What decorating mistake do you see most often?
I enter many homes whose artwork and accessories need attention. Artwork is hung too high,
mirrors are too small, the lamps are boring, and sculpture is improperly displayed. Many other
times, I see no accessories. No matter how much time and energy is spent on selecting the
perfect furniture, an equal amount of time must be devoted to purchasing and placing
The artwork's subject matter should be appropriate for the room, and its colors should
complement the initial decorating. The size of the piece needs to fit the scale of its wall
space. The width of the wall or the furniture below the art should be two times the width of
the piece. For example, a 42-inch-wide painting can hang above an 84-inch sofa. If it is too
small for the dimensions of the space, then make it visually larger by adding smaller pieces
around it. Framing the piece in a thick, chunky frame is another easy way to make it seem
bigger. (Frames should coordinate with your furniture style).
I prefer outer picture mats in shades of white or black only; I think color mats distract
from the art. To add some color around the picture, I do a double mat with an outer, or main,
mat in black or white. Then I put the color mat underneath, with only a sliver of color
surrounding the picture.
As a rule of thumb, the center of a picture - hung on an eight-to nine foot wall - should
be about 60 inches off the floor. This is a standard eye level that eliminates neck-stretching
to appreciate the art.
Small prints, photographs, or any accessory that includes writing must be accessible for easy
close-up viewing. Anything small, whether on a wall or table, is usually placed in groups for
more interest. Varied frames help to make a striking composition.
Sculptures and accessories require the same balancing act as wall art. For instance, a
sculpture or clock must be shallow enough to fit a mantel. It must be large enough in
width and height to make a statement in such a prominent place. If it is too small,
consider placing it on a console or end table where the proportion is suitable.
Also, ask yourself if the piece should be viewed from all sides. If so, consider putting
it in the center of the room on a cocktail table. It can also be placed on a pedestal in
an empty corner. (Fine sculptures should sit atop a pedestal with a rotating top, so all
sides can be viewed.)
When placing a mirror, consider what will be reflected. No one wants to see messy
bookshelves twice in one room. And a mirror way up high in a two-story entry will be
useless. The frame for the mirror should complement the other decor, and the size and
hanging instructions follow the same guidelines as wall art.
Lamps are critical for function and decorative impact. Choosing one that serves both
purposes is easy because there are many wonderful choices. So try using miss matched
lamps instead of pairs. Different lamps on each end table are very dramatic. Varied
styles, sizes and finishes add interest to the room.
Published in Design NJ - Winter 2002 issue, updated 12/09.
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