The ART of Staging - ART and Alternatives for Your Walls

Home Stager with Set Sale and Go Home Staging

Art, or lack of art can make or break the feel of a room. Art can also be used to minimize your home's flaws. If you have an empty wall with uneven paint, or plaster or cracks, potential buyers look at the problems. Hang a piece of art and they look at the art.

When doing my staging consultations, I have found that ART is a problem. Many people do not have art for their walls, or there are problems with the art they do have.

Here are some of the common problems I have encountered with clients' art:

  • the art is dated
  • it looks cheap
  • items are too small
  • it is hung too high
  • art is hung in the wrong places
  • it does not compliment the decor of the room
  • groupings are not visually pleasing


Read ahead for tips on selecting the right art, creating your own art, using other objects as art, hanging art correctly and how to create a grouping of art.

Size Does Matter

I have often found that people buy art that is too small. There is nothing wrong with small art pieces when they are hung properly, but generally, I find that my clients' homes are missing a few nice big pieces.

Large pieces can be used over your sofa, or a large horizontal piece of furniture. They are also excellent above fireplaces or on a large blank wall. Houses that lack architectural details or natural focal points benefit from large strong pieces creating that focal point in a room.
Small pieces that are hung where large pieces should be often look lost in the space. Large pieces anchored to large pieces of furniture create instant drama in a room.

Small art should be hung on small pieces of wall, or with smaller pieces of furniture. Often, if you don't have large art, several smaller pieces can be grouped together to make large art. The same goes for medium sized pieces. Hang 2 or more medium sized pieces together to form a large piece of art.

Where Do I Hang it?

Many people hang their art too high and you have to look UP at it.

The general rule is that the centre of the art piece should be at eye level. This means eye level to an average height person. Measure 60 to 65 inches from the floor to determine where the centre of your art should be.

There are exceptions to this rule. For example, art hung over a fireplace will generally be higher. If you have high ceilings, you may want to go on the higher side, so use the 65 inches. Art hung over the back of a sofa should be between 6 and 8 inches higher than the back of the sofa. Art hung over a horizontal piece of furniture or a table should be hung 8 to 12 inches off the top, depending on what other objects are being displayed.

When hanging a grouping, treat the grouping as a single piece of art and make sure the centre of the grouping is 60 to 65 inches from the ground.

Creating a Grouping

Grouping pieces together to give the appearance of larger art is an excellent solution to the "too small" problem.

Generally it is a good idea to group similar pieces together. For example, a group of black and white photographs, or several pieces of line artwork, or a few botanicals. This is not always necessary. You can often create unity in the grouping by using objects that are framed in a similar manner. For example, all black frames with white matting, or all silver frames, even if they are different styles.

Groups can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. If you have 3 or 4 pieces that are the exact same size, it is easy to create a grouping that will be appealing to the eye by hanging them in a row or in a square. It is more challenging when hanging pieces of different sizes and shapes.

When you have a variety of shapes and sizes, it is often helpful to lay them out on the floor where it is easy to move them around until you have a configuration that works.

Another idea is to create paper cutouts that represent the art pieces and use them on the wall to do your layout. Once you have a pleasing layout, it is easy to hang the pictures over the paper cutouts. Remove the paper when the hanging is complete.

Alternatives to Traditional Art

There are some obvious alternatives to traditional art, such as hanging mirrors, but you could also hang a grouping of mirrors of different sizes, as long as their frames are similar, to create a really interesting piece for your wall. Wall mirrors are also quite popular right now, and you can just lean them against the wall. Mirrors are particularly good to use if you have narrow spaces that you want to appear larger, or if you want to reflect light or a beautiful view.

Plate collections can make interesting art, as long as you have other art as well. Group 3 or 5 plates vertically or horizontally, or hang 9 in a square on the wall. Just make sure that if you are hanging plates that they are visually interesting against your wall colour. Do not hang cream plates on a cream or white wall. Make sure the plates you are using provide some contrast.

