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What Is the Proper Height For Hanging Artwork?

What Is the Proper Height For Hanging Artwork?

I have noticed, in my work as an interior designer, that many folks have trouble hanging their artwork at the correct height. Not only do they hang it too high, it is often not mounted with any relationship to the furniture near it. With a few simple steps, you can be sure that your artwork is placed perfectly.

Believe it or not, the best height for artwork seems quite low to most people.  However, you want your artwork to be easy to view, not placed so high that they must look up to see it.  As a rule-of-thumb, artwork should be placed at a height of 5′-3″ to the center of the piece.  This measurement comes from the eye-level height of the average person.  (Since I’m not even 5′-3″ tall, this measurement is obviously not MY eye-level, but this is a good rule of thumb).

dining room art

In this dining room, the mirror and artwork were placed to balance the wall and work well with the buffet below the pieces on the wall.

But, what if you have exceptionally high ceilings, you ask?  Should you move your artwork up to fill up all that space?  No, no, a thousand times no!  Even if you have 20′ ceilings, you still want your artwork to be easy and comfortable to view.  If the artwork you selected looks miniature on your wall, perhaps you need to select a larger piece.

Ballard designs art

This painting from Ballard Designs is hung at the proper height to become a part of the furniture and accessory grouping.

In addition, in rooms with large vaulted ceilings, filling the upper portions of the wall with another piece of art is sometimes a wise idea – but it is certainly not required. Art pieces placed very high on the wall should not be pieces that cannot be viewed successfully from a distance.  So, a painting with fine details is not the best option here.  Instead, look for a large-scale metal sculpture or an antique iron gate to fill the space.

Ballard Design Iron art

This iron wall art from Ballard Designs is perfect for the space above the window. While it's too high for traditional artwork, an iron sculpture fills the space beautifully.

If your artwork will be hanging above or near a piece of furniture, consider the arrangement as a whole. You want the artwork to appear to be part of a grouping – not a bunch of random items stuck together. So, for a painting above a sofa, for example, start out with the 5′-3″ mark as your benchmark. The bottom of your piece should be 3-5″ above the back of the sofa. Adjust the location of the artwork as needed to get close to these goal measurements.  If you raise it too much, it will look awkward, and disconnected from the sofa.  If this locations makes the artwork look too small for the wall, you may need a larger piece of art, or a grouping of smaller pieces, to fill the space properly.

So, what’s the easiest way to make sure your artwork is properly placed?  Here’s how I do it:

First, measure up from the floor about 5′-3″ and make a small mark on your wall at the location you want your artwork to hang. This gives you the approximate location for the center of your painting.

Now, ask a friend to hold your artwork with the center of it at the mark you made on the wall.  Stand back from the art and view it as a part of the room. Does it fill the wall nicely? Does it need to be moved right or left? Ask your friend to move the piece slightly until it is to your liking.  Mark the center of the top of the piece lightly on the wall with a pencil. Ask your friend to move the artwork away from the wall.

hanging artwork

First, mark the center of the painting at the proper height on your wall.

You are ready to hang your artwork!  Measure from the top of the painting down to the hook or top of the wire.

hanging artwork

Next, measure from the top of your piece to the place it hangs on the wall (either the top of the wire or the sawtooth hanger as in this photo).

Measure this same distance from the mark you made on the wall at the top of the painting, straight down. This is where you pound your nail, attach your hook or drill your hole. Be sure to use the proper hardware to hang your artwork; it should be rated for at least the weight of your piece.  Also, for very heavy pieces, you may need to use wall anchors or be sure to hit a wall stud to ensure it will stay securely on the wall.

Now, hang your piece, and level it.

hanging artwork

Now, use the measurement you just took and measure down from the mark you made previously on the wall. This will give you the location of the hook/nail.

That’s it!

Remember, these rules are not rigid; depending on the situation, these measurements can be adjusted as needed. A large tapestry, for example, may hang behind a table for a layered look. Or, a painting on a mantle may rest on the mantle, instead of being hung at all. Experiment until you find an arrangement you like. Just be sure the artwork is hung at eye level when possible, and be careful of hanging it too high.

Hanging artwork is often about using your eye to make judgments about the best location.  But, with these target measurements and tips, you now have the tools to make the most out of each piece of artwork in your home.


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