hang'em high?
November 28, 2005 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Based at least on conventional wisdom, what is the appropriate height at which artwork should be hung on an otherwise unadorned wall of an apartment?
posted by drpynchon to Home & Garden (22 answers total)
I always went by having the center of piece at about eye level.
posted by atom128 at 12:09 PM on November 28, 2005

eye level it is
posted by sandrapbrady at 12:15 PM on November 28, 2005

Just keep in mind that "eye level" isn't the same for everyone. I worked in a museum with a director and preparator both well over 6 feet. The rest of the staff was 6-12" shorter. We always joked that we should offer footstools or stilts to visitors, especially kids.
posted by annaramma at 12:25 PM on November 28, 2005

Google sez: "When in doubt, go for eye level," but as they note, it depends on the wall, the space, and the art.

Depends on how tall your ceilings are. We have 11-foot ceilings, and our one big piece of art is more or less vertically centered on the wall. Otherwise it would look sort of sad and fallen down at the bottom of the wall.

Oh, and you are not an art gallery, so I personally don't think that "eye level" is necessarily necessary. You are adding color and visual interest to the room. Have someone hold the piece up at various heights (or prop it up), and stand back and judge for yourself.
posted by misterbrandt at 12:28 PM on November 28, 2005

Response by poster: This was initially my suspicion. The reason I asked was I recently invited a guest over and there was a squabble. I'm about 6'1" and hung most of this stuff at about eye level. Guest is 5'3" and found looking at my walls most disconcerting. Should I be hanging stuff several inches lower than my eye-level to take into account average heights (my walls REALLY bugged the guest), or was the issue blown out of proportion, no pun intended?
posted by drpynchon at 12:28 PM on November 28, 2005

Eye level is a good gauge if the wall really is featureless But if it is not, I like to make the artwork align neatly with those features. (Eye level is also best if your main goal is to display the art vs. merely decorating your home.)

For example, if there is a couch underneath the spot for the piece of art, I might raise the art a bit above eye level in order to get a pleasing amount of space between the couch and the frame. Also if there is a window a bit further down the wall you might want to align the art with the window (top line, bottom line, or centered between top and bottom lines) to gain a nice symmetry.

It should be noted that I value symmetry and cohesiveness in all of the elements of visual displays. This means that I'm willing to sacrifice the best viewing angles for the art in favor of the best viewing angles for the whole wall. You may not.

(Personally, I think your guest was rude for engaging in what seems like an extended criticism of your decorating. Decorate for yourself, you live there a heck of a lot more than any guests.)
posted by oddman at 12:37 PM on November 28, 2005

I hang my artwork at the average person's height. I'm 5'4"ish and think all my art would look silly with the center at my eye-level, so I hang it with the center at about 5'8" to 5'9". Problem solved.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:49 PM on November 28, 2005

I hand mine so that the middle of the piece is 5' off the ground, at least for the large pieces. I'm 6'. I've been very happy with the results.
posted by bonehead at 12:58 PM on November 28, 2005

Personally, screw your guest, because when you go over to their house, you don't complain that everything is to short. You're the one who lives in the house, not the guest, so hang it at an eye level that's pleasing to you

I swear, if I ever become fantastically wealthy I'm going to have everything in my house built to scale (I'm 6'5"), if my guests come over and complain that everything is too big, oh well. I'm stuck with everything being too small in my life, and I don't complain when I'm at their houses.

But seriously, your eye level, since you are the one who looks at them. Assuming that other people live there, do an average of the eye levels.
posted by KirTakat at 1:06 PM on November 28, 2005

If it is a plain and bare wall, you can always go the mathematical route.

How tall is the wall in question? Call it A.
How tall is the art to be hung? Call it B.
Subtract B from A. Call that C.
Divide C by 3. Call that D.

Make sure the bottom of your artwork is 2 times D from the floor. As a result, it should also be about D from the ceiling.

So a 4 foot tall print in a room that is 10 foot tall would be placed 4 feet from the floor.
posted by grabbingsand at 1:09 PM on November 28, 2005

Eye-level. The art is for viewing.
posted by xammerboy at 2:22 PM on November 28, 2005

Well, common knowledge is a good start, I guess, but I remember seeing a photography exhibition where every piece was hung so that its top and bottom were equidistant from the floor and ceiling (so all the pieces were centered about the same imaginary center line) and that worked too.