Iron art is also very popular right now with a wide variety of sizes and shapes being available at stores like Pier 1, Homesense or Home Depot. The nice thing about these new reproductions is that while they look like iron, they tend to be much lighter and easier to hang.

Framed photography is a great way to add art to your home. Whether the photos are yours or you cut them out of a calendar, dramatic framing with an interesting picture makes art. Even if pictures are on the small side, use frames that have large mats to make the piece more substantial. Do not use photos of you or your family if you are selling your house. Remember we want to de-personalize your home when selling.

Creating your own art is also an option. Not an artist? Not a problem. Sometimes painting an entire canvas in one colour creates enough drama in an otherwise uninteresting room. Paint 3 smaller canvasses and hang them in a row. Paint them the same colour, or different colours, or blend 2 or 3 colours together with a house painting brush....especially if you have leftover paint from painting your house. That's a good way of getting artwork that compliments your decor. I wouldn't suggest this type of art if your home is decorated in a very traditional manner, but more contemporary decor will work with these hand-painted canvasses.

Choosing the Right Art

Art is very personal, and everyone likes something different. If you are selecting art for you to enjoy while living in your home, choose whatever you like. However, be conscious of your selections when you are trying to sell your house. Avoid nudes, or too much religious art or anything that a potential buyer might find offensive.

Remembering that art is very personal, be aware that just because you love the blue '57 Chev lit up in pink neon, it doesn't mean that it belongs in your living room. If you are not sure whether your art belongs in your room, ask a friend who will give you an honest opinion, or ask a professional.

People often select poster art because it is affordable. It is not always a bad option as long as it is properly framed and displayed. I have a friend who lives in a trendy downtown condo who has stunning movie posters running the length of the main hallway, and it looks good because it suits his decor and trendy urban neighbourhood. Never have posters push-pinned to the wall.

IKEA is an excellent source for inexpensive artwork, or at least inexpensive frames, but you must be careful using this type of artwork throughout your house. If your house is a half million dollar house, it is not likely that this type of art will compliment every room of your house. Higher end art should at least be used in the main living areas. When I say higher end art, I mean art that is framed and matted. It often has a more 3D effect than less expensive art.

Again, if you are unsure about art, ask a trusted friend or family member, or bring in a professional for their opinion.

Comments (20)

Mesa, Arizona Real Estate Mesa Arizona Realtor
Homes Arizona Real Estate LLC - Mesa, AZ

Katherine, I am such a visual person and love the staging secrets that you share. Thanks so much. What great pointers.


Mar 01, 2008 01:50 PM
Deborah Burns ~ Seattle Real Estate Agent
Realty Executives -BRIO - Seattle, WA
Great explaination about why to have art to improve how a house shows, and how to do it well.  Our local Art Museum (Seattle Art Museum) actually has a rental gallery that has a wonderful selection of original art both contemporay and tradtional. 
Mar 01, 2008 03:46 PM
Janis Gaines
Staging Sells Eugene Homes - Eugene, OR
Home Stager Eugene OR - The Notably Well-Dressed H

Love these pointers. I use my gut typically to decide where to put art. In reading your suggestions, that's where things usually feel right to me as well. Nice to know that your guidelines and my intuition are in agreement with regard to picture hanging. 

How about the space between pictures when multiple pictures are hung side by side? I often see homeowners hang pictures that look like they're too far apart. I know that there must be a guideline for this as well.

Mar 01, 2008 04:31 PM
Kathy Passarette
Creative Home Expressions - Mount Sinai, NY
L.I. Staging/Decorating
Katherine ~ What a great post about art!  All the items you listed are my pet peeves when it comes to art; I don't know which one bothers me more when I see it.  I have bookmarked your post.
Mar 02, 2008 01:29 AM
Sandra Hughes
Redesigned Spaces - Northern Virginia - Fairfax, VA
Redesigned Spaces - Fairfax County, Virginia
Loved your post on art it is almost like Art e-book on hanging and choosing artwork, because it is so detailed and has pictures.
Mar 02, 2008 02:24 AM
Karen Hubert
Center Stage Design-real estate staging, Ancaster/Hamilton - Ancaster, ON
Home Stager
Hi Katherine, What a great post. Very good tips and things to think about.
Mar 02, 2008 08:31 AM
Annabelle Finfrock
Keller Williams Realty ~ Biltmore Partners - Paradise Valley, AZ

Those are wonderful and enlightening tips! Thank you so much for sharing!

