TIPS & IDEAS for hanging artwork, gallery walls & more…
There’s an art to hanging artwork. However, it’s not rocket science and if you follow some basic guidelines you’ll get it right every time!
And remember, these are only GUIDELINES, not rules. There are always exceptions as there are TONS of artwork sizes, wall sizes and other things to consider when hanging artwork – I can’t cover them all, but I SURE AS HECK am gonna try!
Benjamin Moore Steel Wool
But before we get started, I have something important to say…
It doesn’t matter how high your ceilings are or how tall your husband is – all of this is totally irrelevant to how the artwork looks on a wall. For reals.
Because regardless of wall height or hubby’s opinion, there’s still an invisible sightline that we revert to when there’s a tall whack-a-doody wall in front of us, and that invisible line sits at approx. 8-9 feet. Why? Because I said so. And a lot of other smart, cute and talented people said so too. Really though, it’s what we’ve become accustomed to in the average home over the last 100 years.
Sherwin Williams Creamy
Now, let’s break it on down…
WHAT’S THE EYE-LEVEL RULE?
When it comes to hanging artwork, the eye-level rule states that your art should hang with its CENTER approximately 58-62 inches from the floor.
Farrow & Ball Clunch
Why is this rule silly? Because it’s WAY too generic!
- If you applied this to every piece of artwork, you’d have a hot mess on your hands with many of your pieces hanging at the WRONG height.
- This rule is REALLY only applicable to pieces that are approx. 6-36 inches tall. And even then, it depends on what’s BELOW your artwork. Is it a buffet or console table? Bench or headboard?
- The eye-level rule also works for those who are approx. 5’2 to 5’6. If you’re taller or shorter than that, your eye-level is MUCH different.
In other words, the eye-level rule is a great GUIDELINE, but there are many…many exceptions.
BTW, in order to show you REAL homes with REAL budgets, I only use photos from my Online Color Consulting clients. THANK YOU all for sending your photos in; you make my colourful little world go round!
WHAT’S THE BEST HEIGHT TO HANG ARTWORK ON AN EMPTY WALL?
The ideal height for hanging a picture on an empty wall ALL comes down to the size of the piece you’re hanging.
HANGING ARTWORK THAT’S 6 – 36 inches high
The CENTER of your artwork should be approximately eye-level. For the average person, this is between 58 – 62 inches from the floor. The taller you are, the closer to 62 inches you might want to be, however, I PERSONALLY don’t go lower than 60 inches (I’m 5’4).
The three pictures in the above photo are hanging on a bare wall with no furniture right underneath them and they’re approx. 24 inches high, therefore, the CENTER of them sits 58-62 inches from the floor.
HANGING ARTWORK THAT’S APPROX 36 – 48 inches high
- the range to CENTER goes from approx. 48 – 56 inches from the floor
- the closer your piece is to 36 inches high, the closer to eye-level the CENTER of your piece should be
- as you get up to 42 inches high, the center should sit approx. 54 inches from the floor, breaking the eye-level rule unless you’re a lovely little shorty-cakes
- if you have a piece clocking in at a whopping 48 inches high the centre should sit approx. 48 inches from the floor (can be a bit lower or higher depending on the exact piece, baseboard height and ceiling height).
In this next photo, these mirrors are taller than 36 inches, meaning their center sits more like 48 inches from the floor (I DO think they could be like 1 inch higher)
Similar to Benjamin Moore Ballet White
ARTWORK THAT’S TALLER THAN 48 INCHES
Funny enough, you’d think the ‘to center’ number would keep going lower and lower, but it DOESN’T in fact, as your art gets TALLER, the centre starts shifting back to the original guideline of 58 – 62 inches!
While I’m not much for modern contemporary style PERSONALLY, I find myself so drawn into this next room with its moody vibe and OVERSIZED artwork…
Benjamin Moore Raccoon Fur
And then there are the anomalies like this bad boy, which goes pretty much from floor to ceiling. IDEALLY…this would be on a taller wall (but it’s still kind of cool)…
Benjamin Moore Gray 2121-10
Now, I want you to be a total weirdo with me. Grab a tape measure and measure out where 60 inches high is on your body. While this can’t be applied to EVERY piece of furniture and artwork, this number is a great place to start.
BTW, there are a TON of tips and ideas in this blog post. I highly recommend focussing on the topics that relate directly to you and your home.
