Art gives our lives meaning and transforms any environment into an experience of beauty. How you display art in your home is an art in itself, a reflection of your personal narrative and journey. What story are you telling? What journey are you on?

Drawing on my experience as a retail designer, I’ve found that the strategic placement of art in a home can create a specific effect, much like how we place displays strategically throughout a store to capture the customers’ attention or to lead them on a journey through the store.

Placing major works of art or grouping smaller pieces together can create focal points in a room, capturing your attention and inviting exploration. When viewed from a distance, art can serve as an enticement to move from one space to another, leading you and others to experience more aspects of your home. An object to reflect upon. An object to pursue.

Let’s look at two distinct approaches to displaying artwork: the traditional approach and the modern approach.

The Traditional Approach to Art Placement

In traditional residential design, art is carefully placed in each room to create a dynamic balance with the furniture layout. Larger pieces establish strong focal points. Smaller pieces can be grouped together to create vignettes or carefully placed in discreet areas.

Traditional Display of Artwork
In this Manhattan Upper East Side residence, our placement of traditional artwork balances the elegant furniture groupings.

Key elements of traditional art display include:

1. SYMMETRY AND BALANCE: Traditional artwork displays often favor symmetry and balance with a single piece of art or pairs centered over furniture or aligned with other elements in the room

2. FORMAL ARRANGEMENT: Artwork is typically hung at eye level and in a formal arrangement, such as a grid or a straight line. Arranging smaller pieces together can create a larger and more prominent focal point.

3. CLASSIC FRAMES: Traditional artwork is often displayed in ornate, gilded, or wooden frames that add to the overall aesthetic of the artwork and the room.

4. CONSISTENT THEMES: Artwork in traditional displays often share consistent themes or styles, such as landscapes, portraits, or still lives.

The Modern Approach to Art Placement

In contrast, a modern design approach is less formal and offers more flexibility. This approach exudes an ease that allows for a random display of art that can be changed to reflect the changing mood and sensibility of the owner. It’s a dynamic and fluid way of displaying art that embraces change and evolution.

In this loft apartment, we placed the artwork on the mantel leaning against the wall, complementing the loft’s modern decor.

Key elements of modern art display include:

1. ASYMMETRY AND VARIETY: Contemporary displays often embrace asymmetry and variety. Artwork may be arranged in a more spontaneous and less structured manner, creating dynamic visual interest.

2. MIX OF STYLES AND MEDIUMS: Contemporary displays often mix different styles and mediums of art, such as paintings, sculptures, and digital art. This can create a diverse and eclectic aesthetic.

3. MINIMALIST FRAMES OR NO FRAMES: Artwork in contemporary displays often use minimalist frames or no frames at all, allowing the artwork itself to take center stage.

4. FLOOR AND SHELF DISPLAYS: In addition to hanging art, contemporary displays often incorporate artwork leaning against the wall, on the floor, or on shelves. This creates a casual and flexible display that can be easily changed.

5. INTEGRATION WITH THE SPACE: In contemporary displays, the artwork is often integrated with the space and the architecture rather than just being added to the walls. This can include large-scale murals, site-specific installations, or artwork that interacts with the light or the viewer.

Regardless of your approach, remember to display art in every room in the home, including the foyer, hallways, staircases, kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. Often neglected, these areas provide unique opportunities for vignettes and treasures that create memorable spaces.

Hanging Your Artwork

Whether hanging a single statement piece or creating a gallery wall, it is helpful to have a starting point for displaying art that reflects your personal style and complements your home’s interior design.

Modern Artwork Displayed Above Sofa
In this Upper West Side residence, these striking black & white photos above the sofa add a dramatic counterpoint to our living room design.

No matter your approach, traditional or modern, or a fusion of the two, here are some guidelines to help you in the placement of artwork in your home:

1. EYE LEVEL DISPLAY: Artwork should generally be hung at eye level. This typically means the center of the artwork should be about 5’-0” and 5’-6” inches from the floor, which is at average eye level for most people.

2. RELATION TO FURNITURE: When hanging artwork above furniture, like a sofa or table, the bottom of the frame should be 6 to 8 inches above the top. Typically, artwork should not be wider than the furniture piece or grouping. A good rule of thumb is to fill two-thirds to three-fourths the width of the furniture.

3. GROUPING ARTWORK: When hanging a group of pictures together, treat them as a single unit. Arrange them on the floor first to get a layout you like before hanging them. Keep the space between them consistent, usually about 2 to 3 inches.

4. LARGE WALL SPACES: Consider larger pieces or a gallery wall of smaller pieces for large wall spaces. The artwork should take up two-thirds to three-fourths of the wall space.

5. LIGHTING: Artwork should be well-lit so it can be fully appreciated. This can be achieved with dedicated picture lights or by arranging art in areas with good natural light. For more on lighting, check out my blog on lighting artwork in the home.

6. BALANCE AND SYMMETRY: Consider the balance and symmetry of the room when hanging artwork. A large piece of art can balance a large piece of furniture on the opposite side of the room.

7. PERSONAL PREFERENCE: Ultimately, the most important rule is that you should love what you see. If a piece of art brings you joy, then it’s right for your space.

Creating a Home You Love with Art

Displaying artwork in your home is a unique opportunity to express your personal style and create an environment that inspires and delights. Whether you prefer a traditional or modern approach, or a blend of both, the right art placement can transform your space into a unique and inspiring environment.

If you’re planning to design a new residence or renovate your existing one, or if you want to refresh your art display, I invite you to reach out to me. Together, we can create a home that displays your art in the best possible light and enhances your living experience.

Remember, your home is your canvas; with the right guidance, you can turn it into a masterpiece. I look forward to helping you to bring your art to life in your home. Contact me today to get started on your journey to a beautifully curated home.

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