How to hang photos and art | March 26, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - March 26, 2010

How to hang photos and art

A little forethought will avoid unsightly holes in the wall

by Kit Davey

Can't decide how to hang your artwork? Don't know how to keep a group of pictures from looking like a mish-mash? Have a collection of family photos you'd like to hang?

If you follow these simple suggestions you'll be able to cluster your rogue's gallery in a pleasing arrangement and hang your masterpieces with confidence.


How to hang a photo collection

First, decide where your framed photos will be displayed. Halls, narrow transition walls, a family room or den wall are ideal for family-photo galleries. 

Next, go through your photos and select the ones you'd like to display. Your arrangement will work best if you use all black-and-white photos or all color photos, rather than mixing them. Go through all your frames and select the ones that are in harmony with the room's color scheme and style. Toss or donate broken, tarnished or cheap frames — use only the best! Insert your photos into your frames.

 Determine the approximate area and shape of the wall space to be covered. Think of the area in a rough geometrical shape: an oval, a diamond or an enlarged rectangle. Measure this area and draw its approximate dimensions onto butcher paper or newspaper (you may have to tape a few pages together). Lay your template on the floor and randomly place your framed photos on top of it without trying to create an arrangement.

 As your pictures are resting on the template notice commonalties between them. Your photos will "flow" better when the frames or the images have two or more elements in common: the same colors, the same frame style, the same metal or the same topic. You may have to remove some photos and place them in different frames, or even purchase new frames. You can also go on a treasure hunt to find a frame or photos from elsewhere in the house.

 Once you've selected pieces that work well together, begin moving them about on your template. Try as many possible configurations as you can; tweak and adjust your pictures in every possible location. If you have eight or more odd-shaped photos, add interest to the grouping by:

* using an oval framed piece or two;

* hanging a matching pair of photos side by side or one above the other;

* clustering the three smallest pieces in a triangular configuration.

When you think you have a satisfying arrangement, leave the room for 15 minutes or so. Return and walk around to the other side of your arrangement to look at it from the opposite direction. Check to make sure the grouping looks balanced and that it holds together. Make adjustments as necessary.

 Once you have an arrangement you like, take a felt pen and trace around each of the picture frames. You may want to write down what each image is on the butcher paper. Then remove the frames and tape your template to the wall.

Start hanging frames one at a time, nailing through the paper template. When you've hung your complete collection, remove the frames, tear the paper template off and rehang the art on the perfectly positioned nails.

This technique works just as well with framed art, plates, masks, musical instruments or whatever other kind of collection you might want to hang.


Hanging large art

If you want to hang a single large-scale, framed piece on a blank wall, think of the wall as being divided into thirds, horizontally. Hang the art so the top of the frame is close to the top of the middle third of the wall. If the piece is big enough, you can center it in the middle of the wall (left to right). If it's a bit small for the space, place it off-center to the right or left.


Pairing with furniture

Generally, a single framed piece of art is enhanced when hung over a piece of furniture, especially if the piece echoes its shape. It's important that the piece be the right scale for the space.

A small oval silhouette will be dwarfed when placed over a massive Victorian bureau. Perhaps a collection of silhouettes or one large botanical print would work better in the space.

Also, the overall effect will be more pleasing if the piece you select has a least one design element (color, scale, style content, wood tone, etc.) with the furniture nearby.


Alternatives to walls

Walls aren't the only place for your art. Try placing small works of framed art:

* on a plate stand on an end table or on your bedside table;

* on the back panel of your bookshelves in an opening between books;

* suspended from a ribbon and hung from the peg of a Shaker pegboard;

* leaning on a wall-mounted shelf, nestled together with other art or accessories.

Arranging your photos is part science and part inspiration. Have fun finding the perfect location for your family treasures!

Kit Davey, Allied Member, ASID, specializes in re-design, staging, design consulting and professional organizing. E-mail her at, call her at 650-367-7370, or visit her website at


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