How to hang lots of art while making few holes in wall?
April 12, 2005 12:18 AM   Subscribe

I have a large (15ftx12ft) wall in my living room that I've kept bare far too long because I'm intimidated by its size and I want whatever goes up to be worthy of the space. My favorite pet solution is to create a modular "art grid" — rows and columns of open slots that would allow multiple pieces to come and go as my mood and preference changes. The smaller the grid squares, the more flexible and accommodating my grid would be. But how to do this without scarring my wall with a hundred nail holes?

I have ceiling molding and baseboards. Is there a solution in which I could attach wires from ceiling to floor so there is a row of columns on which I can attach art? My dream is that there is some fantastic product or technique used by art museums that will magically solve my problem.

I may be completely overcomplicating this project as I clearly have very little experience in hanging art. I just want to avoid causing too much damage to my rental. Thanks for your help. I'm open to any ideas, no matter how wacky.
posted by Typographica to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would think the cieling molding is a good place to start. If it is anything like the molding I've seen, you can get metal hooks that hang over the molding (usually used for hanging pictures). They stay in place really well and are sturdy - you can find them at the hardware store or frame shop. I think this is them.

Then hang wires or maybe something more aesthetically pleasing (some nice ribbon?) from the hooks to make columns as you suggested.

Then to attach the pictures I think you might have to experiment to see what is strong enough, etc. Some ideas: big black binder clips, clothespins, tape. . .

Now I'm getting inspired.
posted by mai at 12:59 AM on April 12, 2005

Oh I forgot to mention that it will probably look nicer and fall down less if you do something to secure the bottom of the wires as well.
posted by mai at 1:01 AM on April 12, 2005

can you get a large piece of pegboard, paint it a color to match the wall, and attach that to the wall? Or cover the pegboard with a textured paper or piece of fabric. Each time you want to change the position of the items, you could change the paper (that way the holes won't show.)

Then the pictures can be hung on that.

You could even trim out the edges of the peg board with wood moulding.

There is also a material called "slatwall" which can be used to hang things, but I haven't used this material personally.

I'm sure there are other solutions that artists use to hang material for small art festivals and such. Worth checking into.
posted by jeanmari at 5:04 AM on April 12, 2005

Repeating what has been said, I've been in several homes where the art work hangs from wires. In the cases I've seen though, the rooms had a chair rail type moulding installed several inches below the ceiling (and the crown moulding if it existed) which the picture hung from.
posted by smcniven at 5:35 AM on April 12, 2005

Probably not the angle you're coming from, but paint the wall a matte white and then get a good quality projector hooked up to a computer with some sort of slide-show functionality (ie ACDSee or WinXP's image viewer) .

Good for movies too that way.
posted by crocos at 6:27 AM on April 12, 2005

Either that or a "false" wall of perforated board anchored at the ceiling and floor - just push pegs through the holes to hang the artwork
posted by crocos at 6:28 AM on April 12, 2005

You also might want to think about narrow shelves with a lip at different heights running along the wall (painted the same color as the wall?). You can remove the ones covered up or not being used, and just prop the art up on them instead of creating new nailholes each time.
posted by amberglow at 6:29 AM on April 12, 2005

interesting idea. when you say smaller squares are more flexible, i guess the idea is that one piece could occupy several squares (like a 2x3 area)?

the practical aspects depend a lot on the construction of your house. if i were working in my place, i would probably go with wires, but fasten them to something screwed into the wall rather than ceiling/floor, so that i can tension them (the wall being brick, and the ceiling being plaster). you can buy tensioners and wire easily enough. with say a dozen vertical, taut wires, all you need is a way to fasten art to wires - almost anything would do, but you might worry about putting kinks in the wire that look bad later when that section is visible again. so i'd probably make clamps from two pieces of wood and a couple of screws that hold the wire without bending it, and which can take a hook that holds the art itself.

however, this will only work for flat art. what if you want to display pottery, for example? and do you really have so much art that this makes sense? in all honesty, i'd just wait until i find a good large painting i like. it might be a year or two, but that gives you time to save. :o)
posted by andrew cooke at 7:14 AM on April 12, 2005

Usually one doesn't hang pictures from the crown moulding, but you could install hanger moulding, which (as the name suggests) exists explicitly for the purpose of hanging art from wires. It's usually 12"-24" below the ceiling, and has a lip that's specifically designed to catch the hooks of those hangars. This used to be more common than it is now--I don't know why it's gone out of fashion.

I've also seen a modern bracket system that's similar in spirit. Rather than hangar moulding, it uses a flat aluminum strip, and rather than wires, it uses aluminum rods with clips on them. Sort of like an Elfa system, but not. Hmm, now that I think of it, you could use Elfa for the same thing.
posted by adamrice at 7:30 AM on April 12, 2005

My wife and I had a 20' x 9' blank, sheetrock wall. We filled it with a band (roughly 4' high and irregular edges) of photos right across the wall. The photos were all mounted in old picture frames purchased for $1 each from thrift stores. Every size, shape and color imaginable. These frames were then filled with photos of family and friends - snapshots, really - and the grotty frames were touched up with acrylic artist's colors. The photos, none larger than 8" x 10", were hung on small finishing nails driven right into the sheetrock. The frames had less than 1" between them, so that they formed a sort of mosaic array. Part of the charm of this wall was its informality.

When came time to vacate, all the nails were easily pulled by hand, and the holes filled with a color matched patching compound. The job took less than 1 hour and was quite satisfactory.

Visitors invariably gravitated to this wall and spent time perusing this vast "album". It always drew praise and was a constant source of interesting discussions. I'm sure that if we had hung an original Rembrandt it would not have produced nearly as much pleasure for us or for our guests.
posted by RMALCOLM at 7:37 AM on April 12, 2005

If you like a vaguely techno-industrial look, you could get some wire mesh/fencing, paint it the wall color and mount it on the wall to hang things from.
posted by theora55 at 9:01 AM on April 12, 2005

I'd just go ahead and bang Ook picture hangers right into the wall. Landlords normally paint the apartment between tenants anyway, so all you'll have to do is spackle and sand the holes you make. (If you put a little masking tape over the spot before hammering the nail in, the plaster won't chip out and all you'll be hiding is the tiny nail hole; you won't have to sand at all, just thumb some spackle into the hole and sponge off the extra.)
posted by nicwolff at 9:52 AM on April 12, 2005

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