Hangups with Hang-ups
October 18, 2012 10:59 AM   Subscribe

What's the proper way to accommodate a chair rail (dado rail) when hanging items on the wall?

I have a framed map and several smaller mirrors that I'd like to hang in my living room. However, there's an oak chair rail/dado rail/strip of moulding midway up all four walls.

To my eye, the proper place to hang these objects is to center them between the ceiling and the chair rail. When I do this, though, they're almost comically high. I'm 6'4", yet when hung this way, I can barely see my reflection's forehead in the mirrors or read the text at the top of the map. I can imagine this stuff way up high on the walls might have an unsettling effect for guests of typical height, but if I try to hang them any lower, this sense of wrongness pervades - the margin between the hangings and the chair rail becomes too narrow compared to the margin above the hangings.

I suppose what I really want is a rule of thumb I could use to confirm that my super-high hangings are the best I can do, or convince me that it's totally unacceptable to have these things hung way up there. But a passel of related questions also come to mind:

Am I overthinking this? Is there some option I'm missing? Have any of you had any experiences with being discomfited by clumsily hung artifacts? Have you ever had a similar situation with an object you loved but had no room to hang where you wanted, and if so, what compromise did you decide? Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
posted by blue t-shirt to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
One standard is to hang your pictures with the center at 57" from the floor, which is "gallery height" or average eye-level.
posted by illenion at 11:09 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: artwork should be hung at eye level. if it does not look right due to the placement of the chair rail, then you need to find a better spot for your map. sometimes i do hang artwork higher but only if the overall affect does not bother me visually.

as for the small mirrors, i would cluster them so that they center at eye level above the chair rail.
posted by violetk at 11:11 AM on October 18, 2012

Best answer: 57in / 145cm on horizontal centre is the general rule of thumb for "gallery height".

If something doesn't work proportionally with the dado rail, then sometimes you can rebalance it vertically with other hung objects, or horizontally with moulding or a picture rail or a paint/wallpaper border to "bring down" the ceiling line. If that's not possible, you need to put them elsewhere.
posted by holgate at 11:12 AM on October 18, 2012

(But if something's mounted at a good eye level, the position of the rail shouldn't matter so much, because the eye will be drawn to the hanging object and not the spacing.)
posted by holgate at 11:14 AM on October 18, 2012

Best answer: I ran into this issue in my house. I normally follow the 57" on center rule, but that doesn't work with larger pieces because it ends up hanging across the rail, and you can't really hang something with a piece of molding behind it.

You're right that centering it is probably too high. I started with the largest piece of art and placed the bottom of the piece 5-6 inches above the rail, which just looked right. Everything else on the room I hung on-center with that piece.
posted by thejanna at 11:54 AM on October 18, 2012

Best answer: One possible trick that might work is to hang the pieces you have at eye level and then hang something else--perhaps something visual simple so that you don't need to see it up close--above them? That way you fill the space above the dado in a way that satisfies your sense of overall architectural symmetry but still have these pieces that you want people to be able to look at closely (or see themselves in) at eye-height.
posted by yoink at 12:29 PM on October 18, 2012

Best answer: When it seem confusing, start at 57" on center of artwork from floor. See how that looks with the piece and with things adjacent to it. For example, for something in a narrow hallway, maybe higher is better. For something where you are forced to stand back, say, on the wall behind a sofa or credenza, maybe a little lower is better. You look at groupings and adjacencies but don't stray too far from 57-60 on center unless you're making a statement or doing something pretty creative with a piece of artwork.

Also, keep in mind that at 6'4", you're a bit above average in height. So a small mirror that is hung so that you can see your own face is going to be higher and maybe shouldn't hang out in the living room as decoration. If you have to stoop a little to put it in a place that looks balanced, that may be the cost there.

I have some friends who have artwork hung really high in their house and I'm itching to ask about it. She's a little shorter than me at 5'4" and he's maybe 5'10". I'm not quite sure who they are pleasing with that art placement but it looks crazy to me. But I say nothing because that's how my mama raised me.
posted by amanda at 1:45 PM on October 18, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all. I think I'll eventually hang the map in another room, but those mirrors on either side of the mantle are working for me, despite the unusual placement.
posted by blue t-shirt at 9:35 AM on November 6, 2012

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