HOW HIGH SHOULD A PICTURE HANG ABOVE A CONSOLE TABLE, BUFFET or SHORT PIECE OF FURNITURE?
- If the piece of furniture you’re hanging artwork above is lower than 30 inches, the CENTER of your piece should sit approx. 58 – 62 inches from the floor. If possible, use home decor to link the art/furniture piece so there isn’t such a gaping space between them.
- If the piece of furniture you’re hanging artwork above is TALLER than 30″, there should be approx. 4 – 8 inches between the top of your furniture piece and the bottom of your picture frame.
Sherwin Williams Colonnade Gray
The above console table is just shy of 30 inches, in which case, the 58 – 62 inch guideline applies. HOWEVER, because of the ginormous size of the art, it also satisfies the 4 – 8 inch rule! Notice how a few taller decor pieces are used to visually link the table with the art.
In this next living room, the console table was 30 inches, meaning we could REALLY go either way. In this case, we went with the 4 – 8 inch guideline and again, used home decor to link the art/table…
Sherwin Williams Colonnade Gray
This next photo is a GREAT example of not only a great vignette (group of three), but of artwork perfectly placed above a chair that’s taller than 30 inches (the art is approx. 6 inches above).
Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist & Escarpment
HOWEVER, if this piece of art were not quite so tall, it would look janky hanging so low, in which case you’d use the 58 – 62 inch guideline, as shown in this next living room, where the chair BARELY breaks the 30-inch mark…
Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray lightened
HOW HIGH SHOULD A PICTURE HANG ABOVE WAINSCOTING?
If you’re hanging a picture or mirror above standard wainscoting, the CENTER of your piece should sit approx. 58-62 inches from the centre of the artwork to the floor, OR, depending on the height of your wainscoting/size of your art, approx. 4 – 6 inches above the top of the wainscoting (assuming your wainscoting is the standard 36 inches high).
In this next photo, the larger piece of artwork is approx. 30 inches high, so it sits approx 4 inches above the wainscoting. On the other hand, because the two pieces in the hallway are closer to 20 inches, they’d look too short if placed this low. Instead, the 58 – 60 inch guideline is applied for a more proportional approach…
HOWEVER, if the wainscoting were HIGHER than the standard 36 inches, the two smaller pieces would EASILY fall under the 4 – 6 inch guideline, whereas the large piece might be too big for the remaining wall space! As mentioned earlier, there are SO MANY FREAKIN’ EXCEPTIONS!
Aside from ‘higher than standard’ wainscoting, the 4 – 6 inch guideline is applicable when using mirrors or artwork that are 30+ inches high. This next photo is a great example, and due to the height of the artwork, probably satisfies the 58 – 62 inch guideline at the same time!
HOW HIGH SHOULD YOU HANG A PICTURE IN A BATHROOM?
HANGING ARTWORK ABOVE THE TOILET
When hanging above the loo (it is a great place to hang out), there should be approx. 58 – 62 inches from the centre of the artwork to the floor. Why? Because the toilet is shorter than 30 inches. The exception, of course, is if you have a very long narrow piece, in which case you’ll likely end up 6 – 8 inches above the toilet lid.
Benjamin Moore Ballet White
HANGING ARTWORK ABOVE A TOWEL BAR?
The average towel bar sits approx. 42 – 48 inches from the floor. However, when it comes to hanging artwork above a towel bar, it’s a mixed bag. Some people like their art to sit HIGH so they don’t knock it every time they hang their towel up…
I bet these towel rods sit no more than 42 inches from the floor (Sherwin Williams Egret White)
Whereas others (myself included) usually want to see the visual connection between their towel rod/towel and their artwork and opt for 6 inches or so…
These towel rods likely hang closer to 48 inches from the floor (Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist)
If you ask ye ole Ginger, it really comes down to how high you hang your towel bar vs the size of the artwork you have. Here are some considerations…
- If your towel bar hangs on the lower end of things, I wouldn’t hang a piece of artwork above it that’s less than 12 inches high. This piece will need to be hung so its center is 58 – 60 inches from the floor, which leaves way too much space between your towel bar and your art. Instead, I would look for a piece that’s more like 24 inches high or so.
- If your towel bar hangs on the higher side, consider artwork that’s no more than 30 inches high, so you can hang it approx. 6 inches above the towel rod (as shown in the bottom photo above).
