Displaying Your Art

Home Is Where the Art Is

By Katherine Ernst
Photography by Ned Manter
and Walter Greeley 

The quintessential Cape Cod Home is set close to the water with large windows encouraging the sun and sea breezes to enter. Its residents love and collect art, yet are usually not inclined to construct in-home galleries that meet archival standards for preservation. Our art is part of our enjoyment of every day life and as such joins us in our home and work environments.

Displaying Your Art

The appropriate display of art is influenced by the work you wish to display, other objects in the space, the function and size of the space.

Walls, windows, even plants and pets need to be considered in planning the presentation. You may begin by studying books and periodicals covering the finer points of displaying art. You may have already started by moving an assortment of furniture, originals and "stuff" into the room and then commenced experimenting. Ready to hang your favorite oil right now?

The most commonly asked question is: How high should I hang my paintings? Paintings are most easily enjoyed when the centerline is set at eye level. Hanging art above eye level requires the eyes to look up, forcing the neck back and causing a subtle strain that becomes wearing over time. The eye level is determined by the height of people in your home and whether they will be standing or seated when viewing the art. 

Once the eye level is determined, measure the framed height of your painting. Divide by two. Add that number to the eye level and you know where the top of the frame is to be positioned. Now measure the distance from the top of the tensed wire to the top of the frame. Subtract that number from the point of the top of the frame and you have the height for your nail hole. Sounds a little fussy and complicated but it's not. For example, if the average eye level is 5 feet (60 inches), the framed painting is 20 inches in height, and the distance from the tensed wire to the top of the painting is 3 inches, your hanger should be placed 67 inches from the floor (60 + 10 - 3 = 67). Exceptions are made when art is placed above a high mantle or furniture.

Several pieces evenly spaced along an extended wall can be quite compelling. Groupings of art tend to have a more intimate feeling. Similar small works can become a focal point when hung  stacked above one another. Sculpture and plants enhance the viewer's involvement with a space. Three-dimensional art, inside or outside, can be placed to be admired from every angle and lit so that shadows become a part of the visual impact.
 “The placement of a painting and the amount of surrounding wall space greatly influence the way a painting is perceived. Large paintings deserve to be hung to allow one to approach as well as to take in from a distance,” say architects Alan Dodge and Joy Cuming of South Wellfleet.

Rules for displaying art are informative guidelines. You are the true judge of a beautiful display. If you love walking into your home and are continually drawn to your art, you've done a great job. 


Lively paintings by Charles Sovek, Caribbean colors and Al Glover's entertaining sculptures make this sunny guest suite more than fun.




This dramatic entrance draws the eye to Mystic Oysters, a highly-detailed egg  tempera by Garry Gilmartin. The lighting above the seating area allows emphasis on two works of art. The nook works well for the flowers and small painting currently displayed, as well as for tall, slender sculptures. Stepping into the corridor, one has an opportunity to study the row of Demarais paintings. The antique kilim rug adds warmth and continuity.