Old House Journal
• The advice to center your art at 57" from the floor (“eye level”) is an excellent starting point. Eye level is, however, lower in a dining room, where everyone is seated, than in a hallway. In period houses, other factors weigh in: ceiling height and odd proportions, height of wainscots and plate rails, and conventions of the era.
• Keep in mind that most people hang pictures too high. Forget where the ceiling is—consider the viewer.
• Generally, do create a center point across the walls, with the center of each framed piece the same distance from the floor.
But: There is precedent for breaking the “center” rule. For example, three framed pieces hung with their bottoms level, the same distance above the top rail of a wood wainscot, will give a formal and ordered feeling to the grouping.
• In gallery-type hanging, with multiple framed pieces hung over one another, consider hanging the upper-wall pieces to lean downward away from the wall for better viewing. Lower art can be hung flat to the wall.
• Create an arrangement on the floor (or a large tabletop) before committing to wall hanging. Better yet, create a kraft-paper template (the same size and shape) of each framed piece, then tack them in place to arrange and re-arrange for a pleasing composition.
• Create vignettes by hanging art close to the table or sofa. Don’t leave wide, distracting swatches of wall between furniture and artwork. Aim for three to six inches.
• Bigger pictures (or a related grouping) are generally better than small pieces orphaned on a wall. More is usually better than less; if not in a whole house or a whole room, then certainly on one wall or going up a stair. Commit to it!
• In the 19th century, special art often rested on an easel.
• Decorators advise framing all art in a room the same way, or sticking to one wood species or matte color. But
that might ruin the “evolved over time” sensibility that suits old houses; frame for the art, not the room.
• Emphasizing the vertical adds height to a room.
• In framing and hanging,
emphasizing the horizontal generates calm and widens a narrow room.
• Victorian arrangements famously mixed frame shapes: ovals for portraits, circles for silhouettes, using wide and vertical subjects together.