Butler County Times Gazette
  • Through the Front Door: The art of hanging art

  • I hang a good share of the artwork I’ve collected over the years—down to the floor!
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  • Good morning my dear readers!
    Recently, some wonderful friends popped over to take a peek at my “holiday fantasy.” I am a bit of a frustrated visual display person, so I do tend to go a bit overboard. Leaving the canopy of a chandelier undressed for the holidays is, as my daughter would say, “against my religion!” Yes, excess is very much a part of my holiday world. I will admit poor Bob is very tired of shuffling the dozen boxes or so that comes with the task.
    Despite my abundance of holiday décor, what my dear visiting friends noticed was my artwork. You see, I hang a good share of the artwork I’ve collected over the years—down to the floor! OK, work with me on this: I always have reasons for my theories. And today, I will share my ideas on hanging art.
    Select Art that Speaks to You
    First of all, I think virtually anything can be hung on a wall (well, almost). A gazillion years ago, I even hung ladderback chairs in a model home’s laundry room to hold folded items not yet put away! In general, though, I encourage people to purchase wall art that does something for their spirit. Art is very personal—and if you love it, it’s a great investment. I have art that has been with me since the 1970s—I loved those pieces then, and I love them now.
    It can take some time and research to identify your personal style. Fortunately, amazing avenues are available for exploring and purchasing art today. Check out HYPERLINK "http://www.art.com/"www.art.com for great ideas (and price points for everyone). If you’re looking for that perfect piece to place over the fireplace, take your time! One last tip: don’t be all matchy-matchy with your artwork. A sad observation of mine is that clients often purchase art because it matches, say, the hues in their rug. Please say no to that theory, and select only pieces you love and that speak to you.
    Complement—Don’t Overwhelm—with the Frame
    As I always say, don’t let the art be like the bride whose dress wears her rather than the bride wearing the dress. The frame is secondary to the art, so don’t overdress it. (If you want to overindulge on some framing, I suggest taking that approach with a mirror.) This same theory applies to matting: It needs to enhance the art, not overcome it. Be gentle and thoughtful with your matting. If you want to throw a particular color into focus, try using several mattes grouped together with just a whisper of an intense color as part of the framing. If that still seems too strong, try having a qualified framer hand-ink a line of color on the matting—so elegant.
    Page 2 of 3 - Place it with Care
    Before I talk about where to hang your art, let me say one last thing: Art is movable. In many cases, people purchase artwork for a particular area and, by golly, it stays there for decades! Please don’t let yourself to fall into that way of thinking. One of the best things you can do for yourself and your art is to move it about a bit. Fresh surroundings can give that print in your guestroom a fresh look—and who knows, it may become one of your favorite pieces. So travel that art around gorgeous!
    One more side note before we talk about hanging your masterpieces. Have a good reason for where you hang your art. (And no, a good reason is not the one shared with me by my daughter’s bright, articulate, well-educated friend: “The previous owner left a nail there.” Oh, please, don’t!) OK, are you ready for my tips?
    Eye level: A general rule of thumb is to hang a piece so its center is 55" to 60" off the finished floor. This puts the center of the art at about eye level for most adults. This, of course, can be adjusted depending on the height of the residents. (This formula is also appropriate for mirror placement. One day we will discuss the magic of mirrors…)
    Above furniture: If you’re hanging a piece of art over a sofa, bed or fireplace mantel, start with 6" to 8" above it and see what you think.
    Museum style groupings: Another classic formula for hanging art is museum style. To do this, line up the center point of all the pieces in a grouping. The frame tops and bottoms will be at different levels, but the center of the art is all on the same plane.
    Yes, I hang art to the floor, but there is a method to my madness! Today's new open floor plans come at the expense of "art walls," leaving you to find unexpected places to hang your art. In my case, that means taking advantage of the walls that are available. In addition when you take art to the floor, you can view it from a sitting position on the sofa or in a dining room chair. When millwork is lacking, this is also a very clever way to add some delicious weight to the room. So give my theory a try.
    Spacing in groupings: The space between pieces of art in a grouping should have some reasoning. I typically like to repeat a distance that relates to the pieces. For example, if the matte on all six pieces in a group is 2" wide, placing the artworks 2” apart gives a more unified and clean appearance. The space between the frames is referred to as negative spaces, and it is more important to the composition of the art than you might think. The negative space literally gives each piece some breathing room so you can see each piece independently. As you approach a well done wall grouping, it first appears as one unified piece. As you move closer, the space around each piece draws your eye in, making the space a wonderful part of the whole arrangement.
    Page 3 of 3 - Like men’s ties—wide, then narrow, now wide again—hanging art follows trends. Hang it low. No, move it up a bit. However, if you stick to a formula such as the distance off the finished floor, you can and should ignore the silly trends.
    Use the Right Tools for the Job
    As for the equipment, hang only very lightweight pieces with nails (otherwise, the nail can pull loose). For the rest of your artworks, use picture hooks. For artwork that has two hooks, lining up those D hooks can make us all crazy. Here is an Ethan Allen trick: Run blue painter’s tape along the back of the frame, the length of the two D rings. Now, place that blue tape on the wall where the art will be hung. Use a level to make sure you have the strip of tape straight, and then pound in your nails. If all went right, wham-bam you are done, you smarty pants you.
    I hope these guidelines will make hanging your art effortless—and prevent you from making 13 holes in the wall before finding the perfect spot for a painting over the sofa!
    I leave you with a terrific quote on art from Thomas Merton:
    “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
    I will be back for coffee next Saturday. Hey, let’s shake things up and make it hot chocolate!
     

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