Styling with wall art

When we’re putting a space together, we tend to make paint and furniture a priority, but it’s the finishing touches that can really transform a room. Whether that’s rugs, cushions, curtains, plants, knick-knacks, or wall decorations, they can bring the room together by echoing shapes and colors in the design of other pieces.

Today, we’re going to address wall art: how to pick it, where to place it, how to hang it, and how to light it in a way that’s going to feature it at its best.

Featured by Coveted.

What kind of artwork are we talking about?

The very first step is to define what we understand by “wall art”. You may think that it’s just the typical paintings, but that’s not at all true. Wall art can mean traditional paintings on canvas, but also photographs, posters, mirrors, and even wall clocks. If it serves a decorative purpose and it can be hung, it qualifies as wall art.

Picture frames – classic, traditional, straight-forward. What everyone thinks of when they think about “art”.

Photography – you can choose to frame photographs, place them in shadow boxes, or straight up tape them to the wall.

Canvases – a piece doesn’t necessarily need to be framed in order to be displayed. Hanging the bare canvas can be a very modern stylistic choice.

Posters – like photographs, posters can be framed or not – that’s up to you. A frame can highlight the poster quite nicely and give it a sleeker, more elegant feel and keeps it from making your space feel like a dorm room.

Prints – prints are all the rage amongst Millennials who want to have original pieces and support artists, but can’t quite afford pieces on canvas.

Mirrors – mirrors can be so beautiful and decorative. Nowadays they come in different sizes and different shapes and their frames can be quite ornate and elegant.

Wall clocks – yes, even wall clocks can count as wall art. Whether they’re small, massive, minimal, or with a busy design, a wall clock can complete a space or fit in seamlessly with other artwork.

Wall art by ClockCanvas.

Wall Art “How To”

Okay, so now that you know what, exactly, qualifies as wall art, you probably have a lot of other questions: what size do you go for? What about colors? What frames do you choose? How do you hang your art? How do you pick out your art, anyway? And does it need special lighting? We’ll be addressing all of those questions.

How to find the right piece for the space

Finding the perfect piece can be tricky, but there are some general guidelines you can follow in if your gut feeling is failing you. The Spruce introduced a helpful article on this.

  • Focus on the color

The color of the piece is extremely important – it will either complement the color palette in your space, contrast it, be a focal point in your space, or clash completely.

For example, if you decorate in a colorful manner, you may feel like adding in colorful art is overkill, so that’s when a strong black-and-white piece can fit perfectly.

  • Pick something appropriately themed

Another aspect you have to think about is the room you are choosing art for and how you’re using the space. Classic, traditional artwork is most appropriate for a space like the living room or hallway, while quirkier, fun, and possibly themed artwork is great in the kitchen or bathroom.

For example, funny sayings, drawings of food items, sketches of kitchen tools, etc. are popular kitchen décor and a lot of modern artists make and sell non-traditional prints like that nowadays. A calm landscape may work better in a serene room like the bedroom.

  • Choose something that speaks to you

Ultimately, all the art in your home needs to say something to you and to you only. Don’t choose something just because you feel like you should, or because everyone else does.

If classic art isn’t for you, there’s no use spending the money. Just turn to something that feels more authentically “you”, even if that’s a poster, or some beautiful mirrors.

Living room created around art. Concept by Roomzly.

How to pick the right size

The size of your artwork usually needs to be decided on in relation to your space and your furniture. However, from time to time, there is that one piece that you just have to have that becomes the focal point of the entire space, and in that case, it’s acceptable to hang the art first, and then work the furniture around it. Hayneedle listed some helpful tips for choosing the right size.

For typical cases, here are some guidelines addressing the right size:

  • Your art should cover 2/3 or 3/4 of the available wall space. Whether you choose to utilize that space for just one piece or multiple pieces is up to you.
  • If your piece is smaller, don’t hang it on its own, because that can leave the rest of the wall looking empty. Instead, try to hang several similar-sized pieces together, mixed with some larger and smaller ones, to create a gallery wall.

From time to time, there are exceptions where you can go as big as you can. For larger art pieces, the rest of the styling needs to remain rather simple.

Large wall art tips from Architectural Digest. (Photo: Kathryn MacDonald)

How to pick the right frame

Picking the right frame for a piece is an art in and of itself; pick the right one, and your painting will be beautifully highlighted. Pick the wrong one, and your art may be overshadowed or just not featured properly. Here’s what to keep in mind, when it comes to framing:

  • When choosing the material for the frame, don’t match it to the rest of your furniture; instead, draw shades from the art itself. That is going to highlight it beautifully and harmoniously.
  • Reflecting shades from the painting is another way to go. That way, the color of the frame is going to echo the painting and fit in perfectly, without being distracting.
  • Overly ornate frames can distract from the beauty or the subject of the art, so when in doubt, keep it simple.
Wall art inspiration from Printsy.

How to hang it properly

You might find that you aren’t sure of how to hang your pieces – how high, how many of them placed together, how much space between them, etc. Here are some tips:

  • The center of the painting should rest at around eye level.
  • If you are hanging a piece above a piece of furniture, whether it’s a bed, sofa, or console, the same measurements stand: it should be around 2/3 to ¾ the width of the furniture underneath it. As for height, the bottom should be 6 to 12 inches above the furniture.
  • If you have several pieces you want to hang on the same wall, avoid hanging them in a straight line, at the same height. That gives the space too much of a clinical, gallery-like vibe. Instead, try to create what is known as a gallery wall: several pieces hung in the same area, at different heights.

Architecural Digest listed more tips and ideas on how to hang art like a professional.

Wall prints by Donna Delaney Prints.

How to light it

But what about making sure that the art is highlighted properly? Unfortunately, a lot of regular lighting doesn’t allow artwork to truly shine, so specialized lighting may be necessary:

  • Accent lights – accent lights are great for highlighting an individual piece via single spotlights mounted in the ceiling.
  • Picture lights – classic picture lights are a good option especially when you’ve got large pieces of artwork. They can be mounted on the wall, close to the piece, or directly on the frame.
  • Trail lights – these are similar to accent lights, but offer more flexibility, as the spots can be taken out or moved, should you decide to move some pieces.
Featured by Coveted.

As you can see, artwork can really transform a space and make a house into a home. But it’s not all as straight-forward as it seems; there is an art to styling artwork, and there are many factors that come into play. From choosing the right piece to the size, the placement, and practical factors like frames, hanging, and lighting, you have to consider every aspect before putting up your wall art. If you would like interior decorating advise, please feel free to contact us.