This weekend I broke down and did something around the house that I’d been meaning to do for some time: I re-hung every single piece of artwork the proper height. So, what is the right height?
When we moved in, there was still renovation work going on in the apartment. The paintings arrived by moving van and my immediate goal was just to get them up on the walls and away from foot traffic as soon as possible for their own protection.
We didn’t even measure, we just eyeballed the nails and hammered and hung.
Now that things have settled down, the position of all the paintings was starting to really bug me. They were almost all hung far too high on the wall.
There’s a lot of advice out there about how high to hang pictures. Galleries and art museums it is said have the 57-centered rule of thumb.
That is, the exact center of the piece of artwork should be 57″ from the ground, or perfect viewing height. And if you walk into a gallery, you will notice that all the artwork is centered. You can imagine in your mind’s eye a clothes line running along the wall and you will see that it bisects each painting in its exact center.
The overall affect is very harmonious. The perfection of 57″ though is up for debate. Some say it is approximately the right viewing height for a person standing and looking at the artwork (approximates, because people come in all heights).
So, how does this apply to paintings in a home? Well, not everyone will be standing and viewing. That’s for certain. Many of your guests will be seated at times. Also, in a home, you will have to take into account nearby furnishings. For example, you wouldn’t want a painting hanging behind a bookcase.
But even in a home, you will get the same harmonious “gallery” affect by centering all of your artwork equidistant from the floor. It doesn’t have to be 57″. Find a constant, and stick with it. I chose a 60″ for my home – mostly because it makes the math easier. But also because our ceilings are higher than the average 8 feet, at 103″.
So, let’s take a look at that math. How do you find the right height to hang a particular painting?
Measure the height of your artwork. Say, it is 34″ high.
Divide by 2 to get the midpoint. 34/2=17″.
Now add 60.
The top of this particular artwork in our example should measure 77 inches from the floor.
But you are not done.
Look at the back of your painting and adjust for hanging method. Is your painting suspended on picture wire? Measure how much slack to the top. Is it a wood-framed canvas that will hang from the wood frame on the back. Measure the thickness of the wood frome.
Subtract this amount from your 77″.
It’s a lot of work, and I’m still filling old nail holes. But I think you can really see the difference. Do you?