When it comes to decorative art, the writing is on the wall

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published April 29, 2015

Walking into a home without wall art would be almost as jarring as stepping inside an observatory and seeing no telescopes, or eating at a Mexican restaurant and not being served chips and salsa.

People sense the ambiance when standing inside a building. And no matter what the setting is or what is taking place in that particular environment, people often expect to see aesthetically pleasing and visually stimulating art.

Wall art is practically a must in today’s society, because not only does it put the homeowner’s or business owner’s fingerprints on an interior design, but it is a form of welcoming someone inside without saying anything at all.

If one sees a painting by Monet hanging on a wall, or maybe a rendering of an aerial photo of old Tiger Stadium, then that person can instantly ascertain something about who is inhabiting the property. The sense of style and personal interest becomes more noticeable the more art there is on the walls.

Corie Conroy, a professional home staging consultant from First Impression Home Staging and Interior Design LLC in Bloomfield Hills, said a rule of thumb for hanging art is to keep it at eye level.

She said a number most people should aim for is 57, which pertains to hanging art 57 inches from the floor. That creates a comfortable height to view artwork, she said.

Another guideline is that if something is hanging above a sofa, the art should be no more than 6 inches from the sofa.

“It kind of looks like it’s floating on the wall if it’s higher than (6 inches),” Conroy said.

Denyse Tzavellas, an interior designer at Denyse & Co. in Grosse Pointe Woods, defined the principles of wall art as being designated to different shapes and scales. There are no definite rules in which to abide, she said, but grouping and planning go hand in hand.

Start from the middle of the sofa and work outward, Tzavellas said, with a smaller sofa changing the grouping dimensions to stay within the sofa. The decorator should aim for people to focus on specific images and sense some sort of pattern.

“It’s kind of nice for (artwork) to be in the same coloration — they have to make sense,” Tzavellas said. “You can do a grouping of mirrors. Mirrors always have to reflect back to something, not to a wall that doesn’t reflect anything.

“Find a grouping and then take off from there, but there’s really no rhyme or reason. Some people like a family wall, so they do the whole wall and use different frames but of the same art style. When there’s way too many pictures, you don’t know what to look at. It’s a hodgepodge.”

For the do-it-yourself crowd, Conroy suggests drawing imaginary lines in relation to a group of art. It’s not necessarily about the amount of items; rather, there should be a balance of weight on either side of the wall.

She mentioned how she was once in a home and the owners had hung up board games on the wall, including the color spot map from Twister and a chess board. Since the decorations were properly balanced, the effect was pleasing to the eye.

When hanging items above a fireplace, Conroy said, it’s wise to have the grouping or artwork be equal in scale to the opening of the fireplace. And for horizontal groupings — which may be hung down a hallway — it’s important to keep a width of 4-6 inches between each piece of art. That could be accomplished by placing a hand between each piece.

Even art has a limit, and there is such a thing as too much. Like anything else in life, an oversaturated home can lead to a diluted effect.

“I think the same mistake people make is that they need to look at the shape of the wall,” Conroy said. “They need to use artwork that is appropriate for the wall.

“It’s important not to hang a grouping on every wall in every room. You want to appreciate the space, because that makes it pleasing to the eye, and if you have a nice paint color, you want to show it off. It will be too busy (otherwise).”

There are forms of art that extend beyond family photos and paintings, too. These include sports pennants or movie posters, and such things can be hung anywhere.

Tzavellas said creativity can help with items that have irregular shapes.

Rather than just nail a flag to a wall, a sleeve could be created and the flag could hang elegantly with its pole intact. The same goes for family heirlooms, like fine china or boat paddles, which could be crossed on the wall to form an appealing maritime theme.

The opportunities are almost endless.

“Art is always great in the bathroom,” Tzavellas added. “If you have a tub, it’s great to have a painting over a tub. I like paintings in a small foyer; it warms it up. If your garage is really nice and you have a Harley-Davidson or something, you can put up a cool picture.

“But you need a finished garage. People get carried away.”

And for those who want to spruce up their homes but don’t trust their own creative sense or lack thereof, a professional can make a world of difference.

“If you’re ever in doubt and need help, always consult a designer because one can be hired by the hour and can transform a room using existing stuff and knowing how to display it,” Tzavellas said. “Don’t be afraid of using a professional. Make sure you meet them and are comfortable with them and are on the same page.”