I am often asked as an Interior Designer, how high do I hang this picture? The question is not how high, but how low.
Clients often have repeatedly hung artwork and sculpture entirely too high without my advice and when I tell them, and show them where it should go I inevitably get a quick reply of, “Are you sure?” This always puzzles me, because I wouldn’t have said so if I wasn’t sure, but I understand that they think quite differently. I can’t figure out what it is about human nature that causes this reaction, but most people hang their art entirely too high.
Art should relate to the furniture in a room and not float disconnectedly above like some sort of ghost. Your eye naturally wants to travel in a pleasing circular fashion, the art needs to be part of that circle and not separated by a large wall space.
I’ve noticed this problem seems to be worse in men than women. My first thought is always that generally men are taller and their eye height level is higher, but in my experience it happens even with men shorter than my five foot eight.
On a large project in Aspen, Colorado, a eight thousand square foot Victorian in the downtown historic district, I had re-done every inch. We had all new flooring, wall treatments different in every room, drapes, furniture, bedding, everything changed and new and true to the time period the house was built in, which was around 1826. But I had saved a large collection of existing old artwork from being thrown out. These old Western art pieces and photographs, mostly related to Colorado and Aspen area, were all nicely framed and ready to re-hang. But as luck would have it, one of the investors in the property, thus one of the owners, was in town near the end of the project and asked if he could help me hang the old art pieces that I had saved. So I’m thinking, great! He can drive the mollies and screws and anything else I might need done that was a handyman type thing, but noooo, he was sure he knew better than an Interior Designer as to what height art should be hung. It was agony!
There were large long hallways, many bedrooms and other large dining and living rooms, with enough art for all of them, but every single one was a test of will when it came to what height to hang them. We were not even close to coming up with the same height. It was exhausting! He wanted everything at a fine height for a seven foot three NBA Center, or a small giraffe, but nowhere near where they should be.
Finally, he had to take a phone call outside. Hallelujah! We were in the library, I had the perfect antique Gibson Girl ad poster he wanted a foot off the ceiling, okay, I’m exaggerating, but anyway still too high. I wasn’t having much luck at wearing him down, he was Italian by heritage and very hard to wear down. But he condescended because he needed to take the call outside in private and he was leaving me with the hammer. He told me to hang it where I thought best, even though he was not smiling when he said it. In fact, he was very concerned looking. Now, I was raised the only girl with a younger and older brother, so I was constantly defending myself against practical jokes. So maybe that makes me too quick to pull something a little wicked, or maybe the Devil just comes out in me sometimes, but I could not resist. It was too easy and too much fun…I put two nails in the wall about six inches apart, one higher than the other. The top one was still hidden by the picture when I put it on the lower nail, but the picture was totally too low now, way below most people’s eye level. He came back in and I said, “What do you think?”. Now, he had promised that he wouldn’t say anything this time, that it was my call, so he looked, then looked some more, and said okay. But as we headed out of the room he just could not stand it, he had to say something about it being maybe, kind of, possibly, was it too low. I smiled and went over and took out the lower nail and re-hung it on the higher and asked if that was better. He was dumbfounded! The funny thing he said first was about that I had made two nail holes, I assured him I could fix that no problem, and that I just couldn’t resist the joke!
He was finally laughing about it later that evening when I pulled a bottle of red wine out of the fridge and offered him a glass. Now he did balk that I had put red wine in the fridge, but I promptly replied, “Oh, it’s a chill-able red!”
Now don’t get me started about TV’s….