and walls for art hanging!! Can’t wait to incorporate this into my styling project for the darling little apartment that I’ve found Los Feliz (LA)!! Thank you sooooo much, Joanna! xo

    adorn la femme

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      congratulations on your new place!