What do I do with that blank wall? How to hang art.

Bare walls create a sizeable monotonous feeling. Most people like to crush that feeling by hanging something on the wall. However, crowded walls can become an eyesore for family photo enthusiasts and art collectors if not done correctly. The walls get busy, and people are turned away from the wall rather than brought in. Or, if you are going to intentionally overdue it, go large and attract people. Intentionally overdoing it takes a lot of thought and usually a few attempts to get it right. Lost in Composition will provide some tips on planning for success with overindulgence below. I’ll also provide guidance on how to hang art… From an individual piece to clustering.

We’ll start with the simple solution of a diptych or tryptic. These are two (diptych), or three (tryptic) individual pieces hung as one piece. One set of these can suffice for some. You can find these in any price range and any style:

When hanging an average size piece, the center of the piece should be 57″ above the floor. This is the same height the center of any clustering should be. This may seem high or low based on your height, but this is the average of most people. 

Another simple way is to go large if the wall allows you to do so. Keep in mind children and pets when going large. I do not want to get an email from someone saying it’s my fault Fido had fun with the corner of their $50k painting! Here’s a large and eye-catching piece I love which is currently available (link below):

Russell Young
Kate Moss Diptych, 2015
Acrylic paint and enamel screen print on linen in “Ghost Grey” with diamond dust
63″ x 65″

What??? Are you not brave enough to hang that one on your walls? There are large pieces in any style you can conceive of at nearly every price point. The trick with large pieces is that you will need to commit, so take your time. We had a large wall begging for a large piece that went empty for about four years after moving into our current home. We couldn’t find a piece we liked in our price range. One day I went to a sneak preview of a show by an artist we like and saw the perfect piece. I knew it was coming home if it fit in the planned location. I asked the gallerist to hold it overnight. She agreed to do so only because I had established a credible relationship with her. I measured the wall when I got home and then sent an email saying I would take the painting Color by Kellie Talbot which is 48″ x 72″:

We’ve now covered the two most straightforward solutions to eliminating that ominous blank wall; single pieces, diptychs, and triptychs. The salon wall comes in when more items on the wall are needed. A salon wall is a wall with many different images on it at varying heights. These images can be photographs, art, and more. The trick here is not to clutter the wall and make it unappealing. I have done this several times. We still have a couple of walls in our home which look cluttered and disorganized, but we’ll live with it for now.

One of my favorite solutions is a geometric and orderly presentation of similar pieces. It’s also the simplest and cleanest solution to the salon wall. This type of salon wall works best if all pieces are in identical frames and most are the same size:

Another great solution is dissimilar images and content with contrasting frames placed not too close together:

But what about hanging paintings that may not compliment others in your collection next to each other? What if the frames and styles clash? These are the salon walls that pain me. I have seen a few done exquisitely, but usually, the room is tailored to the art. I don’t have the space or resources to do that, so I will remind myself that it represents the entire collection, and space is limited. I now empathize with others in this same horrid first-world problem.

Some of you are probably family photo enthusiasts and wondering about hanging the photos on your wall in differing frames. Photos are small, and as long as they are clustered and do not consume the whole wall, you will be fine. Here’s a cringe-worthy example of a family photo wall gone wrong; right down to the cracked glass:

Oh dear god!

If the pictures in the image above were clustered into a shape resembling a cloud, I would have given this a pass, even with the cracked glass and protruding nails. The only caveat is the spacing between items cannot be too dissimilar.

Clustering is something that also allows for creativity and ingenuity. If you have several pieces which need clustering, and they work with another entirely different type of piece, go for it! We have a relatively small wall in our home which is painted jade. This wall was initially home to some of our plates from Rainbow Gate. They were clustered into a crescent shape. As our collection grew, space became more valuable. Currently, we have the plates clustered to the right of the thermostat and a painting we commissioned from Bill Braun as a tribute to our grandmother to the left. Above both is a box painted by Mark Beck and our Spore doorbell. The original doorbell was so ugly that I needed to replace it.

In the picture above, there are several different textures (or representations thereof) and dimensions. There is some clustering, whereas other items hold their own solo. Mixing textures and sizes can be done successfully, but I suggest going slowly and living with each change for a while so you can honestly assess if the arrangement works.

One of our favorite artists is Kellie Talbot. We have been collecting her work for many years. Then came Kellie Talbot’s latest show at Patricia Rovzar Gallery. I spent a couple of hours walking around our home, visualizing the relocation of art. In doing this, I realized we had much more wall space than I thought. I also broke open a spreadsheet, converted the cells into squares representing a square inch, and planned out our Kellie Talbot salon wall using the pieces we had and the ones we had just purchased. I also left room for growth. The dark ones we had or were coming and the lighter ones were for future additions:

This week we received two commissions from Kellie, which filled in the wall nicely, but there is still room for four of her smaller square pieces. The nice thing about this well thought out configuration is that when we do get a new home, the pieces can be reconfigured easily:

I need to be clear that it was never my intention to have a wall like Kellie’s in our home. It grew organically out of necessity. I had seen a picture on Kellie’s Instagram account with several of her small pieces in a grid. I loved the idea so much that I simply modified it to fit in our home. I did commission one work to add to the configuration, and that is the pink elephant sign. The sign is an iconic Seattle sign. I have wanted one from her for years but missed the last one, so I decided to place an order! I simply told the gallerist I wanted it in daylight and with the green the same as in another one she had done. It entirely made sense to get it in that size for many reasons, one being to fit this wall perfectly.

This wall taught me to plan out wall space more efficiently. To do that, I need to visualize the wall as complete, even if it is not. Plan placement strategically as your collection begins to grow.

Many walls in our home have only one piece on them. Below are two walls that will never have another piece hung on them as long as we live in this home. The one in the foreground is by Thomas Wood, and the one in the background is by Kate Protage. Each demands its own wall, and the walls were painted long before we added each piece to our collection. Kate’s work was purchased to go on a gray wall in a different location of the home. That changed when I laid it up against the “cabaret” wall. Excluding Color by Kellie Talbot, we have never purchased a piece for a specific wall.

Links to some of the items covered in this post:

The Kate Moss which is for sale can be found at Sotheby’s using this link.

Rainbow Gate pottery: https://www.rainbowgate.com

Kellie Talbot: https://www.kellietalbot.com

Bill Braun: https://www.billbraunart.com

Lost in Composition with Bill Braun: https://lostincomposition.com/2022/03/25/bill-braun

Mark Beck: https://www.markbeckpaintings.com

Kate Protage: https://www.protagestudio.com

Thomas Wood tribute on Lost in Composition: https://lostincomposition.com/2022/02/12/thomas-wood

Patricia Rovzar Gallery: https://rovzargallery.com

Spore Doorbells: https://www.sporedoorbells.com

3 thoughts on “What do I do with that blank wall? How to hang art.

  1. I learned so much from this post! The examples were most helpful in showing this visual learner what you mean. Thank you, Paul!

  2. This is just what I was looking for! Thank you. Planning the layout and building it overtime makes sense and takes some of the anxiety out of the process for me. The family photo gallery is oh too familiar and gave me a goodwill laugh!

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