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Bigger Isn’t Always Better

If you love reading design magazines like I do, you’ve probably noticed that it seems like some people have a very strong sense of style and know just how to make dramatically sized artwork work in their home. If you don’t have your art legs just yet, or if you’re still honing your sense of style, I’ll give you some pointers plus a very basic formula for sizing art to get you started.

Generally speaking, we don’t want a piece of art to be so big it takes over a room nor do we want small pieces to get lost on a large wall. We want our art to really work in its space. So how do we find a happy medium and figure out the right size art for our wall?


Usually we hang art in two places: blank walls or walls with furniture. If you’re hanging art on a blank wall, you don’t need to measure anything – just think broadly about how the size of the artwork relates to everything else in the room. Do you have a room where big art is competing with big furniture? Do you have a busy room with a lot of furniture where your small photographs just seem to disappear? Or, do you have a spacious room that can afford to be anchored by a big piece of artwork? Before banging any nails, hold up different sizes of art on your blank wall and look for a balance between the art and the other elements in the room.

For the trickier business of hanging art on walls shared with furniture, get out your measuring tape and let’s talk fractions. There is an old rule that art should be 2/3 the size of a wall or the object it relates to. You needn’t follow this rule to a T, but it is a helpful starting place.

For instance, if you are hanging a piece of art (or a grouping of art) over a 48” W sideboard in your dining room, plan for the size of your art (or the overal size of the group of art) to be no smaller than 32” W or up to 48” W, though I suggest not wider than the sideboard itself. Hanging artwork which is smaller than the sideboard can be a bit more dynamic than matching its width perfectly.

If you’re hanging art between two closely positioned windows, don’t hang art that barely fits. Use the 2/3 rule, measure the space, and buy artwork approximately 2/3 of the size of the distance between the windows.

So, indeed it’s true that size matters, but maybe not in the way you were expecting. It’s all about proportion. Art does not have to be big to make an impact. Once you get the hang of thinking about size in these terms, the art will feel like it belongs in its space allowing you to appreciate its inherent elements which grabbed your attention in the first place. You’ll know when it’s working because you’ll walk into a room and either the art will just pop, or the whole room will have a sense of balance that it didn’t have before, and if you’re lucky, both.

Photo: Lisa Pak Design

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