What hangs where
December 19, 2017 6:28 AM   Subscribe

We bought a new house. We love it. But it's been nearly four months since we moved in and all of our pictures are still sitting on the floor. What was your strategy for deciding what hangs where?

We moved from a condo to a house with two floors of living space. (There is also an unfinished basement.) We have a mix of photos, art, and a couple of posters. Everything is framed. There are also photos we need to print of our awesome daughter. I'm sure there are a few things that I like more than my wife does and vice versa, but overall I think we're on the same page about what we like. But we've been strenuously avoiding dealing with this.

How did you handle this? Room by room? Just plunge forward, hang stuff wherever, and make changes later?
posted by chimpsonfilm to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, just do it. It's easy to change your mind later, and seeing them on the wall is much better for morale than seeing them on the floor.
posted by ubiquity at 6:31 AM on December 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: If you are really commitment phobic get a big roll of butcher paper and cut it into the sizes of each wall art item. Then you can tape them to the wall to figure out placement before hammering any nails.
posted by joan_holloway at 6:34 AM on December 19, 2017 [8 favorites]

For us it has been 75% plunge forward and make changes later. The benefit of this is that it helps freshen up a room/area when you move the pictures around. For example, we had a print in our bedroom for a few years because it was my gift to my husband with special significance. However, when we recently painted our bathroom hallway it looked bare and we experimented with several pictures and voila, this one just worked and I love it there more than in our bedroom.

The 25% where we planned is for either a very large piece or a grouped set that needed a fair chunk of wall space to hang. I just made a collage hanging of about 10 vintage travel art posters. That took me ages to arrange, ages to measure, ages to hang and it is NOT moving again!
posted by like_neon at 6:35 AM on December 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Been in my house almost ten years and I still have a couple of boxes of photos and prints that need to be hung. Rule number one is, don't rush.

But to answer the question: Lay them all out on a table so you can look at them. Think about what should go where. Think about which ones you love and want to hang, and which ones can remain in a box or be tossed.

Get a picture hanging kit at Home Depot. Usually a little case with various pieces of hardware for hanging things. Different frames require different types of hooks so it's good to have an assortment. Have a hammer, a tape measure, a pencil, and a small spirit level. If you're at the store anyway maybe buy a small thing of drywall patching compound and a putty knife.

Then walk around your place and look for obvious places to put things. Empty wall space, the wall going up the stairs, etc. Make sure doors aren't going to open into them or that they won't be blocked by anything. Large walls can take a large print or several small ones.

When you measure where to hang things, keep in mind that the nail will usually go a couple of inches below the top of the frame. Use the tape measure and pencil to mark center points where you're going to hang the hook/nail. Then just hang it.

If something doesn't look right, get rid of it and either put something in its place (hanging a new nail/hook if you have to) or patch the hole up and move on.
posted by bondcliff at 6:36 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're hanging multiple pieces of various sizes, I really like channeling my middle school yearbook club skillz by using eyelines. I usually eyeball where a nail needs to go to line up nicely with whatever my first piece on the wall is, and end up with multiple mistake holes before getting it right... but the art usually hides it. Aim for eye-level.
posted by Drosera at 7:12 AM on December 19, 2017

We focused on our core living area, as that's where we'd host people and therefore the "audience" for hung pieces was greatest. We took on one wall at a time, laid pieces against it, and just took a Saturday afternoon to do all the centering, leveling, and hanging. The nice thing about centering things on a particular wall is - so long as other pieces are of similar size, if you don't like it it's easy to swap something else out.

We filled that area and then branched out from there which meant, due to moving from 450sf to 800sf, there are blank spare bedrooms and the finished basement hardly has anything in it. We figure those will acquire art or photos as time goes on.
posted by notorious medium at 7:39 AM on December 19, 2017

Best answer: Yeah, don't overthink it. But here are my basic rules. I guess they are "rules" only in the sense that they seem to make organic sense to my wife and me. Everyone's taste and expression is different, so there is no wrong way.

My wife and I are both photographers, so pretty much all of our decorative images are photographs we have taken.

The living room pictures are decorative, not "family photos" or movie/band posters. We have two large complementary canvas prints that we change about once a year. Right now they are floral close-ups. They are about 36x40 inches, and are the main decorative focal point of the room. We also have a large canvas on another wall, that is a semi-abstract of ocean waves. The are all images we shot and had enlarged onto canvas. They only family photos we display in the living room are one or two small ones on the bookshelf. So I'd say the living room is the main place for "art" pictures.

For the dining room, we have some artistic food-related framed prints, again, images that we shot ourselves. Kinda cliche to have food pictures in the dining room, but we like it. I think the dining room is a fine place for framed art.

Things like framed posters, especially if they are of movies or musicians, are best for dens, spare bedrooms or offices. I have a couple framed posters in my office. My wife has a painting/ceramic/craft studio in the basement, and we have a set of the NASA "travel posters" framed and displayed on those walls. We like them, but they are probably too quirky for the main living space, yet people seem to find them interesting in the studio.

