Artwork 101: Sizing & Display

Choosing art for your walls can be surprisingly daunting, and getting it the correct size can be even more so. HAVEN is here to help. We’re sharing some tips and tricks to get your walls looking amazing.

Since art is highly specific to each space, we’re focusing more on how to properly size your work and various ways you can hang it. If you’re in need of some ideas for type of artwork for your space, check out our design style video to see what suits you. Remember too, just because you learn the “rules” doesn’t mean you need to follow them. The best part of design is being able to try something unconventional, so let these be a starting point, and have fun!

ART SIZE: Either you have a specific spot that needs artwork and you need to purchase something in the size that fits, or you have an existing piece of artwork you’d like to use, but aren’t sure where it goes best. Some general art sizes are as follows:

  • MINI | 10-17” in height and width, can stand alone or used as part of a collection
  • SMALL | 18-24” Most impactful in a grouping or paired with another art piece for a symmetrical look. Can also be hung in rooms that have little wall space like a bathroom.
  • MEDIUM | 25-32” (about 2-3 feet) Great for personalizing a home office or foyer without adding to the clutter.
  • LARGE | 33-48” (about 2½-4 feet) A wall with just one piece this size art creates a polished, classic look.
  • X-LARGE | over 48” or larger. Can stand alone as focal points of a wall or room.

When selecting an artwork size, it’s important to remember that you don’t want the artwork to overwhelm the room, but you also don’t want the room to overwhelm and lose the artwork. Take all these things into consideration when preparing to hang art:

THE ROOM: Bigger art is better if you’re going for modern or contemporary style. People often select art that is too small and often hang artwork too high for the space. Consider the furniture – if you have fewer pieces, a large art piece will help to fill up the visual field as furniture might. Consider your ceilings – if they’re high or vaulted use a grander piece. If they’re lower use a shorter or a more horizontal piece

THE WALL: Consider the wall’s overall dimensions but also its orientation. Tall, narrow walls work best with art of a similar shape – portrait or vertical-orientation. Horizontal wall spaces like over a sofa work best with horizontal-oriented art. If the room is already cluttered or busy, opt for larger art to not overwhelm the space. The overall area (height x width) of artwork should cover ⅔ to ¾ of the area of the open wall space.

THE PLACEMENT: Ideally the art will sit inside ¾ the width of any furniture its above and would be hung 6″-12″ above the piece of furniture. If you have a low ceiling (below 8 feet), break the wall into 4 sections (from bottom up) and hang your art in the third section. If you’re hanging multiple pieces of art that have different heights, make sure the middles line up. If you’re hanging in stairs, hang a piece every third step to get a diagonal look. If you’re hanging art over a fireplace, a piece the width of the opening of the fireplace often looks best (no matter the size of the mantel).

THE IDEAL WIDTH + HEIGHT FORMULA FOR ART

Width: [wall width] x 0.57 = [ideal width of artwork]

If you have a grouping or collection, use the same formula to find the ideal width that the pieces should fill with 2-3 inches between each piece. The same formula can be used for a vertically-oriented piece, just use wall height to find the ideal height of your artwork.

Once you’ve got the sizing ready and your art selected, it’s time to decide how you want to display the art in your space. There are plenty of options and creative ways to do this, but here are some common ideas.

HANG

Determining the right height for the artwork is critical and can also be tricky. There are 2 things to ask yourself when preparing to hang artwork:

1- will the artwork hang above some other object like a table or sofa? If so, remember that hanging art so that the bottom of the piece is 6″-12″ above the top of the furniture is recommended.

2- what is the height of other objects displayed on the wall in the room? The goal in hanging the art is to create harmony throughout space – a common height helps keep pieces of varying sizes feel uniform.

First determine what the center height of the art should be – in other words, how high off the floor will you place the center of your art? Eye level is typically the perfect height – if you live alone and will be the only one viewing the art, by all means, measure the height of your eyes and use that as your guide. A good rule of thumb is around 60″, but feel free to adjust as needed. There are several ways you can hang artwork, and a lot of it is based on the type of hanging hardware your piece has. We recommend checking out some videos online to really get a good idea of how it’s done.

LEAN

We’re seeing this popping up more and more and we love it. Plus, it’s a good option if you’re not wanting (or not allowed!) to make holes in the walls. Lean your pieces against a wall, on a shelf or rail, atop of a furniture piece or nestled into a built-in. Contrary to what you might think, leaned art can look very intentional in most settings, rather than seeming to be forgotten.

Image: Design by Michelle Nielsen, image via Cococozy

GALLERY

A fun, eye-catching and often inexpensive way to fill a large space. It can be made up of several art pieces by same artist, within same color palette or collection of photos. You can have a grouping of all same sized pieces, or grouping of varying sizes in a gallery layout creating additional visual interest. Quick tip: typically, the left side of a grouping can handle more visual weight (bigger pieces, thicker frames, or dark colors) as we naturally read from left to right.

Lay out your artwork and the layout you want on the floor first, measure the total groups height and width and make sure it follows the same guidelines for filling your space.

Image via: Burkatron

DISPLAY SHELVES/RAILS

A good option if you’re always re-arranging or want greater art flexibility. Stagger your shelves to create an eclectic laid-back look. Keep shelves uniform to create a refined sophisticated look. Decorative objects like books or plants between art pieces creates a cultivated look. (You can also check out more of our Shelf Styling tips on our YouTube channel!)

UNFRAMED

Leaving some artwork unframed is completely fine – even encouraged! Paintings on boards, wispy paper drawings, and canvases don’t always need a frame, and depending on your design, they might benefit more from not having one.

Art is really important when it comes to design. It has the power to connect items in a space and really impact the other pieces you’ve chosen. Play around with sizing and hanging styles until you feel you’ve got it, and don’t be afraid to break the rules a bit too!

Love, HAVEN

PS – HAVEN focused on this topic as part of our Tuesdays @ 2 series, and even featured a special guest from LeftBank Art. You can watch it in full here!

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