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Keys to Successfully Hanging Art on the Wall #1 in the Series

I get a lot of requests for help hanging art on the wall. It seems to be challenging to get it right; where it should go, how it should relate to the rest of your room, how high it should be, and how to actually do the hanging.

We’re going to start here with hanging ONE picture on the wall.  In this post we’ll cover all the why’s of hanging art, so we can focus on the ‘art’ of arranging it in later ones.  Then we’ll move on to a row or column of art pieces; and then to groupings.  Finally, I’ll show you lots of unconventional options for displaying your art including some guidelines for making that work.


Let’s say you just found a piece of art your really love; and you want to hang it up right away.  You have a wall in mind, but you’re not sure if it will be right in that spot.

Here are some things you will want to consider:

  • What colors are in the art?  Do they coordinate with the colors in the room?
  • Will this be a focal point, or is there something else in the room that draws most of the attention?  If so, will this art support that other object or compete with it?
  • What else will be around it?  Lamps, draperies, cabinets or furniture that stand away from the wall?
  • How big is the wall upon which you want to hang it? Does the art fit the wall?


The most important thing to remember about good design is that everything, EVERYTHING, is related.  Nothing exists in isolation.  You might find something you love in a store only to bring it home and discover it is all wrong in your space. (TIP: take photos of your rooms with you when you go shopping to help minimize this.) So, let’s go through the list above one at a time to make sure you’re choosing the right place to hang your beloved art.


Does the color in your art reflect or coordinate with what you already have?  It doesn’t have to match, but it should relate.  There should be a color in it that is carried through in some way to other objects in the room.

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In this image, the grays of the rocks relate to the gray sofas. The overall impression of the colors in the art enhances the color scheme of the space.


A focal point is the one thing to which your eye is most powerfully drawn in a space.    Here are two examples in which the art is the focal point.  Which one feels better to you?

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My eye is so drawn to the image on the left that I would have a hard time giving my full attention to the people in the room.  The one on the right is better proportioned for the space and for human interaction and comfort.  These are examples of scale, another aspect of how how things relate to each other in a space.

Here’s an example in which the art isn’t the focal point of this room during the day.  At night it would be.   Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 1.17.28 PM

What catches your attention in this space first?  That’s the focal point. For me, it’s the windows. During the day, my eye would be drawn to the view through them. At night, my eye would go to the well-lit painting.


As noted, nothing exists in isolation.  Often you have other things on the same visual plane with the art you’re wanting to hang.  This is not a bad thing, and is the norm in most styles of living. (Urban and Minimalist styles are the typical exception.)

In this image, there is a lot to look at; lamps, pillows on the sofa, accessories on the table.  The art here coordinates with the color, scale and placement of all the other objects.  Your eye is drawn to it as the focal point but there are other things of interest to look at as well.

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Does it feel good to you?  Are the other objects distracting or do they support the art and vise versa? (Hint: there is one object that feels out of place. Can you identify it? What makes you choose this object?)


Now to the crux of the matter.  Does your art fit the wall upon which you want to hang it?  Is it too big, too small or just right?  The next step is to determine the relationship of the size of your image to the space it will occupy.  It should fill between 1/3 – 5/8 of the space.  Anything smaller than that feels lonely.  Larger feels crowded if not given room to ‘breathe’.  The more dramatic the art the more true this is.  More subtle art can be bigger and not feel overwhelming.

Here are some images that will help you SEE what I’m talking about:

This oneis deceiving, but expresses scale well.  The picture is hung at about the right height, but looks too high due to the extremely low sofa and the change in wall color above. It’s more of an eyesore than an effective focal point.  It also makes the art look too small on the wall.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 1.08.13 PMWould you feel comfortable in this space? Does it feel balanced and pleasing?

Here the image is clearly too small for the space and appears lost, having no relationship with anything around it.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.09.56 PMHow would you change this (assuming it’s the art you’re in love with) to make the picture fit better in the space?

This image shows art that is too big; and in which the subject matter exacerbates the problem.  The larger-than-life human reference overpowers the room.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 1.13.15 PMDo you agree, or do you feel that the power of the image sets the tone for the room?