At the end of the day, it's your place so you should probably just say "screw it" to the rules and put the piece wherever it feels right for you. That's the way I've done it, but my walls have more than one piece, none of it is "serious" art and I have to accomodate the rest of my condo's furniture.
posted by Opposite George at 2:36 PM on November 28, 2005

How about, "it's art, not science." I prefer to hang pictures at a level that looks good, depending on the size of the picture, the size of the wall, my mood that day, whether or not a ladder or chair is handy, whether or not someone is around to help by standing on the far side of the room and saying "okay ... a little higher ... no, a little lower ... no, a little higher..." and approximately how long that particular picture has been hanging around, waiting to be hung.

I agree 100% with the other posters who say that your guest's opinion matters as much as regular season college basketball: not at all.
posted by robhuddles at 3:04 PM on November 28, 2005

I think it's fairly subjective. I have 16-foot ceilings in one part of my place and about 10-foot ceilings in another section. I hang the photographs in the shorter space at my eye-level (I'm 5'8"). The photographs that are in the taller section are a little higher (maybe 1-2") than that, because otherwise they look like they're too far down on the wall. However, the paintings I have are hung higher because they hang above furniture, so I prefer having some space between the furniture and the piece. I also have a pretty decent-sized art collection, so I kind of hang things where they fit. Heh.

For what it's worth, I have a LOT of people through the space and nobody has ever complained about the height of the work. Methinks your guest is a little oversensitive about her height.
posted by bedhead at 3:32 PM on November 28, 2005

it is subjective - if you follow a simple "objective" rule you'll find things sometimes looks odd. for example, things exactly in the horizontal centre of a wall often look off-centre if, say, one of the adjoining walls has a window and the other doesn't.

and it's not as simple as "eye level because it's for looking at" - art on the wall is just part of the whole interior, and where you place things is going to reflect that. for example, placing something so it is visible through doorways that are typically open, rather than half cut-off by a door frame.

since it's so subjective it's bound to depend on the person, and vertical position is going to depend on the viewer's height, amongst other things. in your house, you look at the art most, so you decide where it should go. your guest was a bit silly.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:47 PM on November 28, 2005

On the contrary, your guests' opinions do matter, because they're going to be doing the active viewing. Homeowners don't usually pay much attention to their decoration after initial installation and settling in. That said, you're living with it, so it has to work for you as well.

My advice: take some digital shots of your room(s) from a few angles and adjust the art on-screen until you get it right. If you didn't care, you wouldn't have asked.
posted by rob511 at 3:57 PM on November 28, 2005

Why not use the photographic rule of thirds here?

Visually divide the wall into nine squares like a tic-tac-toe board. Place the pictures on the uppermost intersection...

Rule of thirds explained (better than I did!)
posted by snowgoon at 4:20 PM on November 28, 2005

When I did an interior decorating program a few years back, we were told pictures should be eye-level for a person who's about 5'7".
posted by orange swan at 5:10 PM on November 28, 2005

I've always heard that the center of a piece should be 5 feet off of the floor.
posted by john m at 7:09 PM on November 28, 2005

My grandma, in her infinite picture-hanging wisdom, always said to hang them lower than you think you should. That's pretty subjective advice, and the wall and whatever else is hanging there needs to be taken into account, but I usually pick a spot that I think is "eye level" and then lower it a couple of inches. Seems to work, at least for photo crits where 20 people of varying heights need to really look at the art.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 7:18 PM on November 28, 2005

I'm a curator in a city art museum, where we generally hang on a center line of 58-59 inches. Our galleries are designed for a general audience and with ADA guidelines in mind -- so just as we try to write to a 9-year-old's reading ability, the 58" center line is the lowest common denominator, visually speaking.

In my home, I completely ignore this rule since I'm not a 5' 7" nine-year-old :)
posted by obliquicity at 7:52 PM on November 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

As a former gallery director I used to hang artwork at about 5'6" (66 inches = approx 167 cm).
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 7:54 AM on November 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

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