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A little higher.

No, lower.

A little more to the


Sound familiar? It's the by-guess and by-golly approach to hanging pictures.

Finding the right height, the right place and the right arrangement for art in the home freezes a lot of people in their tracks.

For those who may suffer from Fear of Hanging and want some guidance and reassurance before they start pounding nails in the wall, a group of art professionals offered their guidelines on where and how to hang art.

How high is up?

The biggest mistake people make is hanging their art too high.

The general guideline is to hang it at eye level. That, of course, will change from person to person, and that's the point: What's comfortable for you?

Ken and Betsy Orbe Lester have hung exhibits in galleries around Tampa Bay for years. The Lesters position each painting's center 58 inches above the floor. That's a general rule of thumb followed by many museums and galleries. The goal is to hang at a comfortable height for viewing.

A variation on this, said Betsy Lester, is to hang the painting so its top third is at eye level. When hanging several pictures on the same wall, Ken Lester said, avoid the "clothesline look" in which the tops of all the frames line up. Aligning the centers of all the paintings will be pleasing to the eye even though the pictures are slightly staggered.

Eye level will depend also on how the room is used. Pictures hung in a dining room, where you're likely to view them while seated, should be hung lower than those in a foyer or hall, where you're more apt to see them while standing.

In a living room, similarly, you're more likely to be seated, and the art will be competing for visual space with lamps, furniture and other objects.

"If somebody has a floor lamp next to a sofa, and a coffee table, those three items all have to coordinate," said Vivian Kistler, a former gallery owner and framer in Akron, Ohio, who now creates videos for the picture framing, art and photography industry.

"There's a place for artwork, but not at the height of the lamp. It needs to be lower. . . . Think of it as an arrangement that an artist would do. Keep the artwork from starting behind someone's head."

Rotate your collection

Some people hang a painting and leave it there for the next 30 years. Move your art around, the professionals recommend, from room to room or to a different spot in the same room.

"Rotating the artwork will freshen the room like putting a new set of pillows on the couch. In fact, it will do more," Ms. Kistler said. "If people have spent a lot of money on one piece of artwork, they're always going to have it out. But you can change the focus by putting it somewhere else in the room."

Think in groups

A single piece of art hung forlornly in the middle of a wall can look pretty lonely. Learn to group pictures (an odd number works best) for maximum impact.

"Group by subject, size or color," suggested Betsy Lester.

Think of color groupings: all black and white, for instance. Or, suggested Vivian Kistler, gather the same colors in different media: "a pink flower in an oil painting, a watercolor with a pink pillow, a sketch using pink chalk. All would coordinate; there would be some continuity."

Study the visual weight of art you're grouping. Balance a very dark or extremely bright piece with several in cooler or lighter colors. Place a large piece above a smaller one to draw attention to the smaller piece and give it an intimate setting.

Don't stop with the sofa

There are more places to hang art than those safe old standbys, over the sofa or the fireplace. There's no law against having something pleasant to look at while you brush your teeth or do the laundry. Shelves high on the walls hold an eclectic collection of items: pictures, antiques, knickknacks, old tools, signs.

But does it match?

If you're going to be color-conscious, be a little daring, Betsy Lester suggested. Don't hang a green picture above a green sofa; look to the other side of the color wheel and choose a piece of art with red as the dominant color. "It's very exciting."

Handle with care

Don't hang art where a door will open onto it, or where a chair will be backed into it, or where someone reaching for a light switch will jostle it. And don't hang it on a door, where it will bounce around every time the door opens. Keep art away from sources of heat or cold, such as an air-conditioning or heating duct, Ms. Gessler advises, which are also typically dusty locations.

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