Don’t need a stud if you’ve got right tools

Occasionally I have clients who buy my time and give my skills as a gift to a close family member; they find it’s an excellent way for passing along a love for beauty from one generation to another. Recently I was in Germantown, Tenn., doing just such a job for the daughter of a local realtor and her husband – hanging wall dŽcor on her home’s freshly painted walls.

After spending 12 hours hanging more than 60 pictures, mirrors and other items in her four-bedroom home, it seemed appropriate that I write today about some of the tricks of the trade used in hanging such artwork.

How to start?

Start by grouping like items along the floor or against furniture in one room where you can see them all at once. Place mirrors with mirrors, family photos with family photos, metal art with metal art, etc., so that you can visually and mentally inventory what you’ve got to work with.

Can you cull?

Use your critical eye to separate out the tired, the dated, and the least loved of your wall dŽcor. When art has outlived its ability to inspire, it is time to retire it to Goodwill, eBay or the trash heap.

What goes where?

On a job involving lots of artwork to be hung all around your house, you should count on it taking a couple of hours just to decide where everything will go. And, then take the time to move all the pieces into the rooms where you plan to hang them. Go ahead, move every piece where you want it to go right away or you’ll risk not hanging a piece you really liked and not notice it until too late.

Which to hang, a mirror or picture?

It depends on what you want to accomplish. Mirrors enlarge and expand a room and are also great for checking your appearance. Art adds color, warmth, and personality to a home and can make a powerful fashion statement.

Hang em high?

Most art will hang with its top frame no higher than the top of an open door, about 80 inches off the floor. The exception to this guideline would be for the space over the mantel where you’ll have several artistic options. One, if your wall dŽcor is almost as tall as the space where you’ll hang it, place it equally between the mantel and the ceiling or crown mold. Two, if the art or mirror is much smaller than the space above the mantelpiece, hang it to leave 2/3 of open wall space above and 1/3 of open wall space below. Three, hang your framed dŽcor at the same distance above the mantel as your frame and mat measures from the bottom of the print to the bottom edge of the frame.

Or hang em low?

There are times when stacking like-size pictures will allow you to hang pictures well below a normal picture height of between 68 and 72 inches. What I like to do is find a tall narrow wall that can be seen from a distance and then stack three pictures on it, one over the other. To determine height, first lay the three pictures on the floor face up and space them to please the eye, putting the picture with the heaviest looking subject matter on the bottom and the lightest on the top. Try to keep the overall height of the group at 60 inches or less and hang them no higher than 72 to 76 inches.

Still confused about height?

Ask some friends or a helpmate to hold your wall dŽcor at different heights while you stand (or sit) across the room to see what visually pleases you the most.

Should I use a stud?

It might be more fun hanging pictures if your friend or helpmate is a stud, but hanging heavy mirrors or metal art doesn’t require it. What you want to use is a hammer, metal tape measure and the right hanging hardware. J-hooks come in different weight capacities (25-, 50-, and 100-pound) and can be used on any Sheetrock wall. I don’t recommend using wire hangers on anything near or over 30 pounds; it’s best to hang each side of your mirror or picture separately from its own hanger. You can find heavy-duty J-hooks at your local picture framer, hardware store or decorating center.

Are you on the level?

To be quite honest, if you have a good metal tape measure, the only place you truly need a level is for high work, like over a stairway were there is no easy reference to a level floor below or ceiling above.

Any other hang tips?

You’ll find it helpful to first line up smaller pictures in groups by placing them side-by-side and face-up along the lines of a tile or hardwood floor. You can then turn them over and measure exactly how far apart their individual hangers need to go.

You’ll find these tips will serve you well whether you’re hanging the wall dŽcor of an entire house or just one wall.

Live in beauty!

Stephen Thompson is an Allied Member of the American Society of Interior Designers. Questions or comments may be addressed to Designer Connection, P.O. Box 361, Tupelo, MS 38802 or to

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