Mar 02, 2008 08:55 AM
Barbara Cluck-Miksits
BCM Home Staging LLC - Ridgewood, NJ
Home Staging - New Jersey
Katherine- Thank you for sharing your tips on art work, they will come in handy.
Apr 15, 2008 02:43 PM
Julianna Hind
eXp Realty - Tacoma, WA
REALTOR, 206-679-4768, Tacoma Federal Way, Auburn, Kent, WA
Katherine - great article. Art is so very important, sometimes bringing it in... and sometimes banishing whats there!
Apr 15, 2008 02:53 PM
Michelle Hall
Century 21 Hecht - Denver, NC

These tips are very helpful.  I have three circular mirrors about 5-6 inches in diameter that I can not figure out how to arrange.  Maybe this will help me figure it out.

May 15, 2008 10:35 AM
Shobha Vyavahare
stagewithme, Greenville, South Carolina - Greenville, SC

Love grouping pictures, they make such a big statement and has lot of presence.!! Thanks for the great ideas you always share.


May 16, 2008 01:44 AM
Phyllis Pafumi
ReStyled to Sell Home Staging New Jersey - Old Bridge, NJ
ReStyled to Sell Staging Homes NJ

Art is very personal and some of my clients that I have encountered LOVE NUDIES...not good when selling a home. I ALWAYS encounter art hung TOO HIGH as well, mostly because the men hang it.

Phylis Pafumi

May 18, 2008 12:47 AM
Mike Saunders
Retired - Athens, GA

I have several Icart prints that I love. I have had them for years, this is the 3rd home they are in. I left them up when I sold my Oregon home. I took them down when I sold my rural Kentucky home. Gotta know you buyer base also.

Thanks for all the pointers

May 26, 2008 12:56 PM
Susan Peters
Dove Realty Inc. - Seattle, WA
The Better it Looks the Better it Sells


Excellent tutorial! Pictures hung too high is my number 1 pet peeve.

May 26, 2008 06:46 PM
Michelle Pimentel
Empire Home Staging Solutions - Upland, CA
ASP, IAHSP Empire Home Staging


Great advise on wall art! Hanging artwork to high is the most common mistake people make with their artwork. I can agee with a lot of your other comments about the pictures being hung too high, it drives me up the wall! ( No pun intended ) Thanks for sharing, this is a great blog!

May 27, 2008 10:49 AM
Barbara Cluck-Miksits
BCM Home Staging LLC - Ridgewood, NJ
Home Staging - New Jersey

Katherine, Good post. It is true a lot of people just do not how to hang art or do not pick out big enough pieces. Thanks for sharing.

Jun 06, 2008 01:50 PM
Wendy Casey
A-List Home Staging & Decor - Surrey, BC

Katharine, thanks for the very informative post. I've bookmarked it for future reference.

Wendy Casey - Vancouver, BC

Jun 06, 2008 06:26 PM
Terrylynn Fisher
Dudum Real Estate Group - - Walnut Creek, CA
HAFA Certified, EcoBroker, CRS, CSP Realtor, Etc.

So right, art is like frosting on the cake.   The cake looks pretty good but the frosting tops off the look.  Nice post.  We are luck on StagersLIST we have alot of original artists selling their items, including our AR's own Elaine Manes.  I bought some of hers for my own house and the vivid color and clarity of original photographs and art can't be topped.

Jun 06, 2008 07:21 PM

Katherine, A girl after my own (h)art!  I believe art makes the room.  All your tips are excellent and very well-written.  Thank you for taking the time to write and post. 

Jun 07, 2008 04:05 AM
Nancy Cleary

Katherine, didn't mean to leave a nameless post.  I amde the (h)art, comment.

Jun 07, 2008 04:20 AM