Have you ever stepped into a room and found yourself captivated by the art? As we have all experienced, the display of artwork can transform any space, telling a story that’s uniquely yours.

Art gives our lives meaning and can elevate 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 creating spaces that capture the attention of the shopper, I’ve found that the strategic placement of art in the home goes beyond decoration to create an ambiance that speaks to your unique lifestyle and experience.

Just as merchandise in a store is thoughtfully arranged to draw the customers’ eyes and guide them through the space, the placement of art in your home weaves a visual narrative through your home. It reflects your journeys, the people in your life, and the places that hold a piece of your heart.

It’s always a work in progress, but when a painting gets on the right wall in the right setting, it sings…There are certain spots that the paintings select for themselves, and I just have to pay attention.  

Art Collector, Komal Shah

Crafting Your Visual Narrative with Art

As you embark on your journey of curating and displaying cherished works of art, consider these approaches to display that not only enhance their aesthetics but also tailor them to the ambiance of your home:

1. CUSTOM FRAMING: The right frame can elevate a work of art and bring cohesiveness to the display of a collection. Invest in custom framing that complements both the art and your interior decor.

2. WORK WITH A GRID: You can create a structured gallery wall by arranging artwork of the same size and framing in a grid or a linear row. This approach creates a unified focal point, effective when showcasing artwork of similar sizes or themes.

3. GALLERY OF ASSORTED FRAMES: When creating a more organic gallery wall, consider a curated mix of frame sizes and colors to add depth and interest. This allows for flexibility in display and can be tailored to fit any space or style.

4. LARGE ORIGINAL PAINTING DISPLAY: Sometimes, less is more. A single, large painting can serve as a dramatic focal point, setting the tone for the entire room.

5. ARTWORK IN TWO’S OR THREE’S: Symmetry can be soothing. Display two or three complementary pieces of art side by side in a row, creating a harmonious visual balance.

6. VERTICAL DISPLAYS: You can maximize narrow spaces by arranging artwork vertically. This approach can elongate a space and offer a fresh perspective on the art.

7. STAIR-STEP GALLERY: If you have a staircase, arrange your artwork in a stair-step pattern, creating a flow that invites the eye of the viewer to move upward.

8. LEANING ART ON SHELVES: For a more relaxed feeling, lean framed artwork against the wall on shelves or a mantelpiece. This casual arrangement allows for easy updates and rearrangements.

Any of these approaches, whether placing a major work of art or grouping smaller pieces together, can create focal points in a room, capturing your attention and inviting exploration. When viewed from another room, 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 Timeless Charm of Traditional 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 ARRANGEMENTArtwork 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 FRAMESTraditional 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 shares consistent themes or styles, such as landscapes, portraits, or still lives.

Embracing Flexibility with a Modern Approach

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.

Modern Display of Artwork with a Painting on a Mantel

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 uses 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 prints 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: Unless you are doing a gallery wall, 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 placing art in a room, consider its size in relation to your furniture. If you display above pieces like sofas or tables, keep the frame’s bottom 6 to 8 inches above the furniture. Ideally, the artwork should span two-thirds to three-fourths the width of the furniture beneath it.

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: For large wall areas, opt for large works of art or a collection of smaller pieces in a gallery style. Ideally, the art should occupy two-thirds to three-fourths of the wall’s expanse.

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

6. 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. 

7. PERSONAL PREFERENCE: Ultimately, the most important rule is that you should love what you see. If a piece of art brings you joy, 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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