The stress-free way to hang art

Hanging artwork and other decorative items on the wall – one of the last steps in furnishing your home – should be fun. So why is this ...


Hanging artwork and other decorative items on the wall – one of the last steps in furnishing your home – should be fun. So why is this often a source of anxiety?

Maybe it’s because there is so much to consider. How do you decide what to hang where? What material should you use to prevent heavy paints – or, worse yet, large mirrors – from crashing to the floor? If you make a mistake, will you damage the walls? What if everything ends up wrong, one way or another?

Don’t worry: if you follow a few simple rules, decorating your walls isn’t difficult.

“The great thing to overcome is the intimidation factor,” said David Kassel, owner of ILevel, a professional art installation company in New York City. “It’s not rocket science.”

And if you make a mistake, he added, “it can easily be changed” – with minimal damage to your walls.

The installers and art advisers recently shared some of their secrets.

If you have a large collection of artwork, knowing where to put everything can seem so overwhelming that it’s hard to get started.

To make it more manageable, Berley Farber, the founder of Farber Art Services, a San Francisco-based installation company, recommended breaking things down into categories.

“If someone has a mishmash of rooms, we usually go through them and sort them into A, B, and C,” Farber said, to ensure their favorite rooms are prioritized. “The A’s are the pieces for which we’re going to find a location; the B’s that we will use to fill in the gaps; and then the Cs may or may not mount on a wall ”, depending on the progress of the installation.

Mr Farber said he also liked to separate the different types of rooms.

“Are they art, family or travel?” ” He asked. Family photos, he noted, generally appear better grouped together, rather than interspersed among paintings and travel memorabilia.

If you only have a few pieces of art and are looking to expand your collection, online sellers like Saatchi Art, Lumas and Desenio make it easy to find more art in a hurry.

Not all walls need to be covered with art. Often less is more.

“I prefer not to hang something on each wall, but to play with the identification of key walls,” said Erica Samuels, director of Samuels Creative & Co., an art consultancy firm in New York.

Think about where your eyes rest as you enter the rooms you use the most, including the hall, living room, and master bedroom. If you find that you are looking at a long, cold stretch of sterile drywall, this is usually a great place to hang a favorite piece of art. A small wall that is sometimes obscured by an open door may need nothing.

Also consider how the scale of each room will work in different rooms, as an oversized painting could easily dominate a small room.

“Size really matters,” said Monty Preston, head of curatorial and art consulting at Saatchi Art. “Find a space that gives the artwork enough space to breathe. “

Finally, think about sunlight, Ms. Preston said, as it can degrade artwork. For preservation, consider mounting your favorite and valuable pieces away from very sunny windows.

In general, the art should be hung at eye level of an average person, with the center of the artwork about 60 inches off the ground, Mr. Kassel said: “It’s kind of gallery approach. “

But few homes are as minimalist as the galleries – there are mantels, crown moldings, window treatments, and furniture to consider, all of which can influence the height of the art, so there is no strict rule.

In a room with unusually high or low ceilings, or a room with decorative moldings, for example, you may want to hang artwork slightly higher or lower, to create a better sense of balance.

“It definitely helps to have someone to hold it, so that you can step back,” Mr. Kassel said, and make adjustments.

If you’re mounting a room above a sofa or console table, Ms. Preston recommended leaving four to six inches of space between the top of the cabinet and the bottom of the artwork. If you prefer a more casual look, she said, you can just place the art on the console and lean it against the wall.

Widths matter too. When hanging art above a cabinet, Ms. Preston and Mr. Farber both recommended choosing a room that is narrower than the cabinet below. “Having a work of art that is about 75 percent the width of a piece of furniture is a good rule of thumb,” Ms. Preston said.

Once you’ve found the height you want, mark where the top of the room meets the wall with painter’s tape, so you don’t lose sight of the position. Ms Samuels said she sometimes taped the entire shape of the room to the wall, to make sure she was happy with it, before hammering nails.

When you hang multiple works together – whether lined up, a grid, or a free-form gallery wall – there’s one thing that’s critical: the spacing between the pieces.

Most installers recommend that you first lay out the art on the floor, under the wall where you intend to install it, and create a composition that you find pleasing before transferring the arrangement to the wall.

The ideal spacing between frames “depends on the number of artwork and the size of the wall,” Farber said. “But it should generally be between an inch and a half and three inches.”

Vertical and horizontal spacing need not be the same.

“If you are hanging in a hallway, then the vertical distances should become shorter and the horizontal distances should become wider,” he said, to accentuate the length of the hallway. If the rooms are different shapes and sizes, you will have to accept smaller and smaller spaces.

One of Mr. Kassel’s favorite techniques for hanging works of different sizes together is to hang a row of pieces with the tops of the frames aligned 59 inches from the floor. Then he hooks another row on top, with the bottoms of the frames aligned at 61 inches. This creates a clean line of two inches of empty wall space between them.

“It gives it a cohesive, designed look where there’s a common element and then that free-form aspect as well,” he said.

All of the installers we spoke with recommended removing all picture threads and sawtooth hangers on the frames where possible, on all but the smallest pieces. Instead, hang each piece directly from two D-rings.

“If you want to have a neat, flat image on the wall, you have to remove the wire and replace it with two D-rings,” said Christopher Kopczynski, the owner of Art installation in New York. The D-rings should be screwed into the back of the frame, about a third of the way up from the top.

If you do this, said Mr. Kopczynski, “the image will be directly on the wall, flat against the wall and will not move”.

D-rings come in different sizes and weights, including strap hooks that secure with multiple screws, for heavier jobs.

But not all frames will accept D-rings including some antique and metal frames so it may be necessary to use photo wires. In these cases, Mr. Kopczynski recommended putting mounting putty under the bottom corners of the frame, where they touch the wall, to keep the part from shifting over time.

Some installers, like Mr. Kopczynski, like to hang each piece on two screws attached to the wall with drywall anchors. Others, like Mr. Kassel and Mr. Farber, prefer to use picture hooks from companies like OOK and Floreat, which are designed for different weights and only leave tiny holes if you need to remove them.

Because you’ll be using two hooks for each piece, you can double the weight rating, Kassel said, “If you use two 30-pound hooks, you can actually hang something that weighs 60 pounds. “

When you hammer the picture hooks into the wall, he said, the more you can tilt the nail down, the more secure it will be.

Another good option for hanging heavier and longer pieces is to use a cleat made of two interlocking metal or wood strips: one strip is attached to the back of the frame; the other is fixed to the wall with several screws. When you lift the work into place, the pieces lock together.

But whether you’re using screws with anchors, photo hooks, or cleats, it’s best to avoid testing the advertised weight limits.

“If something weighs 60 pounds, I would always use two 50 pound hooks,” Kassel said. “Better to be stronger than not.

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