How To Hang Art – Little Known Ways + Mistakes to Avoid

Ya know… I’ve never actually done a post about how to hang art.

I’ve certainly done lots of inspiration posts. And, a while back, I created several templates you can copy to make your own custom art wall.

You can see one custom art wall template here.

And, another art wall template with free wall art ideas too.


But, never have I gone over the rules to hang art.


And, when I say “how to hang art,” I don’t mean physically hang art.


That’s so not my area of expertise, it’s not funny. Sorry.


Where I hope that I excel is in cracking the whip!


That is, telling the installer or client how to hang art in terms of the size of the art and where it goes.

And yes, in case you’re wondering this is going to be part of the new guide coming out on Friday that’s filled with dozens of decorating rules. Or, rather decorating approximations.


If you missed Tuesday night’s post, we went over the living room lighting rules.


But, if you’re interested to know more about it, please click on the link above.


So, let’s dive in. I imagine that many of you are trying to quickly spruce up your homes for the holidays.

First, I’m going to go over some of the most common mistakes I see when hanging art.

And, the number one answer is:


how to hang art - art is too small and hung too high


The art is too small for the wall and the furniture it’s going over. And, in the case above, it is also hung too high. The ruler on the right is approximately 1 inch = 1 foot.


Gorgeous Serena and Lily Miramar Sofa - on sale until September 25 2017

The sofa is Serena and Lily’s Miramar sofa at 86″ long and the art is from McGee & Co. That particular piece is part of an 11 piece set, but sold individually.


studio mcgee_bedroom with abstract art wall

Studio Mcgee_bedroom with abstract art wall (this link takes you to their wonderful art collection)


And, it comes in two sizes. Above, you can see some of the prints in the smaller size. Therefore, we’ll be able to look at numerous ways to hang the art, that does look good.

RULE: Whether doing a single piece of art, the width should be a minimum of half the width of the sofa or piece of furniture, it’s going over.

RULE: The art should be approximately 6″ – 8″ above the piece of furniture. This holds true whether it’s a single piece of art or an entire art wall.



This is my living room that I’ve shown a lot.


Actually, my painting is a little low at about 4.5″ above the sofa. But, it was so difficult to get that piece to hang on the nail, that we just left it.


how not to hang art - and how to hang art - art too far about and wrong


Two more common mistakes are this arrangement with art that’s too small and too far apart.

Rule: The standard distance when hanging more than one piece of art in a grouping of two or more, is to hang each piece abouto 2″-3″ away from the adjacent piece(s).


How Big Should a Single piece of Art Be?


art is half the width of the furniture - minimum

When hanging a single piece, the art should be from one-half the width to three-quarters the width of the sofa.


Misty Front 43″ Square – gallery wrapped canvas and framed, from Studio McGee



RULE; Some say two-thirds should be the maximum. And, I agree that looks terrific. Because of the perspective, it’s a little difficult to tell. However, I think it’s okay to go a little larger than two-thirds.


Imminent Clouds – Gallery wrapped canvas print and framed 61″ x 41″ from McGee & Co.


living room layout-Laurel Bern Interiors Bronxville Living room-painting

This is from a project we did a few years ago. You can see more of this lovely home, here.


This art is almost as wide as the sofa. I didn’t know about the art before designing the room. Have to say I love it, however. In an ideal situation, I’d probably prefer if the art were 10% smaller. But, if there’s one rule I have.

RULE: When it comes to art, it’s better to err on the side of a little too large than way too small. Of course, it depends on the room and also on the art.


Back to how to hang art when using two pieces over the sofa

We saw how not to do it earlier.


art prints from McGee & Co



RULE: Not only the width should be considered, but also the height.


I feel that the art should most likely take up at least half of the available height between the top of the sofa and the ceiling. That is a rule I’ve never seen before.

RULE: IF the art isn’t going over anything, then it should be centered at about eye level, on the wall. This, would make it between 55″ – 66″. But, a lot depends on the ceiling height. If the ceiling is very high, then the art can go a little higher.

RULE: To best decide placement before putting holes in the wall, you can do mock elevations like this on (for an easy tutorial, click here). Or, you can put paper templates on the wall like you can see in this post.

12 prints over a sofa - how to hang art


This is the smaller version of the beige abstract prints. This looks nice for a 10-foot ceiling. You might be able to get away with this for a 9-foot ceiling. But, definitely, you could only do two rows for an 8-foot ceiling.


new trad Family room with cool art wall

This is reminding me of this art wall, clients of mine did in their small family room.


how to hang art in proportion

One more configuration for a 10-foot ceiling using four of the larger beige abstract prints from McGee & Co.


What about how to hang art on a wall where there’s no furniture?


RULE: There should always be some breathing room. A large piece should have at least a foot of wall space, on either side.