WHAT’S THE BEST HEIGHT TO HANG ARTWORK IN A DINING ROOM?
When hanging a picture or mirror in a dining room, it’s all about what it’s hanging ABOVE. If your piece is hanging above a buffet style cabinet that’s taller than 30 inches, you’ll use the guideline of leaving 4 – 8 inches of wall space between the two pieces.
In this next dining room, because the bench is taller than 30 inches, the art sits approx. 8 inches above it…
Benjamin Moore Steel Wool
Sherwin Williams Worldly Gray
In the above photo, because the buffet is taller than 30 inches, the mirror is PERFECTLY placed (approx. 4 inches).
HOWEVER, if you have a cabinet or bench that’s lower than 30 inches, as shown below, you’ll want to lean into the guideline of hanging your artwork so its center is approx. 58 – 62 inches from the floor. In this situation, I would lean into 58 inches to visually connect it a bit more to the cabinet, using slightly taller home decor as a link between the two pieces.
I have some wicked talented clients and I love how this mid-mod style dining room turned out in Benjamin Moore White Dove
However, if your picture or mirror is hanging on an empty wall in a dining room, it should be centred on the light fixture/dining table, and as long as it’s not more than 36 inches high, should have its center sitting approx 60 inches from the floor.
Remember, there are always exceptions to rules, so if you’re doubting yourself, get out painter’s tape or some brown paper and map things out on the wall before hammering in a single nail.
WHAT’S THE BEST HEIGHT FOR HANGING A PICTURE OR MIRROR ABOVE A SOFA OR SECTIONAL?
If there’s too much space between the top of your sofa or chair and the bottom of your picture or mirror there will be a ‘visual disconnect’ between the two pieces. This means your hanging piece will act independently from the furniture, rather than being a foundation piece or anchor for a colour scheme or theme.
If your picture is hanging above a sofa, sectional or single chair, the bottom of the picture should be approx 8 – 12 inches from the top of your furniture
The artwork in the above photo is hanging approx. 10 inches above the back of the sofa. For the sheer SIZE of the piece, any lower and it would look like it’s hovering over the sofa – any higher and it would be hugging the ceiling too much! Also, keep in mind that if this wall were 8 feet high rather than 9 feet, this painting would simply be too big.
And while I rarely refer to ceiling height, when it comes to sofas and sectionals, you can actually take some minor guidance from the height of the ceiling, for example…
- If you have 8-foot ceilings and a moderately large piece, you might leave approx. 8 inches between the top of your sofa and the artwork, so you don’t get too close to the ceiling line.
- If you have 9+ foot ceilings, you might bump up to 12 inches so that your picture or mirror doesn’t look like it’s weighing too heavy on your sofa and uses a more proportional piece of the wall. I know we’re talking INCHES here, but trust me, every inch matters (wink wink).
- In most cases, the spaces between the top of your art and the ceiling shouldn’t be LESS than the space between the top of your furniture and the bottom of the art.
In this next living room, the pair of mirrors is approx. 8 inches above the sofa – perfectly placed due to the 8-foot ceiling, but sure as heck can’t go any lower (although I might kick the clock to the curb)…
Benjamin Moore Rodeo
And it’s not just about getting the height right, SCALE matters as well. In the previous photo with the off-white sofa and large piece of art, this piece is a great size for the wall it’s on, but couldn’t be any bigger. HOWEVER, the same can’t be said for this next piece…
- the framed photograph is slightly too small for the wall space, even bringing it down to 10 inches wouldn’t make sense
- it should be centre between the trim and the edge of the drape, rather than favouring the right side as it does
- If it were lowered by approx 10″ it would look more proportional to the wall space, but could still be a wink wider
Benjamin Moore Gray Owl
Using what you’ve learned so far, how do you feel about the artwork in this next photo?
Sherwin Williams On the Rocks
IT’S HIGHER THAN SNOOP DOG! Seriously though, notice that there’s more space between the sectional and the art than there is between the ceiling and the art, meaning this installation is TOO HIGH. Although the art is approx. 12 inches above the sofa, because the pieces are taller than not and the ceiling is 8 feet, they should sit a good 4 inches lower.
However, I DO like the proportion, as the two pieces are approximately 3/4 the wide of the sectional (which is ideal).
How about this next one?
