There are ‘rules’ when hanging art, but we say hang it all and go your own way. By Samantha Cummings. Cover photo by Geoffrey Hodgdon.
If art is a subjective thing, then so, it seems, is how it is hung. There are ‘guidelines’ when it comes to hanging art. But we at 3 Story like to find the folks who go against the grain.
Almost 15 years ago, non-fiction writer, Kathe Lison, remembers reading in a design magazine that most people are guilty of hanging their art too high.
“It should be at eye level when you’re seated, so that’s where I’ve always tried to hang it. But, that often seems lower than most people think it should be.”
Throughout her 1963 mid-century home she shares with her partner Chris, Kathe consistently abides with the magazine tidbit that has stuck with her over the years. Viewed from a standing position, her wall art hangs from waist to chest level. But while seated, eyes get a front row view.
“The lower you hang anything on a wall, the taller the ceiling seems and the larger a room feels,” says Tim Diggles, owner of Cavanagh Art Installation.
According to Diggles, there are no rules when it comes to hanging art, but there are some useful guidelines. Throughout his 20 years experience, he has discovered that 60 inches from the floor is the magic number when it comes to hanging a piece of artwork.
“I use a formula where I measure from the ground and I hang artwork [measuring] from the center of the piece,” he explains. “The art museum does the same thing and they typically use 58”, maybe 59”, from the floor to the center of the artwork. It’s a pretty simple formula and it doesn’t matter what the size of the picture is.”
Each piece of art is a different size and shape, so when a group of artwork is hung together using this formula, the centers match up, but the tops and bottoms fall at different heights.
Hannah Glasston, who is approaching her twelfth year as director of Etherton Gallery, has always hung art as she pleased – wherever it looked good and wherever it felt good.
“You could go way back to Victorians and their salon-style hanging – somebody like Gertrude Stein. Look at any of the photos of her old apartment, with all her paintings jammed up against each other. You can cover the walls with your paintings. It’s kind of a matter of what you like to do,” says Hannah.
Today, salon-style art walls are more popular than ever, making it hard to believe that the style dates back hundreds of years. American novelist, poet and playwright, Gertrude Stein, was known for walls jam-packed full of art in her infamous Paris apartment, renowned for its Saturday evening gatherings for artists and writers, including greats like Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway.
Salon-style can range from hanging a series of pictures side-by-side in a row, in a grid-like formation, or scattered unevenly.
Tucson architect Scott Neeley and his partner Stephen Russell use the salon style for no other reason than the fact that they have a lot of art. “We find places for our art,” says Scott, who admits to rotating the art regularly. Throughout their midtown home, art tends to be at eye level while you are seated. On a narrow wall adjacent to the family’s dining room, four family portraits of Stephen’s ancestors are scattered salon-style, reaching from the ceiling to the floor. Not only does it give it an art gallery fell, says Scott, but they are easily seen from the dining table.
“If someone has a lot of art and wants to see it all, I’ve done baseboard to ceiling collages,” says Diane Struse, owner of picture framing firm Frame 56. “But, the pieces need to have the same look and feel. It doesn’t have to be the same artist, but they have to go together.”
When deciding on whether to hang art high or low, Struse recommends hanging more abstract pieces lower than detailed ones. “If it’s more of an abstract, where you’re trying to bring color into the room and create focal point, then definitely you do it,” she says.
“There are no hard rules, it just needs to feel right,” says Andreas Charalambous, architect and interior designer, and principal of FORMA in Washington D.C. “How low you hang the art depends on the size of the piece, the scale of the room, the ceiling height and the furniture around it.”