You can fill your home with fabulous furnishings and killer accents, but if you don’t finish off with walls of dramatic artwork, the room will never feel finished. Artwork is one of the most powerful forces in decorating because it gives a space heart and soul. Creating drop-dead-gorgeous artwork displays is a lot easier than you think. Here are seven secrets I use when I hang art at the Nell Hill’s stores and in my home – I hope they will inspire you.

1. Hang Large and Small Pieces Together

Some of the most powerful artwork galleries I’ve seen mix together pieces in a wide range of sizes, from very small pictures to those that are quite large. I think the variety of sizes makes the display more exciting. When we create galleries on the walls of the Nell Hill’s stores, we always include a few small-scale pieces. Whether they are little portraits, silhouettes, landscapes or architectural drawings, these tiny treasures should measure just a few inches. You’ll be amazed by how these little guys break up the sea of larger frames, somehow magnifying them in the process.

2. Mix Subjects, Frames and Mediums

I like galleries that look like they have evolved over time. When a grouping of artwork appears as if it’s been collected piece by piece, not purchased as a group, it carries a lot of individual character. One way to achieve this unique look is to mix together an assortment of different frame shapes, styles and materials. I also really like to combine artwork that features different mediums, like oils, watercolors, line drawings, photography and even three-dimensional pieces like lanterns, sconces and plates. Finally, mix up the style of the artwork you group together, tossing together traditional pieces with those that are very modern. When you do so, your eye has a tendency to stop and focus on each piece in the group, not scan over the whole.

3. Only Buy What You Love

Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a piece of art just because it matches the colors in your sofa. Every piece of artwork in your home should grab your heart and not let go. Take your time when shopping for artwork, holding off until you see something that you fall madly in love with. Don’t worry about where you will put it — those details will work their way out. And when they do, your walls will be filled with unique pieces that make your heart sing and tell others a lot about you.

4. Don’t Line Up Frames in a Collage

If you’re creating a grid of similar pieces of art, like a wall of matching botanicals or photographs, exact  measurements are a must. You want the lines of the grid to be crisp and precise. But if you’re pulling together a dynamic collage of mixed artwork, put away the ruler and place the pieces randomly into groups that just feel good. I don’t like the paintings in montages to hang in straight lines, so I stagger them just an inch or two. I think the overall impression is more exciting.

5. Make Groupings Tight

When it comes to hanging artwork, a hallmark of the Nell Hill’s look is to create tight clusters, with the individual pieces of art snuggled up closely together. I just like how artwork looks when it’s drawn together in a tight mass. When pieces are spaced too far apart, they seem like separate islands and the overall display loses its impact.

6. Go 3-D

We create a lot of 3-D displays at the Nell Hill’s stores, threading in unexpected artwork like sconces, decorative shelves, trays, plates and lanterns to give a gallery more energy. Don’t get me wrong: I love galleries of framed artwork. But every once in a while I like to toss in something unconventional to keep things interesting.  Another new look I really like is layering pieces of artwork on top of each other, so the artwork stacks a bit out from the wall.

7. Use Artwork to Balance a Room

Artwork is a great tool to have at your disposal when you’re trying to solve decorating challenges. In the photo above, the built in bookcase to the right of the fireplace is gorgeous, but it throws off the balance of the wall. So, my friend Anne solved this dilemma by hanging a large piece of artwork on the other side of the fireplace. Doesn’t it look fabulous?

Next Week … Make your kitchen smokin’ hot with great accents. Find out how next week!

P.S. Don’t miss a bit of Nell Hill’s news – stay up to date on my favorite finds, new arrivals at the stores and all our special events by checking the Nell Hill’s Facebook page every day. You don’t have to have a Facebook page yourself to look in on the fun, but if you’re already on Facebook, “like” us today!

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14 Responses to “Insider’s Secrets for Great Artwork Displays”

  1. Lisa Fernandez Says:

    I love this artwork post. That was one of the first things that caugth my eye about all the nell hill books and the stores and Mary Carol’s home was the artwork and the walls and the placement of different and unexpected items. Absolute perfection!

  2. Debbie Hower Says:

    I love this post. This is one of the things I struggle with in my own home. This inspires me to play a little more with the artwork that I have purchased!

  3. Nancy Says:

    Such great set of ideas. I love, love all of your blogs.

  4. Nancy O Says:

    LOVE that we can really enlarge the photos now! Thank you!

  5. Lori Sellers Says:

    I also love when you mix brackets with artwork at Nell Hill’s. Wish you’d get more bracket in!

  6. Joyce Colman Says:

    Just a note to tell you I always love your sites…what a wonderful way to lure us!…lol There is nothing like Nell Hills in Arizona….with all the shopping we have…Can’t wait to get back and see you all again…Miss my Atchison Girlfriends…Joyce colman

  7. Ann Chaffee Says:

    Mary Carol,

    If you have a large montage of art on one wall, should your other walls within that same room have simpler or more regimented arrangements of art? I love to buy pictures so much, but I don’t want to get carried away and overdo.

    Your groupings are amazing, and are always my inspiration when I get out the drill (or velcro)!

  8. sandy mccune Says:

    Was nice seeing you last week and getting first hand decorating advice for my towel holder. You are so gracious and have wonderful ideas. My friend from Arkansas was with me. Every time they visit, the first place we go is to Nell Hills. I have given her all your books(autographed of course) for Christmas. Isn’t it time for a new one? Thanks again.

  9. Karen Says:

    Mary Carol,
    Do u have a degree in journalism or creative writing? Your ideas are tremendous, of course, but your writing style is magnificent in your blogs and also your books. The information you provide wouldn’t be as meaningful without the writing style you have developed. Not only is your “style sense” a 10 but your “writing style” is too. Thank you for your words of wisdom.

  10. Mary Carol Says:

    Personally Ann, I think it is impossible to go overboard on artwork—that’s how much I love it. Just try and keep the scale appropriate, example- large artwork to large furniture etc..

  11. Marilyn Boesche Says:

    Hi, Mary Carol, I’m the friend of Sandy McCune. I love going to Nell Hills when we are in K.C. Your store was beautiful last Sat. when Sandy and I were there. I so enjoy the blog as I am always changing things in my home. Seasons and just because. Right now I am changing around some of my art work, so ,enjoyed this weeks. It was nice to visit with you when I was there.

  12. Mary Carol Says:

    As a matter of fact Sandy it is. We will be working on a new book this summer and it will be out in 2013. It was a pleasure visiting with you too, have a great weekend!

  13. Mary Carol Says:

    Karen—What a compliment….I will be sure and pass it along to my ‘ghostwriter’, Micki, who for many years has taken my ideas and words and turned them into something very beautiful—she is a true talented gem and friend.

  14. Nancy Potter Says:

    Oh Yes, It is most definitely time for a new book. I am anxiously waiting for all this info to be bound in a book. I am hungy for more Nell Hill and Mary Carol. Thanks so much for all your ideas, inspiration and beauty you share with us. Looking forward……

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