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Tips For Arranging Pictures At Home and In Public
Arranging pictures at home is very different from putting together displays in public places. It's sometimes a fine line between arranging art on walls at home thoughtfully, and creating something that's just a bit too considered. You know, where it's not really your space anymore.
It's always important to think about things like lighting, height, surrounding colours and objects, the mood of the room and so on, when you're displaying pictures at home. But homes grow to reflect our own idiosyncracies, and little quirks and imperfections are always good!
On the other hand, work environments, restaurants, cafes and galleries often tend to suit very clean and controlled displays. The 58" height rule is a good one to bear in mind, and uniform mounting and framing styles tend to be preferable.
Below are some more thoughts on arranging pictures at home or in public. Meanwhile, I can recommend the book At Home With Pictures as a really cool resource, packed with ideas.
How to Display Photos in Public Spaces
A popular and effective approach for decorating offices is to place a single, often large, canvas or framed print on a wall. Leaving plenty of clean, empty space on the surrounding wall strengthens the impact of the picture itself and complements an organised, professional environment.
In fact, hanging photos in this style works well in many public environments, not just offices. Restaurants and cafes often seem designed as art galleries with food! I think they look great when decorated with photographs, cleanly and sparsely arranged at equal distance from each other - or with one huge one dominating a wall. The same uncluttered style suits shops, hotels and bars alike. It doesn't have to look corporate and cold, just not quite as informal as things might be at home.
These magazines are perfect ways to get some creative inspiration going!
Arranging Pictures at Home
So how about at home? Well, some rooms do actually suit pared back minimalist arrangements, as described above.
But usually we want pictures to complement a more relaxed, lived-in sort of place. Experiment with different grouping styles with images that go well together (tips on hanging a group of pictures).
Larger pictures tend look better in larger spaces and vice versa. Something I often do when arranging pictures is to place a collection of small framed images somewhere in a really small room - it looks great and makes it seem less of a cupboard!
Occassionally, though, when decorating small spaces, a large picture can work as an effective focal point. Also, bear in mind that relating the dimensions of a photo to the dimensions of the wall can be a good idea.
For example, vertical, portrait style pictures work well on narrow sections of wall and panoramic images look amazing on thin horizontal areas (often found at the division between rooms or in little nooks and corners like above bookshelves).
Similarly, think about the relation between your pictures and the objects in the room. If you are hanging something over a chair or sofa when decorating living rooms, for instance, it doesn't look great on the whole to choose a picture that is larger than the object beneath it. The most balanced appearance comes when an image is about 2/3 the length of the furniture.
Style of mounting and framing
The clean and bold appearance of pictures mounted to stretched canvases often suits those simple, minimalist arrangements in public spaces or sparsely furnished rooms. Equally, a plain black frame with large white matte - especially when displaying black and white photos - looks really strong in these kinds of places.
When arranging pictures in groups the idea, of course, is to create a pleasing overall display that is tightly bound together by a visual theme. Be sure to select frames and mattes that both complement the individual images and are similar or identical in colour, style and texture.
Perhaps you have a collection of six little photos all featuring the sea and so containing lots of blue. A blue frame, or possibly matte (though generally a neutral matte colour looks better), would bind them all into a pleasing coherent display.
Personally, I think hanging a group of pictures always looks best when the images are very clearly connected and the framing styles are pretty simple; neutral mattes with thin uncomplicated frames of a colour that suits the room.
Having said that, walls covered with a jumble of unconnected pictures, framed with a totally random mix of colours and styles can actually look really great in the right place!
Canvases are less self-contained than framed prints. It's quite easy to link them together in a group but tricky to know where to put them.
The lack of a frame or border does place more importance on the surrounding wall and room to almost act as a big complementary frame - or on the canvas to act as a decorative extension of the room. So keeping canvases consistent with your decorating color schemes is a good idea.
So when you're displaying canvases it's important to think about the colours and styles of the room. For example, I've just put a row of three photographs of deep blue water, mounted to canvases, on a blue wall at home. They blend in really well and look quite cool.
Hanging Photos at the Right Height
The simple rule of thumb when hanging photos is to position them just below eye level - generally a fair idea.
'Just below eye level', though, is a bit misleading - is it from a seated or standing perspective? Well, it depends on the light and from where in a room the subject of a picture seems to suit being viewed from.
For example, when decorating kitchens, food related images might feel more part of what the room is about when displayed at the eye level of people seated around the table.
Larger groups of pictures can look fantastic stretching from pretty low down up towards the ceiling, especially on a narrow strip of wall.
Groups of pictures on stairways are usually staggered to remain just below eye level relative to your position on the stairs.
When arranging pictures in clean, gallery style layouts, measure 58 inches from the ground and take that as the centre point for the position of your picture.
These guys have done a really great job for me a few times. Quick, easy and high quality!