Sherwin Williams Pearly White
This one is STINKIN’ close, but I BET it’s like 13 – 14 inches above the sofa. Do two inches make a difference? I don’t know, you tell me – wink wink. And yes, I love sexual innuendos…AND Ryan Reynolds AND wine – ALL AT THE SAME TIME. This piece is also a BIT small width-wise for the length of the sofa. Again, approx. 3/4 the width or wider is a good decorative goal.
I’m slightly obsessed with the colour palette in my next client’s home and she did a FABULOUS job of hanging her artwork (and mirror)…
Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray
HOW HIGH SHOULD A PICTURE OR MIRROR HANG ABOVE A HEADBOARD?
As with most furniture pieces, it can depend on the height of your headboard and the piece you want to hang above it. Generally speaking, having approx. 4 – 12 inches of wall space between the top of your headboard and the bottom of your piece should do the trick.
This next photo is perfect. The art is hanging approx. 4 inches above the headboard – not too low OR too high, creating a seamless look from wall to bed.
Sherwin Williams Big Chill
Another great installation, this time of some candle sconces…
The 12 Best Beige & Tan Paint Colours (this room is Barcelona Beige)
A FEW TIPS FOR HANGING ART ABOVE A HEADBOARD
- secure it safely so it can withstand an earthquake or nocturnal activities (nothing wrong with a nooner either, just sayin’)
- if you have a super short headboard, consider art that’s slightly taller, this way you can use the 58 – 62 inch guideline while still keeping the art/headboard visually connected
- it’s ideal if the art is approx. 3/4 the width of the headboard or wider – this keeps things looking proportional
Using what you’ve learned so far, what would you say about the wall hangings in this guest bedroom?
The Best Blue Paint Colours: Benjamin Moore (this room is Woodlawn Blue)
They’re AWESOME! The metal panel sits 4 inches above the headboard and the art above the side table is sitting at the PERFECT height considering the 30 inches of the dresser and the sloped ceiling.
How about this next one?
Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan
That’s right, while the overall STYLING is pretty, these three pieces are just too big for the space.
HOW HIGH SHOULD A PICTURE OR MIRROR HANG ABOVE A BED WITH NO HEADBOARD?
In this case, I’d fall back on the approx. 58 – 62 inch guideline. BUT I highly recommend getting a headboard.
HOW HIGH SHOULD A GALLERY WALL HANG ON AN EMPTY WALL?
Gallery walls are TRICKY. Whether you’re doing a simple grid pattern or a more eclectic arrangement, you need to pretend as though your gallery is ONE BIG PIECE. Lay your gallery out on the floor with the same spacing you want on the wall. Measure the width and height of your gallery and use the OVERALL HEIGHT as your guideline (if you’re doing a random display, your height will be based on the piece that’s placed HIGHEST).
Let’s break this next photo down, so we can learn lessons the FUN way…
Benjamin Moore Gray Owl
1. You need to treat your gallery as though it’s ONE BIG PIECE OF ARTWORK. To get the TOTAL height of the above gallery, we add together the height of the framed pieces, along with the space between. This puts the total gallery height at approx. 45 inches.
2. HOWEVER, there’s about 2 inches too much between the pieces, meaning the total height should be closer to 43 inches.
3. Using the guideline of ‘if a piece of artwork is taller than 36 inches, you’ll want to have the CENTER hanging approx. 48 – 56 inches from the floor’, I would guess this display hangs about 3 inches too short. HOWEVER, the overall idea is AWESOME, adding personality to what would otherwise be a super boring hallway.
- If your total gallery height is 24 – 36 inches high, you’ll want to use the general eye-level guideline of 58 – 62 inches to the center from the floor; the same you’d use if your gallery were a single piece of this height.
- If your total gallery height is MORE than 36 inches, you’ll want to lower that center incrementally. The closer your total height is to 36 inches, the closer the center should be to 58 – 62 inches. The TALLER your arrangement is, the more likely your gallery should sit anywhere from 48 – 56 inches from the floor.
Before you start hanging, once you have your WIDTH & HEIGHT, get painters tape and place it on the wall where it should go based on the above guidelines. Step back and see how it feels. It’s easier to make an adjustment NOW than later. I find that taking a PHOTO really helps me separate myself a bit from what’s right in front of me (#funfact).
HOW HIGH SHOULD MY GALLERY WALL HANG ABOVE MY SOFA OR FURNITURE PIECE?
