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.

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