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How To Choose & Arrange Wall Hangings

Wall hangings are a great way to bring color, visual texture, and variety into your home. They are easily rearranged or replaced and can be selected for any budget. The challenge is in knowing what type of wall hangings will work for you - how tall, how wide, how should they be arranged, how many should you use, how will they balance with the rest of the decor? These are all questions that can be answered with an easy, logical approach.

Dimensions - How Tall, How Wide?

The "golden rectangle" is a proportion that has been identified as ideal throughout the ages. If the length is about 1.6 times the width (or vice versa), the wall hangings will achieve this perfect ratio, and will have a satisfying appearance whether hung vertically or horizontally. This proportion occurs in nature, which may help explain it's instinctive appeal. Rectangles that fall somewhere between square and the golden rectangle may seem awkward. Wall hangings that are quite long and narrow will be reminiscent of scrolls. Regardless of their content, these elongated proportions will lend an eastern flair to your decor.

Existing decor, such as doors, windows and large pieces of furniture can serve as good guidelines for scale. Wall hangings that measure larger than these features may appear outsized, while hangings that are approaching half the width of doors/windows or less may appear too small. When selecting smaller wall hangings, consider having a larger number of them to achieve a greater overall effect.

Placement - How Should Wall Hangings be Arranged?

For convenience as well as visual appeal, hangings should be placed with a minimum of a handspan from corners, door frames, window frames and other features.  A little more space, perhaps at least a foot, is needed between the ceiling and the top of the wall hanging. Keep in mind that having a wall hanging close to the same height as a window or door frame may feel awkward. It's better to have the wall hanging be clearly above or clearly below the height of the door frame to avoid having the placement appear accidental or sloppy. Wall hangings that are grouped in two or more can be hung closer together for a more seamless overall look. Don't forget to check where the bottom edge of the wall hanging falls as well. Bottom edges that closely align to window sills, the tops of bureaus, bookshelves or similar, may appear visually awkward. Edges that shoulder height may be especially prone to being knocked askew.

If you feel like you have an especially artistic eye, smaller wall hangings can even be grouped salon style, where a variety of sizes are grouped at various heights, side by side as well as on top of each other, with a certain amount of randomness but a balanced overall result. To help achieve a final balance, figure out how much surface area you want the total wall hangings to take up, and mark the perimeter and central point of this area on your wall. Cut out papers of sizes matching your assorted wall hangings, and experiment with various arrangements until you achieve a successful, balanced appearance to your salon-style hanging. If you prefer, you can also experiment with different arrangements by creating a paper template and cutouts that represent your wall and hangings in miniature.

Amount - How Many Wall Hangings is Appropriate?

Much will depend on how ornate the rest of your decor is, and the scale of the area being decorated and the wall hangings selected. However, it is helpful to remind oneself that more is, well, not necessarily more. Your wall hangings will have more visual impact and be more elegant if at least one, and preferably both of the adjacent wall areas are clear of competing decorative elements. A good rule of thumb is that if you are standing about 8 feet away from the wall, directly in front of your hanging, competing decorative elements should be barely, if at all visible in your peripheral vision. Remember that even with wall hangings, it is easier to add more than to have to remove hangings (and repair/camouflage marks left by installation hardware).

Color and Style - How Will Wall Hangings Balance with the Rest Your Decor?

Because they are highly visible and can take up a significant surface area, wall hangings readily amp up existing color and decorating themes. For harmonious contrast, choose wall hangings that have colors that are complementary (on opposite sides of the color wheel) to the colors present in your other furnishings (ex: yellows with blues, reds with cyans). Use caution as some complimentary or near complimentary pairings can result in a vibration effect, where it is difficult for the eye to process the combined effect, so that the results are painful and unappealing.  For a textural, monochromatic effect, use colors that are similar to each other.

Stylistically, wall hangings can help emphasize thematic decor, whether the themes are regional, historical, etc. Choosing wall hangings that match your furnishing, for example, hanging a quilt in a room with classic American furniture, will result in a strong theme, while choosing contrasting looks - renaissance style tapestries or neo-baroque paintings with contemporary furnishings - will create an eclectic feel.

Unifying your decor thematically and in terms of color may seem like the easy choice, but in fact, sometimes it is contrast that is easier to achieve. Nothing looks more amateurish than furnishings that almost, but don't quite match or work together. And you probably don't want to accidentally turn your home into a facsimile of a theme restaurant or novelty hotel. The more traditional and specific your chosen decor, the more accurate and careful your choices are likely to have to be in order to achieve successful results.


Wall hangings, even more so than other types of decor, are a relatively low-risk way of experimenting.  Creating a template with cutouts, or on your computer can be an effective way of testing out your ideas before actually hanging anything on your wall. If working in miniature is tricky, you can also consider getting fabric in the color palette that you are considering, cutting it to size, and temporarily affixing it to the wall. This method has the advantage of allowing you to live with your design idea for a while, to help you guess how you will feel about it over time.

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