Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Walls that wow


Items in your arrangement should hang close together. Too much space between pictures disrupts the graphic effect. For large pieces of art, do not leave more than four inches of space between the frames; for 8x10 pieces, do not leave more than two inches.  If there is too much space, your eye will be drawn to the “blank space” between the art, rather than the art itself. Hang frames in reasonably close proximity to furniture under it as well. I will usually hang a piece of art no more than eight inches above the back of the sofa.

From a distance, permanent accessories such as lamps become part of your composition, so include them in your plan.

Remember not only size, but color and texture also affect the balance of your grouping. Keep the visual weight of your composition well distributed.

How high or how low?  This is the most common question I am asked. Remember everyone’s eye level is different when standing. Entries and halls should have art hung at standing eye level for an average person. I usually aim for about five feet six inches high.  Living rooms and other areas which are designed to sit down in furniture should have art hung to be viewed from a sitting eye level, not standing. Hang pictures six to eight inches from the top of the furniture over which it is being placed.

DIY Tip: Measure out the entire amount of wall space you have to work within. Figure out the arrangements on the floor by using the actual pieces, or trace each picture on paper, making a template of the actual pieces. Once you have each piece arranged on the floor, tape ea­­­ch template to the wall to see if you are happy with the arrangement.

Trends in Affordable Art
Favorite images are now being printed on demand to your size request. You are no longer tied into framing images that only come in one or two sizes.  Various substrates are taking over the art world – have an image printed on the substance of you­­­r choice: Acrylic, Paper, Glass or Bamboo.

More Windows
Windows take away wall space where framed art may otherwise have been displayed. Look for other places and ways to display art. Your “wall” may be the side of a built-in bookcase or even a closet door. Also, use conservation grade glass to protect your art from the light that comes inside through all that glass.

High Ceilings
In rooms with high ceilings, there are several ways you can relate framing to your space. You can start with vertical pieces of art, or, if you have pairs or sets, hang them up the wall instead of across it. If the art is something you can mat, your mat borders can be bottom-weighted or elongated to fill more vertical space.

Colorful Walls
Neutral mat colors are the best choice to provide the flexibility to look good on all sorts of colorful walls.

Large Scale Furniture
Over the past few decades, furniture size has become increasing larger to keep it in proportion to larger rooms. When you have something custom framed, be aware that the proportions of the frame and mat can help balance it, too. A single piece of art can be framed larger or smaller to fit the space. Make sure you use a large enough size piece for your wall space - especially over your sofa or your bed.

Eclectic Design
Design today is often less pure than in the past. A traditional home may have contemporary features or a Victorian chair may get an updated new look with modern upholstery. Likewise, with custom framing, you can mix and match art and framing styles to get the right look for your home.

Built-In Bookcases
Built-ins take away wall space where framed art might otherwise hang. Rather than giving up on displaying your favorite treasures, there are several ways to utilize this space. Remove a shelf to create a larger open space where you can hang a framed piece on the wall at the back of the bookcase. Prop smaller pieces on easels. If the shelves are loaded with books, hang a small piece in front of the books, from the shelf itself.

Hardwood Floors
Because a wood floor is a large surface in the room, either choose a wood frame that matches the floor, or consider a contrasting metallic finish.

Leaning/Overlapping Framed Art
Rather than always hanging framed art on the wall, you can set pieces on a mantel, shelves or other pieces of furniture. You can combine multiple pieces, with one overlapping in front of another.

Open Floor Plans
An open floor plan means fewer walls separating spaces. Since walls are the usual spot to display framed pieces, you may need to look for other alternatives such as the upper wall space. Try displaying a painting on a floor easel in the corner, setting smaller frames in bookcases. Open floor plans allow you to see farther from room to room. In order to maximize viewing pleasure, consider selecting somewhat more dramatic art to frame when it can be seen­­­­­­­­­­­­­ from a longer distance.

Stephanie Hardwick Stokes is an officer of the executive board of the Dayton Society of Interior Designers. Her work has been featured in the Dayton Daily News, the Cincinnati Enquirer and in various Designer Show houses. She resides in Clinton County, and works throughout southwest Ohio. She may be contacted by phone at Hardwick Designs  at 937-383-4832 or by email at

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