Maura Endres vignette brass books art wall

But, if doing a bunch of small pieces like lovely Maura Endres did below, then the standard 2″-3″ should be okay.


Above is another art wall template I made which you can see more of in this post. Here, I left 3″-4″ (and a little more in some areas) of wall space for breathing room.


Does the art always have to be less wide than the sofa?


Art wall template I created using picmonkey


RULE: Not at all. It really depends on the size of the wall, the style of the room. There is no hard and fast rule here.

This is another terrific post featuring a scale templates for art walls.


So, to re-cap. When it comes to hanging art, these are the worst offenses, to avoid.


  • art that is too small (and lonely)
  • art that is hung catty corner
  • Pieces of art that are hung too far apart
  • Hanging too close together can be a problem too. The exception would be a large map made out of say 12 or 16 prints.
  • Hanging art too high.
  • And, actually, hanging art too low can look strange.


For more ideas regarding art walls and ideas, click here.


Another favorite post is about the big blank wall in a living room and what to do with it.


Please check out the newly updated hot sales and also, the holiday shop full of 100s of holiday decorating and gift guides.





PS: It is possible that there won’t be a post this coming Tuesday. I haven’t decided yet. But, if not, no worries. Friday is the day the new comprehensive home furnishings rules guide comes out and also the 6th Edition of Laurel’s Rolodex.

Everyone who purchases any of the Laurel Home Guides between now and the end of the year will be getting this guide for free. And, if you purchased any guides since December 2018, you’ll also get the new guide for free.

More on Friday!


33 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel,
    Love this guide, thanks again for a brilliant article! And proof for the correct height to hang art, in “heated discussions” with the installer/husband!

    I have a set of coordinating prints, one is 36X27, the other 2 are 25X18. They take up the whole sofa and are too close and too high. so now I have to rearrange everything!!!LOL

  2. Laurel, I love these guidelines and the diagrams are inspiring. I’m afraid of earthquakes and don’t want to put anything heavy on the wall, especially if people are sitting under it. I’ve tried large Asian wall baskets (they look nice) but would love more ideas about lightweight wall decor.

  3. If hanging art behind a sofa or chair, make sure that it is high enough that the seating doesn’t bang into it. There is a beautiful original in my office’s lobby that is completely banged up because the chairs in front of it slide back or people rest their heads against the canvas. Drives me crazy!

  4. Put me down for liking the longer posts, the overlapping but related content, and the photos! I love your blog. No, I am addicted to your blog! And I have a Pinterest board entitled, “Inspiration from Laurel.” Re: email notifications, I got both the Friday sales and Sunday notification in my hotmail, so maybe it’s just certain servers that are the problem?

  5. I can’t wait to get the guide. I hope it includes some rules for art above a bed and over nightstands. 🙂

    1. I’ll probably have to repeat this a few times. Because this guide is so detailed, I am releasing part I on Friday which is only the living room section. Then, on 12.12.19, I’ll be sending out part II, which will be bedrooms and dining rooms.

      But, yes, I’ll be doing art sections for those two rooms. And, there’ll be a table of contents, so it’ll be easier to find what one is looking for.

  6. Fantastic and timely (for me) post! Thank you. We bought a fixer upper and need EVERYTHING, so I haven’t been hanging/purchasing art until I figure out furniture so I know how the art will relate to the furniture. We’ve been here a year and a half and it still feels like a way-station! But here’s a question for you: you say that the height of the art should take up at least half of the available space between the top of the furniture and the ceiling. But what if you have an insanely high cathedral ceiling, with your sofa against the high wall? I haven’t measured, but the wall height is probably 16-18 feet — going halfway up would have everyone craning their necks, but not filling enough vertical space would make the art look odd and disproportional, I think. It’s a puzzlement!

  7. Is there any guideline as to hanging art according to the height of the home’s occupants? My 6′ son hangs his art at eye level to him, which leaves his 4’10 girlfriend and mother jumping up to see what is displayed. He maintains that he would have to bend down to see art hung at 56 inches….so, stalemate.

    Your posts are NOT repetitive or too long. You may have given guidelines in a previous post, but always add photos or information that is new and informative. I learn something from every post and look forward to learning much more from you. Keep up the fantastic work and always interesting commentary.

    1. First of all, thank you so much for the support, Celestial!

      As for height of art when the occupants are of a significant height difference. I’m glad that you brought that one up. My feeling which I need to emphasize more in the guide is this. I feel pretty strongly that the placement of the art is more about what looks best on a wall or over a piece of furniture, not that it is automatically placed a certain height on center. In fact, sometimes that common rule doesn’t make sense. For instance, let’s say we have a 36″ chest. And let’s say the bottom of the art is 6″ above the chest. Now we are at 42″. But, let’s say our piece of art is 56″ tall because our ceiling is 10 feet high or higher and can handle a large dramatic piece of art. Well, the center is going to be at 70″. The same holds true for over a sofa.

