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How to Select the Right Size Artwork

I want to preface this by saying that yes- there are "rules" that one may follow in selecting art. But, art is fantastic because it breaks the rules. So, while I'm sharing these ideas for safe art selection, know that if you see a friend's home that breaks the rules and looks fabulous, it's because it is! It isn't wrong- it's bold. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. But, using these tricks should help you safely select pieces for your space that will look as though they were meant to be there.

Selecting the Right Size Artwork: Consider Actual Real Estate

It's easy enough to look at a blank wall, determine it's size and know that a huge piece will fit there. But, what about the sofa, the lamp, the bookshelves? Before selecting art, your furnishings should be in place. Honestly, I have trouble with this when I am in a space. I have never been much of a decorator, and rely heavily on my interior design training when decor arises. I work very well in 2-dimensional drawing and imagery, so sometimes I have to take a photograph of the space without the piece and draw in the ideal size, even flatten the image by tracing over it to see what interferes in the foreground. This may help you if you are having trouble envisioning that space. Take a step back and look at how much uninterrupted wall space you have available. 

Now, take that available space and reduce it by 3/8 on each side. So, let's say you have a 60" wide space. 60 x .57 (3/8) = 34.2. Knowing this, I would not exceed 35" in width on that wall.

Let's complicate this a bit though, shall we? Imagine this piece is going above a piece of furniture. You may have 60" available, but your furniture piece is 54" wide. Your available real estate is now 54", regardless of the open space on either side of the piece. So, this piece should not exceed 31". 

Selecting the Right Size Artwork: Height 

I tend to get a little more lax in the height. If it fits, it works. BUT, there is one important thing to consider before determining whether it fits. Your art should always be centered at eye level. Consider whether you'll be sitting or standing when viewing the art, and adjust accordingly. 

Sounds easy enough, right? But, I'm 5'4" and my husband is 6'1", so what is eye level? Average eye level is 57", but when advising homeowners, I usually look at the family. If I'm working with a taller family, we'll want to center around the 60-63" mark, where a shorter family might be at the 55-57" mark. In my own family, we shoot for 57", to meet in the middle!

Well, I told you how high to hang it, but what does that have to do with the height of the piece itself? Simply this: Let's say you have a 36" sofa that you are hanging the art above, eye level is 63", and ceiling height is 96". Take your 57" eye level and deduct the height of the sofa (you don't want the art hanging below the sofa!). This gives you 21" below eye level and 21" above. for a height of 42". Just to double check, I look at the overall 96" ceiling height, deduct the 42" height of art and the 36" of the sofa and I come up with 18". There's your absolute maximum height.

Selecting the Right Size Artwork: Exceptions


Yes, you have a lot of available real estate in the hall, but that doesn't mean you want to fill it up with one giant piece of art. In a hallway you want to break it up a bit. Use smaller pieces, go for the collage wall here. I generally go either floor to ceiling with random sizes or choose those smaller pieces and line them up along the length of the hall. 


Go big! Go grand! This is your place to make a statement Tall pieces will enhance the height of your entry space where horizontal pieces will create a feeling of expanse in a tight space.