Tips for Displaying Art & Collections in your Home

The world of interiors has evolved towards a freedom of expression, using your home to demonstrate your likes and character.

Your collections and art purchases should reflect your personality and cultural taste. After all you will be living with it. You should purchase items because you love them not because they match your decor. Make your statement bold or subtle as you wish. However, a few basic guidelines don’t change much over time, such as the underlying rules of symmetry and order.

If you prefer a unified theme, consistency should not mean its boring and predictable. Throw in a complementary or contrasting work of art as an accent piece. The element of surprise makes for great conversation when you’re entertaining guests at home.

1. Dare to go Eclectic

This can be an interesting combination for example a mixture of vintage and modern art, or a multi-media mix of oils, watercolours, photographs and prints or an eclectic mix of antique objects from different periods.

eclectic living room

Plunge ahead and experiment, but be sure there’s a recurring element that unifies the pieces. A safe bet would be choosing colours and tones that belong to a similar range of hues or pieces from the same period . For art colelctions unify the display by perhaps colour matching or using the same type of frame.

similar colours and tones

Assign collections to particular rooms. Something irreverent such as caricature collections or funny pieces  would be good for a downstairs toilet and are sure to add to conversations as after all most guests will use the downstairs loo!

I’ve a montage of travel photographs and various objects form my travels in my loo and it always stirkes up a conversation with visitors. A collection of objet d’art and books in a display coffee table  in a lounge  is another good way of displaying your favourite pieces or a mix of china and other items in a dresser or on shelves in the kitchen.

cups and saucers

2. Grouping and Hanging Pictures

No matter what the art genre, some simple guidelines apply on wall displays. Think right proportions; smaller pieces match narrow walls, while huge pieces are suited for main walls. You can also mix and match different sizes on a larger wall.

Here is a great example of how various eclectic pieces mix.

When grouping a number of pieces, put the most interesting item or the one you like most as the centrepiece, not necessarily in the middle, but in a dominant position. The pieces in the peripherals play supporting roles to complement the main attraction; the spotlight should be on the star. Otherwise, place it strategically on one side or the other so that it will be directly in your line of sight.

Another helpful tip is to create an imaginary box and place the set of pictures within the boundaries of that block. Frames in a wall grouping can be of different sizes, but should be of the same type as their unifying element

It is also useful to borrow from graphic design principles to create elegant picture arrangements. . Left-aligned or right-aligned frames form a straight vertical line that pleases the eye. There’s a sense of order in top-aligned or bottom-aligned frames arranged in a row.  A closer look at a seemingly haphazard arrangement will reveal some symmetry out of the seeming chaos.

pdf download
Download our PDF showing examples of different wall groupings


3. Measure and Review Before Hanging

Be kind to your walls; measure and mark before you drill or hammer. First, lay the art pieces on the floor to envision how the arrangement will look when put up on the wall. Arrange and re-arrange the pieces on the floor until you find the grouping that’s most appealing to you. If you can’t make up your mind, ask family members or friends for their opinion. They may disagree on some things, but may come up with suggestions to help you decide.

Measure the individual pieces, the spaces between them, and the total area to be taken up by the entire collection. Mark these measurements on the wall so you know where each picture goes. This sounds trite but the artworks on display in your home are primarily for your personal enjoyment, so place them where they can be easily viewed and enjoyed.

4. Choose the Right Lighting Effects

The right lighting will enhance any collection or art on display. If you are lucky enough to have expensive art collections this is probably obvious but exposure to sunlight will fade and damage the work. Whether from a natural or artificial source, keep in mind that direct lighting eventually causes deterioration to any work of art. Art experts also warn against the use of fluorescent lights, as they emit UV rays and distort our perception of colours.

Normal bulbs work well with warm colours and draw out earthy tones. They bring out the best in yellows and oranges, browns and reds. However, they do not flatter cool colours at all, so they’re not great company for seascapes. Halogen lights are excellent for showing off the subtleties of works in their best light. Remember to choose low-end watt halogen bulbs to minimize any damage to art.

5. Minimalist or Over the Top

sideboard cabinet

The current trends are minimalist although kitsch and vintage styles are now becoming fashionable. You only have to look at the increase in popularity of Cath Kidson. As long you’ve bought or collected things you  find aesthetically pleasing or love them whether minimalist or over the top, just group them together as per the tips above and enjoy.

Here are some great suggestions for finding new art.


Images courtesy of Phl MankerTobyotter, Tropic~7Dee Speed

avatar Name: Alexandra Eager
About: Formerly Finance and Operations Director of anmarketing agency. Now luckily semi-retired. Amateur interior design buff, constantly experimenting on my own home (much to the chargrins of hubby) and passionate about anything to do with home interiors and improvements. Wish my house was bigger!

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Posts by Alexandra Eager (49)