In the bedroom, we have some other complementary framed photographs we shot (a pair of dragonfly prints, and a couple landscapes). They are "personal" only in the sense that we shot them on trips and they remind us of those trips, but we don't have any family photos in there.

I think family photos work best in hallways and stairwells. The placement is not as picky because you don't have to work around furniture, you can add more or change them whenever you want without having to rearrange everything else, and they are in areas of the house that you and guests regularly travel through. This means you can be reminded of your far-flung relatives whenever you wish, and you can easily regale your guests with tales of your weird uncle's antics when the occasion arises. (Full disclosure: we have tons of family photos and empty frames, ready to adorn our hall and stairwell, but as of this writing the hall and stairwell are still bare!)

Don't be afraid to let your personality show! As you can tell, we tend to like the pictures in our rooms to be cohesive and complementary, but there's nothing wrong with being eclectic and even chaotic if you want. You can always change them later. In fact, we have often thought of installing a gallery system of rails of cables so we could easily swap out pictures on a regular basis, but we ended up liking how things are for now.
posted by The Deej at 7:41 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're worried about picture placement remorse, you can consider using picture rails or cables (something architecturally appropriate for your place) so that the pictures can always be rearranged without needing any patching.
posted by janell at 8:42 AM on December 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

To counter fear of poor decisions and bad holes, you can also use heavy duty command hooks (or even two for large pieces) to test placement. That will make it easy to have a trial run with alternative candidates (photograph each set up to ease later comparisons. Replace them with stronger fasteners once you’ve reached a decision.
posted by carmicha at 8:54 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Plunge forward. Once you've lived with them a while, you may figure out a better arrangement, or you may get tired of certain things and want new things.

More than likely, you'll want to repaint after a couple of years anyway, so patching won't be that big a deal anyway.

joan_holloway's butcher paper plan is quite good.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:16 AM on December 19, 2017

I would like to highly recommend picture rail with decorative hooks. Just nail up the picture rail, which should be available at any hardware store / lumberyard. Decorative hooks are available online. Then you can use fishing line to hang anything anywhere, or you can use light wire wrapped with fancy cloth and maybe do tassels at the top for fun. The fishing line is basically invisible. I put picture rail all around my 14x20 shed and just hung art and stuff all over. The hooks mean you can slide things along the rail for perfect positioning. And you have no zero none holes in the wall. And the rail gives a nice finished edge to the room. I can't think why it fell out of favor. People get all excited about crown molding but ignore picture rail. Give it a try, you'll like it (said Mikey).
posted by MovableBookLady at 9:18 AM on December 19, 2017

Experienced art hanger here: figure out what you want in which room. Lay the art out on the floor directly in front of the wall and arrange them there until they look good-ish (you can tweak final placement on the wall). Hanging trick: hold art against wall, move it to exactly where you want it. Make a small pencil mark at the center top of the frame. Get a tape measure, see the little metal tab on the end? Hang the art by its wire on that (kinda gently) and that gives you the wire-top of picture distance. Measure down from your mark that much and then back up 1/4 inch. Put your nail there and it will hang exactly where you want it (the 1/4 inch back up makes the frame cover your pencil mark...no need to erase :)
posted by sexyrobot at 12:57 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding carmicha's suggestion for heavy duty command hooks. I've hung 90% of the art in my house with those and they make changing your mind a breeze. The 10% that I didn't hang with command hooks were either heavy or expensive pieces. I've had pieces hanging for 5+ years on command hooks and only 3 or so pieces out of the 30+ (I have a lot of gallery walls) I have hanging have ever fallen off the wall.
posted by sarajane at 1:34 PM on December 19, 2017

You are doing well. We still have pictures leaning against the wall at floor level, three years later. Relax, it's Christmas and you have a little child. You're already busy.
posted by Enid Lareg at 4:57 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I attacked from both ends.
First: favorite pieces and where I'd want to see them. Now item A is in the bedroom, item B is in the living room, and item C is also in the living room. Just piled against a wall, no commitments yet.
Second: room by room, would look good with the items A, B, C. As I find a few things that don't fit, they end up in second bedroom, stairwell, etc.
Third: back to objects, what haven't I placed yet?
Fourth: back to rooms, what major walls are still bare?
Fifith: room by room, actually arranging things.
posted by aimedwander at 8:32 AM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

So in our house you can pretty much see straight from the front door to the back door, there is no foyer or contained entryway. Not so often anymore but still often enough we get strangers at the door and I didn't like the idea of a stranger being to see our family photos. My solution was that all family photos face the back of the house, ie the same direction as the view into the house as the front door. Regular art faces towards the front door, as I could care less if a stranger sees it. In addition to safety, in my mind it creates an intimacy with my guests, as they get to see the personal side of the family once they're in the door.

Otherwise, I was going for color scheme and "feel" in the house so each room sort of has a theme, and pieces that sort of fall within that theme live together in the same room. I agree, don't be afraid to move pieces after you've hung them; sometimes they just don't look balanced on a given wall, or the glare effects the way they look or what-have-you.

Don't be afraid to decide that old art does not live in your new house.
posted by vignettist at 3:55 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks very much!
posted by chimpsonfilm at 12:40 PM on December 22, 2017

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