Here, the picture, although small for the wall upon which it is hanging, demonstrates good scale between the lamps that flank it.  it would be better if the lamp shades were more interesting; a unique shape, something painted on them, some way to draw your eye other than just their whiteness and linearity.Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.06.45 PM

What would you to to improve this space?  It’s a great start but falls short of great design.

Ok, so now let’s assume you’ve figured out the best location for your art.  Next , I’ll help you determine where on the designated wall to hang it.


  • Draperies
  • Moldings
  • Cabinetry
  • Furniture
  • Light Fixtures
  • Centered or not?

First – measure the width of only the blank wall.  Do not include anything that your eye will not see, or that is interrupted by an object like lamps or moldings (or even a change of plane or color).

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Measure here from drapery edge to drapery edge,not window to window.

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Measure here between the drapes and the corner.

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This example shows what happens when the draperies are not factored in. Do you see how the painting looks crowded into the corner?

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 2.39.56 PMMeasure here from the outside edge of one  molding to the outside edge of the other to get the space between them. Notice how the window molding is wider than the door molding.  If you measure frame to frame, the picture would end up off-center just a little bit, which would be very disturbing in such a small space.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 1.14.47 PMThis one’s pretty obvious.  Measure the plane/color upon which the art will hang.

Sometimes there are cabinets, bookcases, corners, etc. that surround or are adjacent to the space upon which you want to hang your art. Similar measuring rules apply, but may need a little extra clarification.

Hanging a piece of art in a  corner like this is tricky because one rarely sees it straight on.  In this case, because it’s over the sink, it’s appropriate to hang it on center, so measure from the wall to the cabinet to find that point.

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In this image, there is a deeper cabinet to the right, and upper cabinets to the left, and the viewpoint changes as one moves through the room, so locating it’s best spot is challenging.  Measure from the upper cabinet to the larger one and find center.  Try it out with help while you move through the space and center it where you’ll see it most of the time.  Also, keep in mind balance.

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Here is a great example of a challenge we sometimes come up against, but is rarely considered.  There’s a door that opens against the wall upon which this art is hung, and a cabinet to the right.  Consider whether the art is viewed when the door is open or closed (as in a bathroom). Here,  as the door is mostly open, measure from the end of the open door to the cabinet and center it there.

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In the case of the bathroom, it might be viewed mostly when the door is closed, so it would not be a factor.


Do you want to hang your art as part of a grouping of other objects in which it won’t be hung in the center?  If so, you need to find balance in the space between what is next to it and the opposite end of an object that is ‘grounding’  the composition you’re creating; a table or a sofa or a carpet.

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In this image, the balancing object is the lamp on the right; and the grounding object is the table.   Find the center between the visually heaviest aspect of the balancing object (in this case the lamp base) on the side and the end of the grounding object. You may need to make adjustments for visual balance, so be willing to experiment a bit until it feels right. Creating vignettes is more of an art than an engineering project.

Anything that is asymmetric is always a balancing act.  Vignettes that are asymmetric are more interesting and graceful than perfectly symmetrical ones.  I’ll be covering this in greater detial in an upcoming class on arranging accessories and creating vignettes.


Most of the time, your art should be placed so the most important aspect of it, the focal point within it, is at eye level.  For most people this is approximately 5′ off the floor.  If you are very short of very tall, there is a danger of hanging the art too high or too low in relation to the rest of the room.  Use the 5′ measurement unless there is a compelling reason to raise or lower it.

One reason to raise it might be that there is a molding, a fireplace or paneling below, or picture rail above, that makes the 5′ placement feel awkward, or simply not fit at that height, as shown in the two images below.                                                                                                                                   Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 1.07.25 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-15 at 6.36.42 PM






A reason to hang art lower than the 5′ normal height is for the purpose of incorporating it in a vignette, as shown in the off-center image above, or if you’re hanging art in a child’s room (another subject for another blog.)


Here’s the skinny on how to actually hang that art, now that you know exactly where it should be hung.

Step 1.  Once you’ve identified the center of the space, or the location you want to be the center of the image (if off-center on the wall), place the art against the wall at the height you’ve determined will be best and draw a light pencil line on the wall at the top of the art at about the center.  If you can get help with this, your helper can hold the art on the wall while you smile and point and tell them to move it up  or down until you’re satisfied that it’s right.

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Step 2.  Mark the center point of the  wall, ( or the center of the art if hanging off-center) with a light vertical pencil line.  You can hold a small level vertically and draw the line down a few inches from the horizontal line marking the top of the art.

