Wall-wear: A designer explains when to hang what.

Be bold and try something you know your mom would not approve of.

Whether wall-papered, painted, bricked, plastered, or bead-boarded — no matter what your wall’s surface — one thing is for sure, they like companionship. Our walls should be one of our home’s most diverse landscapes, with as much depth and character as we ourselves embody. Or if you lack character, they should at least help you hide that. But what to do and where to do it?

Here are some basic tips that should help you decide what should hang where:

1. Maximize with mirrors. Whether you live in an apartment with only one bank of windows or a beach house with dozens, a mirror can help reflect light and open a space.

a) In an apartment, use them to create the illusion of more windows and add depth to your otherwise boxy space.


b) In a home with a view, use properly placed mirrors to spread the love, sharing the view on opposite sides of the room.

c) When creating a gallery wall with your favorite collections, a mirror can help add balance with shape and texture. A round mirror, for instance, can help break up the otherwise rigid lines of your frames and create an unexpected breath.


2. Mixing horizontal and vertical. A general rule when trying to mix a horizontal and vertical art piece on the same wall is simply adding one more item.  This is the one time a third wheel adds stability and balance. Don’t be shy with the third item either, often it can be the mortar that binds the whole look together. Using an object such as a clock, mirror or vintage find like an old sign or wooden shoe can help your wall seem more dynamic and layered.


3. Blend your framed art mixing white, dark and metallic frames. Creating a dynamic wall display is often about juxtaposition and contrast and for that reason use every frame you can get your hands on. If you have dark walls such as Amherst grey by Benjamin Moore (my personal favorite), white frames will pop and add certain depth and interest. On the other hand, if your walls are cloud-white or neutral, mixing both found and new frames can create that oft sought after aesthetic of the well-traveled and expertly collected home.


When choosing the frame for a specific art piece, you need to decide:  “do I want the art to speak or the frame.” If it’s the art, choose a frame that will fall away with little to no detail or color, such as a white frame from ikea, patterned with a white mat. If you’d prefer to elevate the art and add to it’s grandeur, then frame away, the more bold the moulding and the more varied the matt, the better.


4. Think outside the frame and go with something unexpected or “ready-made”. Some of the best items to hang on the wall are items that were never intended to be vertical in the first place. Items such as planters, wooden shoes, paddles or lobster traps can actually become the most interesting art piece you hang. The duchampian ideology (wiki the legend) of the ready-made can be realized in any space, by elevating an everyday object and displaying it for all to see the item takes on new life and interest.


5. On the side or on top…. how to hang around your bed. Hanging mirrors on either side of a bed can make a world of difference by reflecting lamp-light as well as adding complexity to an otherwise flat plane. Round mirrors will add a dynamic play of shapes, whereas tall, vertical mirrors flanking a bed will add height and formalize the room. These same rules apply for art. For above the bed keep it simple, one object or a tightly clustered collection will work best. HOWEVER, remember the golden rule of “less is more,” flanking your bed with mirrors or art should only come as a substitution for hanging something above. When you use both, the room often ends up far too busy.



6. The last thing to remember when deciding how to adorn your walls is to have fun. With a little elbow grease, anything can be fixed or adapted. Be bold and try something you know your mom would not approve of. If you’re tight on cash, hang a fork on the wall, hang 40 forks, be spontaineous. The greatest rule of all is to know when to break the rules. After all, a truly perfect home is imperfect.



Ben Leavitt

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