Interior Design Tips for Grouping Pictures on a Wall - dummies

Interior Design Tips for Grouping Pictures on a Wall

By Katharine Kaye McMillan, Patricia Hart McMillan

Have you ever noticed how decorations on a wall can look so organized and attractive in some cases and just be a distracting mess in other homes? If you follow these steps, you can create a perfect grouping every time, without making frustrating mistakes:

  1. Measure the wall space that you want to fill.

  2. Outline that exact size on your floor using masking tape.

  3. Arrange the art on the floor within the given area.

    Doing so enables you to move pieces around until you arrive at the optimum arrangement.

  4. After you’re pleased with the grouping, measure and hang.

Be prepared for some surprises. You may need to shift pieces from spot to spot, because unusual factors can affect the sense of balance that you’re striving for:

  • Generally, heavier pieces should go below lighter pieces: A large, delicate oil may seem lighter than a smaller, darker, more rustic woodcut. Size alone doesn’t make a picture seem heavier — color does. Ultimately, you’ll have to use your own judgment.

  • Leave several inches of breathing space around each piece: Pieces hung too close together lose any sense of individuality; those hung too far apart don’t look like a group.

Use the correct hooks designed to hold the weight of the art you’re hanging. Using two hooks for larger works helps keep them hanging straight. And make sure that the hook you’re using is the right one for your type of walls (plaster or plasterboard).

If you’re nailing or screwing a hook into a plaster wall, put a crisscross of adhesive tape on the wall to keep the plaster in place and then drive the nail or screw through the tape. If you’re hanging art on a slanted wall such as a dormer (slanted) ceiling, attach the artwork at the top and bottom of the frame. If you’re creating a precise rectangular or square grouping, secure the pieces at the bottom, too, so that none become crooked.

For added excitement, add mirrors, sconces, and brackets with sculpture to your art grouping. Add textural interest with tapestries and quilted, woven, or embroidered wall hangings.

You don’t have to hang art to display it:

  • Intersperse paintings with books in a bookshelf.

  • Lean your art on an easel. Easels, large and small, have never gone out of style.

  • Place an array of artfully framed miniatures inside a glass-topped display table, coffee table, or end table, or atop a big round table.

  • Set a large picture on the floor (unless you have small children or pets). Set a small picture on the mantel, place a bunch of pictures atop a bookshelf, or just lean them against the wall.


  • Prop up a plethora of small artwork, including black-and-white photographs, on wooden shelves. This allows for quick and easy changing of your display.