      The other thing is… If you’re in any room where you’re sitting or reclining, you’re automatically going to be shorter. Yet the art doesn’t move up and down.

  8. No! I love your long posts – they’re the best! So much good information and so many beautiful images. Keep up the long posts, please!!!

  9. Wow, Laurel. That small family room you did really shows your talent. I love an unexpected mix of patterns, but I know I can’t do it. And I don’t believe it can taught. Well done–it makes a small room interesting, cozy and gives it a collected-over-time feel.

  10. Love your blog! You might be a mind reader sometimes because your posts often coincide with my questions. A question related to the last two posts – do you have a rule for placement of art that is hung over a chest with a lamp on the chest? Is it better to center the art with the chest and “layer” the lamp in front of it on one side, or center the art in the blank space to the side of the lamp? Thank you for all your wisdom and humor!!!

  11. Hello Laurel, Since large-scale art can be expensive, if many small items might look too spotty in some location, one alternative to consider is having several small items framed together to give more visual weight and a larger frame size.

  12. This is all so very helpful. Would these same rules apply to hanging art over a mantle? (2/3rds the width of the mantle and 6″-8″ above.) I’m having a watercolor that is 45 years old, re-matted and re-framed for my mantle. My friend suggested that I go for a much larger mat to increase the size. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Cindy,

      Good question. The rules do vary for a mantel, but it depends also on the height of the ceiling. However, I’ve had art resting on the mantel. As for width, it depends on the rest of the composition. For instance, are there sconces? Which way is the art oriented? One good thing to do is tape out the size of your art first to see if you like the size in proportion to the mantel and everything else.

  13. Love the post, a piece of large art is the anchor for a room and best in my opinion, then other smaller pieces can fill in but that large piece sets the mood and impact.

    Yes, this particular post went to SPAM when the others don’t.

  14. This is amazing! Thank you for pulling the rules together and including measurements! I have been trying to help my mom find art over a settee on a large blank wall, so this will ensure we do it right! I think I pinned every image you created. Thank you!

  15. This morning as I was reading your advice on picture hanging it occurred to me that I should let you know how much your dedicated work is valued. I look forward to many years of reading your witty informative blogs.

    1. Thank you so much Jacqueline. Kind words like these are not necessary, but very much appreciated. And, they help balance out the anonymous email I just received which slammed me for being repetitive; posts are too long. And, then just for good measure, she said that I’m rude and arrogant.

      She forgot to mention that I have green buggers too!


    1. Hi Donna,

      Actually, I didn’t paint the walls. That’s the way the apartment came, so I decided to keep it. It’s Benjamin Moore Hawthorne yellow hc-5. It’s a very soft almost butterscotch yellow and it glows at night!

  16. For some reason, I am also not receiving your blog via my email. Instead, it’s coming through as spam. How can this be remedied? I normally delete spam automatically, but now I don’t. You’re just too good to miss, Laurel !

    1. Hi Susan,

      This is upsetting for a lot of reasons. One, is I spend over $200 a month to maintain my email list. And I pay that amount whether the email goes to your in box or spam folder. I’m going to reach out to mailchimp as well as my developer because this is no good. Please be sure to white list my blog. Or, put the email address as it comes in from mailchimp in your address book.

  17. Love the post…I had the same problem as Cindy. I did not receive the post in my email, and it is always the first thing I read on Sunday mornings.

    1. Thank you for letting me know Kim. The first couple I didn’t publish because it could’ve been a fluke. Please be sure to white list my blog. Or, put the email address as it comes in from mailchimp in your address book.

  18. Great post- but I had to search for it- for some reason as of this week, I no longer receive your blog in my email. I checked all my other email boxes and I did not block it- anyone else having this issue? I tried to “sign up” again, but your site recognizes me as already signed up – but not sending me the highly anticipated LB blogs! 🙁

    1. Hi Cindy,

      Thanks for letting me know. I’ve had several people write me this. I’m going to have to have a word with mailchimp. The only thing I can think is that in my email last week, I said “click on this link to see the post.” Maybe linking to the word “link” did me in. It’s a sad world, sometimes. All of my subscribers have opted in of their own accord. But, unfortunately, spam is a big problem and honest bloggers get caught in the filters.

  19. I always hang my art so that the centre of the piece is 56 inches above the floor. That way as I move through the house and cast my eye around a room, everything looks symmetrical. I have a gallery wall where one large piece is hung at that height and the other pieces are hung higher and lower, in relation to it. Of course, that rule sometimes has to be abandoned (small pictures over bedside tables), so I have to eyeball those to make sure they ‘fit’.

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Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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