There is no doubt, that rules are meant for breaking, and there are exceptions to every rule, but I’ve been reading a lot of interior design guidelines about hanging your artwork lately, and I thought I would start to share a few of these tips with you.

Firstly, when it comes to art, size matters!

I am only 5’3″, so I’m typically one of the first to declare that “Good things come in small packages!”

Not so much with art. This is one field where I tend to agree that “bigger is [often] better,” within reason… Have you ever stood close to a large painting and felt as if the picture was closing in on you? Or bought what you thought was a large picture, only to take it home and find that it is lost in the space you wanted to hang it?

So, if size matters so much, how can you gauge what’s “just right” for your space?

You won’t go far wrong if you bear in mind the following two, tried and trusted, interior design guidelines.

  1. The “diagonal distance” guideline
  2. The “two thirds dimension” guideline

Diagonal Distance

The diagonal measurement of a picture should be approximately equal to the distance from which the picture is intended to be viewed.

This guideline helps you to give the viewer the most comfortable viewing experience. Diagonal distance is a pretty reliable rule, as it links nicely with the natural human visual field. How do you determine where the viewer will stand? Well, if the painting is above a sofa your viewer will be standing at least 3 or 4 feet away; on the other hand, if you want to decorate the walls of a narrow hallway with photographs of your recent trip to the Himalayas, the viewer may only be standing at a distance of 2 feet from your display.

Two Thirds Dimension

One dimension of the frame should be approximately two thirds of the wall space on which it is displayed.

This guideline is subordinate to the diagonal distance guideline: if you have a long expanse of wall in a narrow room, you might consider hanging multiple pictures, each of which takes the optimal diagonal distance into consideration, separated by a distance of 4 – 5 inches to fill your “frame” on the wall.

You don’t need to cover two thirds of the entire wall – in fact other guidelines suggest a total coverage of 50% – just go with two thirds of either the width or the height. And don’t forget that we are talking of the frame here (the diagonal distance guideline refers to the actual artwork). A 30 x 40 inch print, matted and framed in a 36 x 48 inch frame, has a diagonal distance of 50 inches, even though the frame has a diagonal measurement of 60 inches. The frame (at 4 feet in length) would fit nicely on a 6 foot wall. The same art presented as a 30 x 40 inch gallery wrapped canvas might look a bit small on a wall wider than 5 feet.

Obviously you shouldn’t be selecting art just based on the size of the frame! But I hope that these pointers may help you when deciding where to hang your new purchase so that you will fully appreciate it.

More tips to follow!

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