From drilling to lighting; a guide to hanging art in your sitting room

In our house, we believe the first rule for choosing art should be “Buy what you love”, but of course everything we buy has to live somewhere!

A collage of two sitting rooms with emerald green walls: On the left hand side is an old leather sofa with an art photo of two doors hung above it. On the  right is a minimalist room with a painting by Louisa Currier called "Suzannah at sunset", showing a dark skinned woman bathing against a colourful sky. The images are from a blog post about how to hang art in your sitting room
Do you prefer to find the perfect spot for the art, or the perfect art for the spot?

The living room is a great place for art, since it’s where most of us sit with any guests that visit. Artworks that are conversation pieces, artworks that are old friends and artworks that reflect your personality can all come together in the sitting room and help create the ambience you’re after. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, since currently my living room (which will also be my kitchen diner and studio) is under construction, and with months of building work behind me I’ve had a long time to think about how I want to display the art once we are finally (finally!) in our new space.

Popular places for art in the living room are over the mantlepiece, over the sofa and in alcoves, but you can get creative and use artworks to provide a backdrop for a favourite chair or stack prints along your skirting. The most important thing is that the work is hung safely in a place where you can enjoy it!

Safety first 

Before you get your drill out, check there are no plumbing pipes or electrical wires running behind where you want to hang your painting.  Drilling near sockets and switches is an obvious no, but you need to think about how the wires might be running behind the walls too. Electric wires typically run vertically along the studs (the vertical beams which frame and support your home) so using a stud finder can help you identify where to avoid drilling.

A collage showing three different sitting rooms with art above the sofa to demonstrate the required distance to hang art and leave headroom. The first sitting room has deep blue walls, a pale floor and a blue suede sofa: 3 watercolours of sea corals in blues hang at varied heights on the wall behind the sofa. The second image shows a white sitting room with a deep blue, mid century style sofa; above the sofa is a large pink and teal painting and some small monochrome drawings in black frames. The third photo shows a cream sofa against a cream wall, on which are hung several simple, monochrome artworks of different sizes, hung at different heights. A plant stands to one side beneath a grey drawing of a flower. The pictures show how to hang art work in your sitting room.
Wall art hung above sofas and chairs needs to be 8-10 inches above the back of the seat

Locating pipes is a bit trickier; one rule of thumb is to avoid drilling into any walls that connect to your bathroom or kitchen. 

If you’re hanging work above the sofa, whether it’s a single large piece or a group of works, leave 8-10 inches headspace between the back of the sofa and the bottom of your art to avoid accidents. Those of us with kids might also want to use more than one picture hook, or opt for  mirror plates, so that a stray handstand against the wall doesn’t dislodge our favourite painting on top of our favourite child. 

Finally, don’t forget to look after yourself as well as the art! Framed works can be heavy, and broken glass is no joke.

Lighting tips

Most lounges have a few dark spots – alcoves, beside curtains and behind doors all tend to be a bit gloomy. Most of us have central pendant lights in our sitting rooms, which tend to light floors and surfaces more than walls – not ideal for showcasing your wall hung art. 

Lighting your art doesn’t have to be costly, moving table lamps to light pictures from below or angling floor lamps to brighten the wall space both work well.

A collage of images showing different ways to light art in the sitting room. From far left: A white and grey room is shown, with an art work standing on the floor propped against the wall with a standard lamp above it. Top centre: A simple mantlepiece display  in white on white, demonstrating how to light artworks with candles - the depicted artwork is by Louisa Currier . Bottom centre: a green wall is hung with gilt frames, lit from below by a table lamp with a feathered fringe. Top right: a simple print saying : you are loved" is lit with fairy lights. Bottom right: A white clapper board living room has a brass, industrial style cinema lamp pointed at an artwork on the wall.

Simple LED strips or fairy lights can be fixed inside the lower edge of frames or inside alcoves – choose warm light LED’s for a softer result. Even candles can be great for showcasing art, a mix of low tealights and high candlesticks works well, and flickering candlelight can draw attention to any sparkly or reflective elements in the work.

Harmonious proportions 

Blank wall space can be just as important as the pictures themselves, and artworks look best when they are placed with wall proportions in mind. When you hang a picture in the centre of your chimney breast for example, the picture creates a focal point that will really draw the eye. Choose a piece that’s too small and it can feel lost and unbalanced, swimming in a large space; choose a piece that’s too large and the space will feel crowded.

Ideally, you want a nice border of wall space around your artwork, pulling the eye to the centre of the piece. If you’re hanging multiple pieces for a “gallery wall” style look, try and keep an equal border of wall space around the frames to create a sense of balance. 

A simple, elegant modern interior with wide oak plank flooring and soft grey walls. On the wall is hung an original painting by Louisa Currier showing a  face picked out in gold leaf against a deep blue background. Below the painting is a yellow chair, a sleek brass lamp alongside.
A bold piece like my “Golden Moment” looks best with space to breath

Traditionally, framed wall art comes in two orientations – portrait and landscape. It can help to create a sense of harmony if the orientation of the wall art matches the proportions of the space, as below.

An infographic explaining the difference between portrait and landscape, and explaining how both suit different wall spaces. A lesson in proportion, the graphic shows two sofas, one with a wide aspect above it and one with a narrow, to demonstrate that a landscape orientation suits a broader space and a portrait orientation suits a narrower one, designed to answer the question "should I hang art work with a  landscape or portrait orientation in my space"
If you have a space in mind for some art work, consider whether it best suits a portrait or a landscape piece

No drill options

If you have crumbly walls that don’t hold fixtures well, or you aren’t convinced that drilling into your walls would be popular with your landlord, there are other options. Frames can be stacked on free standing shelves and sideboards, on the floor and even on chairs – wherever there’s a safe, stable surface. 

A collage of images showing different ways to display artworks without drilling into the walls - perfect for renters. Top left: a row of equally sized prints sit neatly on a dark wood shelf. Bottom right: A row of different sized abstract artworks sit on the floor, propped against the wall next to a chair. Above them, a wall hook holds a single blue hat. Right: A bench is stacked with artworks and plants, below it are yet more pictures displayed in a unique way, The bench is against a mustard yellow wall.
If you are renting or can’t drill your walls, there are other options for displaying artworks

Easels can add a bohemian air to your space, and if you’re a maximalist like me you’ll find you can often stack two or more paintings on a single easel for extra impact (and a scarf, and a pot plant, and …)

Using pegs or bulldog clips is a fun, modern way to display prints and drawings, and can be achieved without drilling using sticky fixers or command hooks that aren’t suitable for heavier works. You could even suspend a “washing line” between pieces of free standing furniture to peg art onto. If you’re giving this a go, you might want to use a protective sleeve over the art to keep it looking fresh. 

Art and magazines are arranged in a grid system on a white wall, each piece held by a brass bulldog clip t create a great display that can be put up with sticky fixers or command hooks. The ideal art display solution for people renting.
Bulldog clips, foldback clips and clothes pegs are easy to put up with command tape for a no-drill way to display wall art

Choosing and displaying artworks is a wonderful process, and one that can really give you the chance to express yourself. I hope these tips have been helpful, please think of them as guidelines not rules, and enjoy your art finding adventure.!

"Louisa Currier" artists logo written in golden orange

Published by Louisa Currier

Artist, gallery manager, content creator, dog lover, mum

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