I think next to color choices, accessorizing is the main thing that many people agonize over. Furniture arrangements often are dictated by the size and shape of the room as well as what you already own. Style choices are often instinctive – you find yourself drawn to a particular look over and over. That leaves the first and the last considerations as the most difficult – what colors to use and how to put the polish on the space.
DECORATE THE WALLS
There is more wall space than any other surface in a home, so what better place to begin the decorating process? A focal wall (usually the longest of the room) is the logical place to begin placing art or wall decor. Use your largest or boldest piece of art or create an interesting grouping of art. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, try a grid arrangement of smaller prints to create a focal point. Often a useful guide is to use other lines in the room created by architecture, an armoire, a window frame – and line up a frame edge with that line if it makes sense - it creates visual continuity.
Even though this next picture isn’t a rigid grid pattern, you can see the balance and smaller grids around the largest picture. That center picture alone would not have been big enough over the sofa so the added pictures fill out the space. It’s also a more casual treatment.
Perhaps the most important factor in hanging art is that it be the appropriate size for the wall and surroundings. Some specifics were discussed in an earlier post. A too large painting will dwarf a small chair or table and feel top heavy. Art that is small will get lost on a large expanse of wall. A good rule of thumb is that the art or art grouping should be about 3/4 the size of whatever is under it.
While hanging art in a corner can be an excellent idea to fill up a blank space, the 2 pieces in the above photo are much too small for the space – too small for the wall they’re on, too small for the chest they’re above and too small to pair with those oversize candlesticks.
As for how high to hang art? Most people hang it too high. If the art is in a walk through or standing space like an entry or hallway, you want it hung at eye level – that means the focal point of the art should be about 5 -5 1/2′ off the floor. If the art is going to be seen mostly from a seated position like a dining room or sofa, hang it lower for comfortable viewing from the seated position. You’ll be able to appreciate the art more readily and it will have more connection with the furniture it’s near.
BALANCE – SYMMETRICAL OR ASYMMETRICAL?
Symmetrical balance is when you divide a grouping in half and each side is identical. Symmetrical arrangements are calming and generally impart a sense of formality. Symmetry can also be achieved with visual balance – a little harder to describe. It’s when the opposing sides aren’t necessarily identical, but they are in perfect balance. This keeps the pleasing aspect of symmetry but with less formality.
The following picture shows a more casual, but equally symmetrical, style of display. From this month’s issue of Do It Yourself magazine, you can see that there are the same number of pictures on each side of center and of approximately the same visual weight. The grouping is grounded by the darkest picture at the bottom of the arrangement.
Creating a symmetrical arrangement, either on the wall or on a tabletop, clearly uses lots of pairs – lamps, plants, plates, etc. That’s what makes the pleasing balance. This tabletop has great texture, contrasting shapes and the focal point of the one single different item suddenly takes center stage.
On the other hand, asymmetry, as you might expect, is the opposite – an uneven arrangement of disparate pieces that are arranged in a more casual way. I happen to prefer asymmetrical arrangements – I find them more dynamic and interesting as well as more casual. The picture below is asymmetrical because the elements on each side of center are different in size and shape. The balance is slightly greater on the left because of the extra height and the bulk of 2 pieces versus the one smaller disk on the right. The arrangement is pleasing to me because the rectangular piece connects all the other elements and grounds the grouping. And I love that your eye travels from one side to the other, really taking in each unique piece and since the pieces are related in theme and era, it makes for a strong presentation.
Not many people would place a picture off to the side above a love seat as pictured below. However, it relates nicely to the lamp and table arrangement and the cluster of pillows and colorful throw on the sofa help visually balance the art a little. A bold asymmetrical design decision.
ALTERNATE DISPLAY OPTIONS
Sometimes you don’t have enough wall space to display everything you’d like to. Or, maybe you have the wall space but the pictures are too small. You don’t have to hide the artwork away in a closet. Use small to medium size pieces of art in bookscases to add color and interest to the shelves. A piece of art here and there (in addition to or instead of family photos) will make a dramatic difference in your bookcase staging.
Another option for displaying a grouping of smaller art is to use decorative shelving (available everywhere from your local home improvement store to online sources). This solutions works for just about any decor style: cottage or shabby chic -use white painted shelving with all white frames; contemporary -use black shelving with a collection of black and white photography; traditional -use cherry shelving with silver or gold frames….
Shelves like these from Pottery Barn are currently on sale or click on my affiliate link to Home Decorators Collection for more options.
ART ON A LONG WALL
Here I’ve created a series of photos showing how an art display might evolve to fill a long wall. Keeping balance and proportion in mind, note how each art addition fits with adjoining pieces of furniture to ultimately create a well balanced wall arrangement.
Each stage of the art evolution looked appropriate and good which proves that you can allow your art collection to evolve and gradually fill in those large wall spaces. Hopefully these tips and photos will help you organize your wall decor and create wall arrangments that show your art to it’s best advantage. There are other factors to consider that I’ll cover in a later post – things like frame choice, working with pattern, developing a rhythm, etc.
This article is the first of a series of 4 that will cover the main factors of accessorizing. Next up will be working with collections and personal memorabilia and how to create memorable vignettes. Third in the series will cover working with flowers and plants and last in the series will be about using color and lighting in your accessorizing.