Again, it comes down to the HEIGHT of your furniture as well as the total height of your display.
The 12 Best WHOLE HOME Gray & Greige Paint Colours (this room is Anew Gray)
GALLERY WALL ABOVE A SOFA OR SECTIONAL
You need to treat your gallery wall as though it were one BIG piece and figure out its total width and height. From there, you can use painter’s tape to get a visual of how a piece this size will look on your wall and can adjust accordingly using the same guideline as suggested for hanging a single piece of art above a sofa.
Sherwin Williams Black Swan
If your gallery wall gets closer than 6 inches to the ceiling (especially with 8-foot ceilings, as shown above), your gallery wall is too tall. In the above photo, notice how the OVERALL size of the gallery was taken into consideration and the space between the top of the sofa/bottom of the lowest frame is approx. 6 inches.
GALLERY WALL ABOVE A PIECE OF FURNITURE THAT’S SHORTER THAN 30″
In this situation, you’ll treat your wall as though it were empty and go back to the ‘50 – 62 inches to the center‘ guideline, depending on the OVERALL HEIGHT of your arrangement.
And of course, there are ALWAYS exceptions, as shown with this staircase wall below. While it LOOKS like the gallery wall is resting on the sectional from this angle, in real-life, there’s three feet of walking space between the back of the sectional and the wall.
Click HERE to see available COURSES and Online Paint Colour Consulting packages!
HOW HIGH SHOULD ARTWORK HANG ABOVE A FIREPLACE MANTEL?
the taller your mantle is, the less distance there should be between the top of it and the bottom of the picture
a shorter mantle can accommodate a bit more wall space in between, but no more than 10 inches
- generally speaking, there should be approx. 4 – 8 inches of wall space between mantel and art/mirror
In this next photo, even though there’s no traditional mantel, because the surround is taller than 30 inches, the art is hung at the right spot, approx 5 inches above.
Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige
And whether it’s a grand mantel or a more simple profile, the same rule applies, as shown next. However, I DO wish the clock were a bit bigger to be proportional to the size of the fireplace width…
In this next living room, I would love to see the artwork just 2 inches lower. Otherwise, I LOVE the overall vibe and awesome mantel decorating skills…
Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray 25% darker
And if you have NO mantel? We’re back at 58 – 62 inches from the floor, however, I would go on the higher side, rather than the lower. If you have a raised hearth, it’s that same distance from the HEARTH (but I might drop it down to 58 inches).
CAN I LEAN MY ARTWORK ON MY MANTEL OR BUFFET/CABINET?
The last option for hanging artwork is ‘leaning’. If the piece you’re placing your artwork on is low enough and the artwork is stable enough (either light enough to sit without sliding out or heavy but supported with an anchor at the back) then you can lean your artwork.
How about this next one?
While I LOVE his furry lil face (no, I’m not talking about Tim), I’d rather see this big boy hanging above the mantel. And this particular piece would be an EXCEPTION where I’d break the 4 – 12 inch guideline. The height and extended width of this artwork, along with the height of the mantel and ceiling, have me wanting just 2 – 3 inches of wall space showing in between. I’d also love to see some simple home decor, maybe some fake plants/candle holders flanking this piece, just to add some softness.
And if you have a piece that’s not QUITE wide enought to be proportional, you can do a mix of hanging and leaning to get a proportional and balanced look…
Just remember, if a piece of artwork is sitting on something that’s too high, the art will be awkward to look at – I hate getting a kink in my neck as Lord knows I’m kinky enough as it is! Think about how the artwork is viewed from a sitting and standing position…
- If it’s a mirror, is it only reflecting the ceiling when leaning?
- If your art is framed with glass are you only seeing the sheen of the glass, not the artwork itself?
- Is the beauty of the piece de-valued because you can’t see it head-on?
A MIXED BAG…
In this next photo, there’s also wainscoting to consider AS WELL as a buffet, and I bet the owner actually went back to the 58-62 inches from the floor.
Benjamin Moore Powell Buff
So, next time we chat and I ask you ‘how’s it hangin?’ – you better have the right answer!
CHECK OUT MY ONLINE PAINT COLOUR CONSULTING, COLOUR COURSES & E-BOOKS!
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2013, AWESOMELY and COMPLETELY UPDATED IN 2021!