ArtThatFits Blog » How to Place Art:Size Matters

Sometimes It is challenging to find the perfect piece of art. Just when you think you have found it, you may start to second guess whether it is the right size for your needs. When it comes to art, size does matter, but bigger isn’t always better! In some cases smaller pieces will be better suited to your needs. Unfortunately there aren’t rules for choosing appropriate art sizes, but I’d like to offer some tips that may make it easier for you to make decisions you won’t later regret.

Relate to the size of the room…   trad-home-modern2-5618128Most large pieces of art look their best when you can step back from them to view them in their entirety, as shown at left from Traditional Home. Tight spots, such as hallways, are rarely the ideal location for large pieces. That said, don’t use tiny pieces just because a room is small. Small pieces are well-suited to areas where you stand in close proximity to them, such as halls, powder rooms, or when the art will be displayed in a bookcase.

Relate to the size of the wall…   Even a large room may have short sections of wall in it. In order to enjoy your art to the fullest, each piece should have some breathing space surrounding it. This provides visual relief which enables the viewer to focus on the art.

Relate to the ceiling height…   If two rooms are the same length and width, but one has a higher ceiling, artwork that is more vertical will look better in that space. Consider the height and width of each wall. If the space is tall and narrow, tall and narrow artwork will relate to it. If you prefer to use a pair or series of art, square or horizontal pieces can be grouped vertically up the wall. 

The room to the right was designed by the talented Nate Berkus, one of Oprah’s favorites. As you can see, the ceiling is relatively high in this space. The large vertical art Nate selected is perfect here.

Relate to the scale of nearby furnishings…   A large overstuffed sofa can be an ideal anchor below a massive painting but the same painting may look out of place in the same room,  hanging over a petite desk. A small piece of art can look ridiculous over a king-size bed but may be ideal over a narrow chest of drawers.

Be aware of obstacles on all four sides of the art…   Obstacles include but are not limited to drapes, window or door frames, corners, crown mouldings, chair rails, fireplace mantles, furiture, and stairway railings. Art typically doesn’t look good crammed into a space so you need to account for everything in the area.

The photo above, from Southern Living, shows art over a mantle. The mantle and crown moulding are the two obvious obstacles, preventing the art from being any taller. If you plan to accessorize, lamps and vases, etc. should be taken into consideration as well.

Will it be a focal point?…   There are spaces in most homes that are prime spots for art. These areas may be the places where you choose larger pieces that will command attention and make a statement. Other areas may be secondary in importance and call for small or medium sized pieces.

The pair of contemporary pieces to the right, out of Architectural Digest, are on a primary wall visible form various areas in this space. The large size of the art brings a bold splash of color on the wall that wouldn’t occur using small images. 

Do you want it framed?…   Today you can purchase custom sized art. Even after you have figured out what the room limitations are, there is another factor that should be considered and that is custom framing. If you order a print on paper, typcially it should be matted. Today 4″ wide mat borders are rather typical for medium sized art. That means 8″ is being added to the height and width of the art before you even choose a frame. A canvas usually isn’t framed using mat borders but it is common to use wider frames, especially with traditional images. Be sure to allow plenty of space for proportional framing when you are choosing what size art to purchase.

The room to the left, courtesy of House Beautiful, showcases a set of six very small prints over a large, impressive bed. In this case the generous proportions of the mats allow the small images to become large enough to balance with the wall space and the furniture. If the same small pieces were oil paintings (generally framed without mat borders), the results may not be large enough to balance with the surroundings.

Tip of the Day…If you have walls to fill, it is a great idea to measure your spaces, making notes of all the obstacles surrounding the area. Keep the measurements in your purse or wallet so you will have them when you come across pieces you love.


Greg (7)

Filed under: Art, Design, Framing, Inspiration, Interiors, Publications on January 15th, 2009