How to Select and Position Art Over a Sofa

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Although there are many published rules and mathematical calculations for the correct way to position art on the wall above a sofa or couch, hanging art is itself an art -- not a science. There is an easy method for selecting and positioning art that is adaptable to your particular family, lifestyle and interests, and that will serve you now and in the future.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Painter's tape or masking tape
  • Picture hangers
  • Hammer
  • Place your sofa exactly where you want it. Measure the length of the sofa back and divide that number by two. Make a light, vertical pencil line at that measurement on the wall a few inches above the sofa. Make it long enough so that you can see it from a few feet away. This is the center from which you will balance any and all artwork you place on the wall.

  • Use the center mark to position a single, large piece of art if you have one that you wish to be centered on the wall. Mark its center with a pencil on a piece of tape placed on the bottom of the frame. Have a friend or family member of average height sit in the middle of your sofa. Draw a light, horizontal pencil mark on the wall at the top of his head. It should cross the vertical space where the first pencil mark was placed. Now you can hang the large piece of art so that the center of its bottom is approximately where your two lines would cross. You will add other pieces of art, wall sculpture or objects on both sides of this central piece -- unless it is very large and reaches the entire length of the sofa -- so precise centering is not critical.

  • Select art, photos and other hanging pieces you wish to group on the wall. Pieces may speak of your interests or travels. They may have a common theme or may be a group of old black-and-white photos. Select and group pieces on a table or the floor first, to balance the sizes, shapes and numbers of items for each side of a large piece, or against one another if you have no single central piece.

  • Vary the shapes and sizes of pieces for each side. For example, don't group all rectangles on one side and all round shapes on the other. Balance a larger object for one side with a few smaller ones for the other. Mix textured items with smooth ones or highly patterned pieces with less patterned ones. Mix the colors of the frames if you have a variety of them.

  • Refer to your center vertical line to balance groups of objects for each side. Begin to hang your selected groups of pieces, working outward from the center. It is OK for pieces to overlap the center -- you don't want to see an open vertical space above the center of the sofa unless you desire to create a very formal arrangement with a pair or quadruplet of matching framed pieces. Hang one or a few pieces on each side of center and then balance those with pieces on the other side of center, varying the heights on the wall. Step back and view the wall with every few hangings to be sure the height and width of your arrangement looks balanced as it continues to grow from the center.

  • Erase your pencil marks carefully when you are finished. Add to this arrangement over time, or swap pieces with new ones to reflect new experiences or changes in taste.

Tips & Warnings

  • Buy a variety of picture hangers to accommodate different weights of pieces and for art that is fitted with either wire or sawtooth hangers on the back.
  • Test your eraser before using it on your wall. Some erasers smear the pencil marks more than others.

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References

  • "The New Decorating with Pictures : Collecting Art and Photography and Displaying It in Your Home"; Simon Upton, et al.: 2004
  • "House Beautiful Art: Decorating with Art at Home"; Judith Gura, et al.; 2004
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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