Michigan Design
Designer Tip
ideas and inspiration from the professionals


Diane Hancock

by Diane Hancock, AIA, LEED AP
Diane Hancock Designs Inc.

Beautifully displayed artwork can add the finishing touch when decorating a room, but clients are often confused about how to select and hang their wall art so that it complements the room and looks its best. There are a few rules of thumb that make all the difference when placing artwork throughout your home.

First consider the scale of the piece of art in relation to both the size of the area and the size of the items near it. One easy rule is to choose artwork that is not larger than the piece of furniture below it. Measurethe width of the furniture item and deduct 10% to calculate the maximum width of the artwork for that space. You may choose one piece of art or create a composition of several pieces – just do not exceed that maximum width calculation.

Avoid choosing art that is too small for a space by measuring the furniture below the item and deduct 70%. If your proposed artwork is smaller than 30% of the width, it is too small. Artwork should generally fall within that range of 30% to 90% of the size of the furniture below. Items that are darker or stronger in color will appear larger than items of equal size in a pale color.

Next, consider the size and amount of detail in the individual artwork and the distance at which it will be viewed. The beauty of a delicate, detailed piece of art will be lost if the viewer cannot get close enough to see and enjoy it. If the art will be hung high up or at a distance, choose a large scale graphic piece that can be appreciated from further away.

This gallery hall is a great example of placing pieces so the details may be enjoyed. Bonus points are scored at the end of the hall with a perfectly proportioned piece over the console table.

Once you have determined that the artwork is within the correct size range and the level of detail in the art is appropriate for the space, you should plan the height at which it will be displayed. If there is an object below the artwork, do not make the mistake of leaving a large gap between the object and the artwork. The art should “relate” to the item below to create a cohesive composition. Similarly, if you are hanging a group of art on the wall, do not leave too much space between the pieces or they will not create the desired effect. The grouping should read as one set – not scattered, unrelated separate items.

Whether displayed alone or as part of a group, careful placement of artwork will add more value to the overall look of your room and give you years of enjoyment.


To view information and additional work samples from
Diane Hancock, click here

Great example of what not to do: Wall shelf is larger than chest below it. The lack of air / wall space on either side makes it appear crowded and out of place.

The dishes above the bed are too small and the details are not visible from a distance.

This grouping of smaller prints fills the large wall without overwhelming the room.



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