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How to Choose Art That Is The Right Size For Your Space

    Last spring we rented a house in a darling beach town. Of course the second we arrived the kids ran through each room checking it all out, claiming their beds and shouting to one another about how cool the place was.

    Want to know what I did first?

    I rehung the lone picture on the living room wall.

    The decor of the house was great – very coastal in a subtle way. And the canvas went perfectly with the style of the house. But it was so small for that big wall and hung much too high. It just floated on the wall and looked a bit out of place.

    So I added a new nail hole to the fresh walls (sorry owners!) and moved it down about 8 inches so that the picture related more to the furniture in front of it. It is still small for the space, but looked much more intentional when placed lower (at eye-level) on the wall.

    Ever since then, I’ve noticed artwork. Especially the too-small or hung-too-high variety.

    Adding artwork to our walls is undoubtedly one of the best ways to add color, personality and interest to a space; figuring out what size of art to choose – and how high to hang it! – is the tricky part. Our walls either end up perpetually bare out of decorating indecision or with artwork that looked perfect in the store, but doesn’t quite make the impact we expected once brought home.

    I’m here to help.

    Guidelines in decorating can sometimes feel restricting (decorate to your taste, not as if there is one right or wrong way to do it!) and sometimes they help so much in making seemingly tricky things (like how big of art to hang on a wall) much less tricky.

    So here’s the guideline to follow when choosing art for your wall: artwork should be ½ – ¾ the width of the selected space.

    This is particularly true if you are hanging art over a piece of furniture or above a fireplace. Simply measure the distance of your mantle, for example, and then multiply by 0.6 and you’ll get the ideal size of artwork for the space.

    Let me show you an example:

    This is my friend Erica’s house. You may remember it from a Coastal Christmas House Tour we did a few years ago.

    There is a large wall between the living room and kitchen/dining room that looks great with a christmas tree in front of it, but for the rest of the year Erica wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.

    She recently inherited a great mid-century bench from her grandfather and had a cute setup happening and just needed something on the wall to finish it off.

    We talked about adding a gallery wall and about a set of open shelves. Neither felt quite right.

    Instead we decided on a single piece of art – something that could easily be taken down at Christmas when the tree went back up, and maybe something seasonal that she could switch out.

    It just so happened that I had recently ordered samples of my White Pumpkin painting in varying canvas sizes and she had mentioned wanting one, so I brought them over and tried out all three. It ended up being a great visual example of how different sizes of art look on the same wall.

    We started with the small canvas. It is not actually all that small; in fact, if we were shopping and saw a 16×20 canvas, I bet it would feel like the perfect size for the wall.

    But once hung, it looks a bit … blah. Like it’s just floating there. It is hung at eye level, but even still feels unrelated to the furniture and doesn’t do much to fill in the tall expanse of wall.

    Up next was the medium canvas.

    This one is 24×30″ and does a much better job of filling in the space.

    The general rule, you’ll remember, is to choose art that is ½ – ¾ the width of the wall OR of the furniture it is being placed over. This works if we’re just accounting for the bench, but because that little side table/basket is included in the grouping, the medium canvas doesn’t quite cover as much wall as it could.

    The third size – you guessed it! the large canvas – obviously makes the biggest impact.

    At 30×40″ it takes up more visual space both horizontally and vertically.

    The bench + side table is about 60″ wide. If I do the formula (60 x .06) I get a suggested art size of 36″. This print is just a little bit over that and works well in the grouping.

    When you pull back to see how the wall works in the rest of the room, you can see how nicely the large canvas fills in the space. We could have gone with the medium size, since it also looked nice with the scale of the furniture, but my current preference is for oversized art and so that is what won out.

    The canvas is hung with the center at eye level (go off of the average height of 5’6″) and looks great taking up all that space on the wall.

    To avoid lots of unnecessary nail holes, we used Command strips for hanging. They worked like a charm!

    Erica and I had a great time trying out the three different sizes. And I hope it is helpful for you to see a tangible example of how varying sizes work up on a wall.

    Try out the measurement guideline (distance of wall x 0.6 = ideal artwork size), grab a piece of art that closely matches the size and hang (nail-free!) at eye level for a once-empty wall to now be lovingly filled.

    P.S. White Pumpkin canvases are now available in the shop in all three sizes! CLICK HERE to get a canvas for your home.

    32 thoughts on “How to Choose Art That Is The Right Size For Your Space”

    1. Hi Emily,
      I love your blog on right size art! I fall in the category of nothing on the walls, as I get for confused.
      Here’s my newest dilemma. I have a 9′, fireplace with cream colored stone. The firebox is 33″, and I have 47″ between mantle and ceiling. Don’t know if I should lineup the artwork to match size of firebox, or something round, like a mirror, or a huge piece of rectangle art. I used your math, but the art would be much longer then the firebox, like 65″. Thoughts or suggestions?
      Thank you!

    2. Wow, it really helped when you talked about the right size of the art before buying one. As you mentioned, it should be 1/2 to 3/4 of the width of the wall or the furniture that will be below it. I will definitely share this information with my sister who plans to buy an art painting this weekend to decorate her newly bought condo unit. She bought a unit because she plans to rent it to travelers, and it will attract more clients if she decorates it well. Thanks!

    3. I have your pumpkin as a print!! Purchased it a few years back and I still get excited to take it out as soon as I decorate for Fall!! It is currently in a beautiful gilded frame and proudly hanging in our kitchen. I love it!

    4. Very nice painting! Simple, subtle, but elegant. At first, when looking at the three side-by-side photos at the start of the post, my preference was the medium sized painting. Maybe you mentioned this and I missed it, but I think the rules of art sizes in relation to furniture below need to account for the density of the furniture. To me, in the three side-by-side photos, the largest size looks out of proportion and gets to close to the couch. All of sudden it is forced to ‘match’ the couch and it doesn’t really seem to. But the medium size is just far enough away that the couch ensemble can breathe and be appreciated on its own. However, that being said, once I saw the final image where you pulled back and looked at the rest of the room, it really does look great. Thanks for sharing. :)

    5. Emily, would you consider the outside perimeter of a grouping or gallery wall as (total size) the same as one piece of art for your wall for this formula? I would imagine so, just checking! I have a some varying size artwork and pictures, all of which are too small alone to be on my long wall above my couch. Wasn’t sure if I should go shopping for a potentially expensive piece of art, or make do with a grouping until I find something that I love!

    6. I would love to hear your thoughts on when choosing art work for a very large space….like a long wall….and also how to keep a grouping of things from being too much. Thank you Emily…like Tonia above…I feel like you’re my real friend!

    7. I purchased your white pumpkin last year and just love it! Will display it on my mantle October 1st. One of my favorite Fall treasures. Are the Let Hope canvases for sale?

    8. I love the canvas and the large size, and agree with all the guidelines, but I think it would look so much better if the canvas was centered over the bench alone, rather than over the bench and wicker chest.

    9. Would you recommend this canvas for year round? I think my husband would be happier with my purchase if it wasn’t just a seasonal item :). Also, what are your thoughts on framing it?

    10. So helpful!! Thanks for sharing. Also, I think you mean to multiply by 0.6? Not divide (which would give you a larger size than the original dimensions)

    11. I fall in the club of basically bare walls from indecision, so I truly needed this post. I need a print to go over our piano, but don’t think I did the formula right. It’s 5ft long. What size print would you recommend?

      Thanks Emily! You truly are just like a real life friend. ?

      1. I would try to look for something about 36″ wide (60″ x 0.6 = 36″). Again, go with what looks great to your eye and if that means something smaller or larger than 36″ don’t be afraid to give it a go!

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