The design of a room is not complete without the details. Art adds personality, color, texture, and life to a room. Here are a few ways that you can incorporate art into your home with ease.

Selecting Art

Art can inspire the entire interior decorating scheme in your home. Select a piece that speaks to you then have fun using the colors, patterns, and textures found throughout the composition to inspire paint colors, furnishings, and accessories. Or if you're purchasing something after the decoration of your home is complete, use these same principles to enhance the style and character of your home. Creative Arrangements Look at the size, shape, color, and theme of each piece. Once you have chosen the design direction you’re going in, it will be easy to see what pieces work and what pieces don’t. The most important rule to remember is never place artwork too high on the wall. Art should always relate to what it’s hanging over or relate to the space itself. That means hanging pieces a bit lower than you might think.

For instance, artwork that is hung over a sofa should span a minimum of 2/3 of the space and be placed approximately 5-9" above the sofa back. You can place pictures as low as 3-6” over small tables and a little higher above large table surfaces. You’ll also need to take into consideration what room the piece is being hung in. Hallways will require you to hang it just a bit higher, and vice versa in a sitting room. You may even want to break a few rules now and then. When you hang artwork in relation to a space, look at the size and shape of the wall. For instance, you could have a wall that spans 18’ in length. If that wall was empty, you would have 18’ of space to fill. But once furniture is placed, space becomes smaller and shapes begin to form. This means that the 18’ wall is now broken up into several spaces of 10’, 6’, 3’ or less, and the shape changes from one long rectangle to a series of squares and smaller rectangles.

You also need to consider what shapes and sizes of art will work over a piece of furniture. Just as with wall shapes, a horizontal piece of furniture cries out for a horizontally-shaped piece of art. You can also create shapes with multiple pieces of art to fill in a space.

For example: If you’re working with a horizontally-shaped sideboard, but you don’t have a something of similar shape to work with, two vertical pieces placed side-by-side create the horizontal shape you need and can fill the space available. Be careful not float pictures in the center of the wall just because it’s blank. Negative space is just as important as positive. Create vignettes and displays that incorporate art into the overall display. This is why art is chosen and placed before accessories. Keep balance and proportion in mind and never hang a very small picture over a large piece of furniture or vice versa. Balance the configuration by dispersing the weight of each picture evenly. A picture with a dark mat, frame, and/or a large picture in general “weigh” more and should be placed properly to support the composition. Don’t place a large picture in the center of a grouping of smaller pictures – the arrangement will look as though it’s trailing off. Art and wall décor can also expand the size of a piece of furniture by extending the line. If two chairs are placed beside an armoire and the vertical line is too severe, simply place a picture over each chair to help balance the space.Mantles deserve attention too. Use a combination of hung and leaning artwork or photos among accessories by simply layering art and objects from largest to smallest. Avoid lining your artwork along the wall in a stagnate line. Combine different sized pictures together to create interesting groupings. Mix It Up - Illustrations, paintings, photographs, abstracts, even textiles can all share the same space. Dust off your old sketchbook and see what little wonders you can find. Or frame a piece or two of your kids' art. Mixing in those personal touches will make it that much more special to you. The more varied, the more interesting!  Vary Your Frames - Although it is easier to create unity among a collection by using the same size, shape, and color frame and/or mat, varying the sizes, styles, colors & widths of each frame will give the appearance that the pieces have been collected over time. Let Color Tie It All Together - Since mixing media, frames, and styles of art can seem a bit tricky to pull off, adhering to a basic color scheme will help make the arrangement visually cohesive. Make A Statement - A single piece of art can strike the perfect balance between architecture and personal treasures. Rooms sporting large-scale art prove that bigger is often better. Again, take note of the space you're working in and the piece of furniture the art will accompany. This dramatic addition to your home will become the focal point of the room and one you will continue to enjoy in years to come. Where to Begin Where do you begin when creating arrangements? Begin with your focal wall first. A focal wall is the main focus of the room and where the furniture is most likely oriented toward. This may be a wall with a fireplace, so the best piece, the most attractive, or the most important piece should be hung on this wall if it works with the overall size requirements. This technique works whether or not you are simply selecting art from your current collection or purchasing art specifically for the room you’re working on. This is your starting point. If this wall contains a bookcase or large entertainment unit, simply move on to the next important wall and so on. Our eye is drawn to focal walls because they are typically located across from the entrance to the room. If a room is entered from an angle, we look across to the opposite corner. If a room is entered from the center, the eye is draw to the left and sweeps through the room from left to right. A focal wall may come into focus once furnishings are placed, so don’t rule out a wall until the bigger picture surfaces. Placing a Grouping To arrange artwork on a wall, build your composition on the floor first. This way you can play with the arrangement to make sure it will work before hammering a nail. You can use craft paper to make a template, transfer this to the wall, and then make all of the necessary nail markings, but you can use the chalk trick. Simply draw a chalk line around each piece, then stand back and make any changes by simply dusting off the chalk line and redraw it. Voila – instant art map! (Use colored chalk for light-colored walls and vice versa for dark.) When working with groupings, place pieces no more than a palm’s width apart. When in doubt, take a look at the mat or frame width and use that as your guide. Let the architecture be your guide. Follow the lines of a piece of furniture or the architecture of the room. There are clues everywhere… the profile of the furniture, the arch of a doorway, the natural shape of a wall. Just follow the lines to show you the way.Just like in the diagram above, the shape of a wall (or space) will determine where to place a piece of art. Although we are not always mimicking the exact line, we are using these lines – straight or diagonal – for placement clues. On a staircase wall, art should climb the stairs just like you do. Installation Tips Always use the correct picture hanger when hanging art. Ook and similar designed hangers are sold in different sizes to hold different weights. Always select the proper hardware if you’re handling the installation. When in doubt, choose something larger. Make sure to have a small bulls-eye level, chalk and/or pencils, and a hammer nearby before you begin. You can use other tools like the Mark ‘n Mount and a laser level for larger installations. If you’re working with one or two pieces, measure your space and the distance between pieces and mark accordingly. Remember to measure from the top of the frame to the picture hanging wire or hook itself so you know exactly where your hanger is going. If you prefer to use craft paper technique mentioned earlier, lay out your grouping on the floor and trace each piece onto craft paper. Once the shapes are cut, you can then affix them (with white toothpaste or architect’s tape) directly to the wall.


Kimberly Merritt is a writer, instructor, and stylist, whose words and work have been featured in New Hampshire Magazine, New England Home Magazine, HGTV,, and elsewhere on the web. But you can always find her writing about design, lifestyle, and life's little mishaps on her blog, Beautiful Living Style, which she launched in 2009. She teaches a variety of creative and business courses from her southern New Hampshire design studio. She is the creator of the Certified Decorating Professional ® programs and offers both certified and certificate courses as well as decorating workshops and classes.

Art credits: “Prudence” by Janet Hill, “Untitled 6” by Jessica Bruah, “Ballet Print” by Calla O’Malley, “Diamond in the Rough” by I Am Project, Suzani wall hanging, Travel sketches notecards, “Dancers” by Janet Hill, Vogue Covers – May 1945 and December 1967.


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