Step 3.  If the art is light weight and only needs one hook, hang the wire on the end tab of a tape measure (resting it lightly on the instep of your foot for support) and measure from where it’s hanging to the top of the art piece.  Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 7.47.30 PMStep 4. Measure down that distance from the horizontal line along the vertical line you drew on the wall, and make an X..  This marks the BOTTOM of the hook that you’ll use to hang it .

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Step 5. Hold the hook firmly agains the wall and slide the nail into the angled slot.  Tap gently on the nail so it makes a depression in the wall.  Keeping a firm hold, tap again to get the nail engaged in the wall and then hammer it in, making sure the hook doesn’t slide down as you’re hammering.


Step 1. Divide the width of the art by 3 and mark these lightly on the back paper about 1″ above the relaxed wire.

Example:  The width of the art is 24″.  24″/3=8″.  Mark two points on the back of the art paper, one at 8″ and one at 16″ from one side.

Step 2.  Divide the distance between the hooks by 2.  Measure that distance in each direction from center to find the location of the two hooks.

Example :8″/2=4″.  On the wall, mark one point 4″ to the right of center and one 4″ to the left of center.

Step 3.  Hold the wire at the two points with a ruler in one hand, pick it up slightly off the floor, resting it lightly on the instep of your foot for support, and check the dimension between one of the hanging points of the wire and the top edge of the art.

Tip: Measure twice to make sure you’re done it right!

Follow Steps 4 and 5 above, only instead of 1 center point, you’ll make an X at the 2 points you made on the wall.

Hang your art and level it using your level along the top edge and checking the little bubble to make sure it’s centered in the window.

So, there you have it.  Getting this right might seem daunting at first, but after you do a few of these you’ll get the hang of it (pun intended) and it will go more quickly and come more naturally.


If you need more support with anything I’ve addressed within this post, please ask in the comments below!  There are so many different situations that you might encounter that I haven’t covered here.  Others might be helped by whatever clarification I can add before we move on to the next level of hanging two pictures along a horizontal or vertical line.

The Light of your Life

I’m going to start right out by warning you there’s a little bit of physics and biology coming your way.  Theoretical physics, no less.  But don’t run away too fast, because I’ll present it as quickly and simply as I can and then get to the heart of the matter.

Everything is energy.  Light is energy that radiates from the sun – a small band of electromagnetic frequencies among all that exist in the universe.  Everything you think of as solid is also energy, vibrating at frequencies that are aligned with those of the light we can perceive (and probably more). Within what we understand to be solid, below the molecular level, the atomic level, and the subatomic particles we are aware of, there is energy.  Every solid object on this planet (and everywhere else.)  is made up of 99.999999999% space.  I know that’s hard to wrap your mind around, but go with me on this for a bit and you’ll learn something interesting and valuable.

Assuming this is correct, and that space is filled with energy, that means we are all 99.999999999% energy.  AND, the energy that is the foundation of our physical  bodies  vibrates at frequencies in resonance with the frequencies of light – and therefore color.  You know that color is light, separated into even smaller bands of frequencies. The  different areas of our bodies resonate with the more specific frequencies of light that we perceive as different colors .

Ok. Physics and Biology classes are over.  The purpose of sharing all of this with you is to let you know that you are LIGHT. And being light, you thrive in light.  Natural light.  From the sun.  Does this make sense so far?

Assuming you’re still reading this, let’s explore what that means in terms of your home and how that relationship might be affecting your life.

1.  How much natural light do you experience in your home?  Do you close your blinds or curtains during the day to shut out the light, or open them wide to let it in?  Melatonin, a hormone produced in the pineal gland, regulates sleep patterns and may be deficient in your body if you aren’t allowing adequate sunlight into your home.  Opening drapes or blinds to natural light can help you sleep better! If you must close them for privacy, look into a selection that blocks the view into your home but allows light to enter, like multiple layers of sheers, or plantation shutters or venetian blinds with blades you can adjust.  Any blinds or shades that you can drop down from the top can help.

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How much time to you spend outdoors?

Do you know that your body produces Vitamin D  in direct proportion to your exposure to natural, unfiltered sunlight?  Studies have shown that you need at least 10-30 minutes  of exposure daily (depending on age, skin color and medications within your body) to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D. That’s outdoor sun. Indoors and in winter it’s harder to get the sunlight you need, but open windows in spring and summer help.

