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Hanging Art in Your Home

May 9th, 2014

Hanging Art in Your Home

Hanging Art in Your Home

Once you have purchased the right piece of art for your home, the final step is hanging it correctly. The purpose of this article is to help you hang your pictures like a professional in the visual arts.

Your art should be approachable. Place framed art on walls approximately at eye-level, and small works of art where they can be viewed up close. An interior decorator thinks visually. Try to look at your furniture, lamps, fabrics, wall color, and works of art as visual units. Unless you enjoy visual cacophony, aim for balance and harmony. Trust your eyes. Most of us have an innate sense of color, harmony, and balance.

Art should be at ease in your home, in proportion to the surrounding space. A huge museum-sized painting will overwhelm a room too small for it. A postcard-sized painting will be lost on a large wall.

Fine art deserves care in handling and hanging. The correct way to lift any picture is by the hanging wire. If a picture needs to be carried some distance, wear a glove to protect your hand from the wire. Avoid lifting the picture from the top of the frame. This is especially important if the picture is framed with glass, because the glass may become separated from the wood frame.

An interior decorator hangs valuable works of art in appropriate locations. Photographs, reproductions, and original works of art donít fare well in direct sunlight, or in damp places like bathrooms. Heavy picture frames, especially frames with glass, should not be hung over a bed. The chance of an earthquake dislodging a painting may seem remote, but a shower of glass shards would be a memorable awakening!

An interior decorator secures pictures on a wall using appropriate hanging materials. The hanging wire must be strong enough to easily support the weight of the picture over many years. Framers and designers use professional wire designed for the purpose. Avoid impatient substitutions. For example, I have seen dental floss used in place of hanging wire. In a pinch, floss or string may seem to work, but the risk is an injury or damage to the art.

Recently, I was at a home where I was helping with a framing project. I noticed a painting was hanging on three straight-pins hammered into the wall. The pins flexed like miniature arrows in the center of a bullís eye. Inventive, but a risky method for hanging a painting worth several hundred dollars!

A single nail is not necessarily more secure. The weight of a painting pulls straight down on a nail. When hanging pictures in a home, professionals use two picture hangers matched to the weight of the picture. Two hangers will keep the picture more secure and level over time. Professional picture hangers (available at any hardware store, or at Amazon as "professional picture hangers") use nails with a very small diameter, but the design ensures that the angle of the nail in combination with the hookís brace against the dry wall spreads the load of the pictureís weight across the wall. If youíre willing to spend a few hundred dollars on fine art, why not spend two or three dollars on professional hanging materials? Your safety and the artwork deserve the care.

Prior to hanging a painting, you will need a pencil, a measuring tape, two professional hooks, a small hammer, and a level. If possible, have an assistant help. The first step is to inspect the frame, making sure the hardware on the frame is sound. Check to be certain that the hanging wire is placed correctly on the frame and tight enough, so that the hanger on the wall wonít show above the frame.

Ask your assistant to hold the artwork against the wall where you plan to hang it. Remember, pictures should be lifted by the hanging wire, or by the sides, but never by the top of the frame. Step back and make one more assessment. Is it right for the room and space?

I use two methods for hanging art. When I have only a small painting or two to hang, and each piece does not have to be perfectly placed on the wall, I use the eye-ball method. When I need to be precise, I use the measurement method.

Letís imagine Iím hanging a framed photograph with the eye-ball method. Holding up the picture on the wall at my eye-level, I reach behind the frame with one hand, pull up the hanging wire tightly, and mark that location on the wall. Then, I lower the top of the frame to the spot I marked. I quickly check to be sure the frame is level by analyzing whether itís square with the ceiling, floor, or vertical edge of a wall. With the top of the frame at the spot I marked on the wall, I make two small marks in pencil along the top of the frame. The two marks indicate where the hooks will be nailed on the wall.

The eye-ball method is quick and simple. I can hang small pictures without help, but the help of an assistant makes hanging easier. For larger photographs and paintings, I always use an assistant to help hold the picture, while I mark the locations of hooks with a pencil.

The second method - the measurement method - is more precise and almost as easy, but it takes more time. Some elementary arithmetic and some measuring are required. The measurement method reduces error, and its precision is useful for hanging a series of paintings, such as a group of paintings that are bottom-justified. Visualize a series of pictures on the walls of a room where the bottom edges of the frames are exactly the same distance from the floor. The pictures are hung bottom-justified. Sometimes the distance between pictures is also the same. Pictures that are bottom-justified function like stepping stones on a path. The orderly arrangement invites seeing the pictures one-by-one. The measurement method is less quick, but Iím unlikely to make mistakes, which means no adjustments to the hanging wire, or unwanted nail holes in the wall.

In describing the steps of the measurement method, letís imagine we are hanging the picture together. The first step is to determine eye-level. About 57-60 inches is the average eye-level. The arithmetic is easier if we use 60 inches from the floor up the wall as our standard for eye-level, so we will use that number for all paintings we hang.

Next, we measure the height of the frame. We divide that number by 2. For example, if the frame is 40 inches high, we divide 40 inches by 2. The number to remember for this example is 20.

With the number 20 in our memory, we pull up the picture wire as if it were supported by two hangers. We measure the distance between the top of the wire and the top of the frame. Letís say it is 5 inches from the top of the wire to the top of the frame. Remember the number 20? We subtract 5 inches from 20 inches. The answer for this example is 15 inches. Now the number to remember is 15.

We add 15 inches to 60 inches (our eye-level measurement) which is 75 inches. We measure 75 inches from the floor up the wall, and thatís where we want to hang the hooks. Since weíre using two hooks, we need to locate the hooks on the wall along an imaginary horizontal line that is less than the width of the pictureís frame. We can use our level placed at exactly 75 inches from the floor to locate the hooks. If a level is not available, we can use the top of the frame as a measuring tool to locate the two hooks, each of which (in this example) will be 75Ē from the floor up. Letís be sure to visually check that the picture frame is level, but not to worry if we are off slightly, the picture will still hang level. We donít want to place the hooks at the outer edges of the width of the frame. If a hanging wire fits over the hooks like a guitar string, hanging the painting on the hooks is a struggle. If the hooks are placed too close to each other, the top of the picture will hang too far forward.

Before we gently hammer home the nails in the hanging hooks, we want to place them so the hooks supporting the hanging wire are at the spot we marked, not the nail entry. The entrance for the nail will be slightly above 75 inches. (If thatís confusing, look again at the image accompanying this article.) And thatís it, we did it!

In this article, I have provided a few tips which will help you correctly hang your art as if you were an interior decorator, but I encourage you to buy art with the eye of an artist. The priority for an artist is the art. In searching for the right art for your home, keep your dťcor in mind, but buy only the art you love. You will probably live with your art for the rest of your life, and the painting you love might become an heirloom, outliving many rooms and many homes. For tips on buying art and framing art, please see other articles posted on my blog with FAA.