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Hang Loose When Deciding How to Configure Pictures


Pictures hung too high, arranged in an unbalanced manner or inappropriately framed are among common mistakes people make when hanging art in their homes, interior designers say.


The key to an interesting display of art lies not only in the work itself, but also in the creativity used to frame and display it, designers say. Varying colors and types of frames as well as sizes of pictures can help create an aesthetically pleasing display.

Before deciding what should be hung where, it's best to settle on the desired effect, said Andrea Hymer of Hymer Design Group in Brea.

"Generally, I look at the clients' house and determine if they like small conversation areas with accents or a more open approach to interior design," she said.

"If their coffee table has books and art objects or mementos, then they may be the type that would like a collage. Whereas people who don't have a lot of design objects around the house are more likely to want to fill a wall with one large piece of art rather than a grouping."

Getting to know her clients' needs is also a priority with Dale Zuercher of Plaza Art Center in San Juan Capistrano. But she adds, "I don't always know why I do what I do. Some of it is just art."

Still, experts and amateurs alike can follow general guidelines about how to hang artwork.

Probably the most common error people make is hanging pictures too high.

"A lot depends on the room," Hymer said. "But generally, things should be hung at eye level."

But at whose eye level? If there are different heights represented in the home, Hymer suggests taking an average and using that as the eye-level guide.

Eye level is in the eye of the beholder, as opposed to an exact science, she says. The goal is to achieve a balanced look in the room--there's no mathematical equation that dictates the exact spot to drive in the nail.

Generally, Hymer says, the eye should level with a picture about one third of the way down from the top of the frame.

"Things hung too high don't become a part of the room," Hymer said. "I often see people wanting to make a science out of it by say, measuring from the top of the couch to the top of the wall to find the exact middle spot to hang art. That just doesn't make for a balanced room."

Of course trying to decide if a room is balanced can be tricky. The mass of the room's objects need to be balanced; one piece, be it artwork or furniture, should not dominate the room in a way that makes the room appear lopsided.

"You need to look at the reflectiveness or absorbing qualities of the colors you are using in the room," Hymer said.


The artwork itself can be of a heavy or light quality, depending on the colors in the piece and the way it is framed. "A light-colored piece in a light frame will sort of float on the wall, whereas a dark, heavily framed piece makes a more dramatic statement," Hymer said.

You can control the heaviness or lightness of a piece of art by the framing. A dark frame will actually pull the eye into the piece and hold it while a light frame enables the eye to roam easily out of the picture, Zuercher said.

Another way to achieve balance in a room with art is to group items. "People tend to think if they have four pictures they have to go on four opposing walls," Zuercher said. "Generally that isn't as effective as grouping them. You can maybe hang one picture on one wall and then group the other three on another wall."

Family photos, commonly called a rogue's gallery, is a classic collection that can add drama to any room, Zuercher said.

She suggests laying the pictures out on the floor and looking them over before hanging them. Make sure there are varied frames. "I've seen people use the same frame for every picture and I think that's boring."

Almost any collection can be grouped for a wall collage, Zuercher said. "I have a customer who collects menus from restaurants all over the world. We made a very interesting collage from them. The key is to vary the sizes and colors within the collection."

For example, if the collection is of objects all the same size, like baseball cards, vary the size by having multiples of cards framed together. Variety can also be achieved by varying the types of frames used. With the variety of frames available today, it isn't hard to mix and match colors and textures.

"Mats are also available in many styles nowadays," Hymen said. "They can be tinkered with to create more dramatic looks that can really dress up an inexpensive print to look like an expensive piece of art."

Limiting color choice to maintain a color scheme can dull a room. If the predominate colors in a room are peach and blue, the art accents probably shouldn't be. Using complementary colors is usually a better choice.

If fine art is the intended look, it can be achieved without laying out a lot of money. One possibility is canvas transfers, which can be used to create a museum reproduction on a budget, according to Zuercher.

In a canvas transfer, the image from a quality poster is actually peeled off the poster paper and then mounted on a canvas, so it ends up looking like a painting. The average transfer costs about $80. Add a good frame and you have a nice piece of art, Zuercher said.

"At first I was kind of a snob about transfers," she added. "But most people can't go out and buy a Monet. The transfers are an affordable substitute."

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