See this link for more details.

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2.  What form of artificial light do you have in your home? Is it incandescent, fluorescent or LED?

Although NO artificial light can take the place of sunlight in supporting your health and well-being; and as life has come to include many hours indoors and civilization is no longer in sync with the rhythms of light in Nature, it is incumbent upon everyone to find that artificial light which best supports their lives and their health.

There are many reasons why incandescent light is really better for you than any other kind we have developed so far.  The primary reason being that the light emitted from it is a smooth curve across the entire spectrum, with more light in the red-yellow range, reflecting the biology of human light perception and our ability to perceive red and orange most strongly and in greater detail.

In an attempt to replicate the average ‘temperature’ of incandescent light, meaning its color, the light of fluorescent bulbs contains dramatic spikes and troughs, so the actual full-spectrum range is much weaker except in the desired colors.  This leads to dimmer overall light  that is  quite unhealthy. Since every part of your body needs light of a certain color to thrive, fluorescent bulbs (including CFLs)  do not support optimum health for a large portion of your body.

LED bulbs also have uneven color irradiance, with a strong emphasis on the yellow range as a way to create ‘warm light’, but  the overall spectrum more closely resembles the curve of incandescent light. LED’s can now also be found in midrange color temperature (3000K), which is more even across the spectrum.

Here’s a graph published in Popular Mechanics in an article entitled, “The Ultimate Light BulbTest: Incandescent vs. LED, vs. Compact Fluorescent.” 

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Here you can see the strength of the irradiance of sunlight relative to the most commonly used forms of artificial light for homes.  It also shows the weakness of CFL light in all but the areas it is intended to render.  The parts of your body needing these colors to thrive are left with virtually no support. (A whole other subject, but generally affecting upper respiratory, liver, gut, kidneys, reproductive organs and elimination).  Fluorescent light is also not a healthy choice due to its subliminal strobe effect.  Even though the on-off factor of fluorescent lighting has been sped up considerably by the use of electronic ballasts, the strobe effect remains.  You can’t see it anymore, but it’s happening and can cause eye fatigue, trigger migraine headaches, and exacerbate ADD and ADHD as well as emotional challenges for children suffering from stimulus hypersensitivity.

Another reason incandescent light is better for you than the other currently available options is that it most closely reflects the colors of firelight.  The human body has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to respond mentally, physically and emotionally to color.  The red to yellow range provides signals about warnings and warmth, among other things.

Our eyes can perceive red and orange from the furthest distance and most clearly. They trigger distinct and specific responses in our motor neurons, informing us to get away, or come closer (depending on scale and control of course).

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The frequencies of light across the spectrum resonate with the frequencies of energy that are always running in the background of your physical body. Be sure that you have adequate and healthy light in your home.  And make time to get outdoors, take off your glasses and sunglasses and fill your eyes with the Sun’s healing light.  (Just not too much.)







Welcome to Inspired Living by Design

it’s great to see you here.  Inspired Living by Design is an offshoot of my Interior Design practice, Carolyn Anderson Design, where I can share the font of knowledge I have acquired over many years of practice.  Here you will find many ideas, thoughts, insights, tips and tools that will help you create the home of your dreams. You’ll learn what the Pros do that makes those amazing photos on Pinterest or Houzz so great.  There will be announcements of online classes I’m offering, that will give you more detail than a blog can, on subjects I’ve taught in the past or that you ask for in your comments.

A little bit about my background:

I have been practicing interior design since 1991, and started my own studio in 1995. My first independent experience involved updating the interiors of some of San Francisco’s Grand Dame hotels.  My passion at that time was historic interior design; and I spent a number of years focusing on that before concentrating exclusively on residential design for houses of any age.   Since the beginning of my career, I have created the interiors of homes across the US and in Canada, working with people representing a wide variety of styles and income levels.  What I have learned along with way is what I want to share with you; and is the reason I launched Inspired Living by Design.

So WELCOME! Enjoy the blogs to come, and as time goes by, the archived blogs.  You will learn a lot. I look forward to your feedback and your thoughts on the subjects I cover here.  Lets build a community of people passionate about Inspired Living by Design!