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Stylist Hack: 7 Unexpected Places I Like To Hang Art (To Make Your House Look Unique)

If I had to rattle off a few of my favorite styling “moves” they’d be this: The open book on the coffee table (sculptural, yet horizontal), a footed bowl of pistachios (obviously), or maybe the casual throw breaking the line of the sofa base… but most of those are for photoshoots and don’t apply to life. But recently I was combing through the years of work (per my obsession with self-reflection), and I realized one thing I’ve always done that I do really think is worth pointing out – Stylists (including myself) put art in unexpected/weird places. It’s so easy, and it edges up a space instantly because there is something very irreverent about breaking the rules with your art placement. I’ve done it all over the houses I’ve styled and designed. And today I’m gonna show you how.

IN FRONT OF SHELVING

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 2
photo by bethany nauert | from: fdr chic – a dude’s mix of antique, mid-century and bohemian style

What I like about this, in particular, is the round shape breaking up the horizontal lines. It adds dimension, in a rebellious way. As I struggle with my own built-ins (which aren’t as cool, as they are so shallow) I recently threw up a painting on my shelving (for Christmas) and BOOM, I loved it.

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 3
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: our living room, dressed up for the holidays (with a ‘and how I feel about it’ running commentary)

There is just a “please don’t tell me where I’m supposed to be. I’m cool hanging right here, thank you!” thing about it.

IN THE BACK OF CABINETRY AND OPEN SHELVES

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 4
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: all the what’s, why’s, and how much’s of the portland kitchen

It can be little, and you can hang or lean, but what a nice secret surprise it is to open a cabinet and see a piece of art. This is best done in a glass cabinet so you don’t literally hide it, but you get it – a secret piece that just feels cool and unexpected.

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 5
photo by david tsay | from: my best friend’s home

But there is more good news. There is another great place for “kitchen art” to be displayed and it’s not just behind a cabinet door.

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 7
photo by tessa neustadt | from: spanish california home: kitchen

Nay, this art can also live on open shelving behind plates and bowls.

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 6
photo by tessa neustadt | from: spanish california home: kitchen

Now while this may seem obvious, people just don’t typically consider art for the kitchen and I think it’s a missed opportunity. Please try it, because it’s awesome and fun.

ON KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 8
photo by tessa neustadt | from: emily’s kitchen and dining room reveal

It’s true that I have too much art and not a lot of wall space. It’s also true that I have a lot of small art that is easy to pick up at the flea market, but hard to style on walls unless you are doing a big ‘ole gallery wall. So where do you put this art? In the kitchen and bathrooms of course 🙂

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 32
photo by david tsay | from: rustic modern house tour 

HOT TIP: Buy oranges, then commission a painter to paint a still life portrait of your oranges (like above), and then display said portrait on a kitchen counter so they can feel celebrated. (Another styling hack? Buy generic oranges then go outside and cut leaves that look like citrus leaves and gently place them in the most MASSIVE dough bowl so they look like you just picked them from your backyard orchard. True story.)

INSIDE BOOKSHELVES

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 10
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: in defense of the comfy sectional – a friend’s almost-finished family room

Bookshelves are often very hard to fill out, while not looking crazy busy. Corbett (my dear friend) was STUMPED on her selves (see above… and below). So my team came in and helped her by adding in art so that it didn’t look empty, nor busy. It’s graphic and takes up a lot of vertical space so you don’t have to fill it with tall books or sculptures.

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 11
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: in defense of the comfy sectional – a friend’s almost-finished family room
Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 34
photo by david tsay | home of sally breer | from: styled: secrets for arranging rooms, from tabletops to bookshelves

Sally Breer (above), stylist and designer, put those large pieces in those large gaps and we all said YES, when we shot the first book (STYLED) there.

But art in shelving isn’t too controversial… you know what is? Art that is almost on the ground. Art is technically supposed to be at eye level, and these next pieces certainly are not.

“TOO LOW”

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 12
photo by david tsay | from: a spanish living room

WHY NOT? That lady had to go somewhere and while I realize that it’s weird and breaks so many rules, that is a lot of what styling is about – less perfect design, more creative expression. You aren’t perfect, neither should your house be.

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 14 1
photo by david tsay | design by ellen lacompte | from: styled: secrets for arranging rooms, from tabletops to bookshelves

The big art on the wall is expected, sure, but then we styled the little one by the sofa to shake it up.

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 23
photo by david tsay | home of sally breer | from: styled: secrets for arranging rooms, from tabletops to bookshelves

I don’t remember if I styled Sally’s art that way or if she did, but either way, you can see that the portrait is low to clear the light fixture, and there is another piece just sitting under the window.

Which brings me to…

THE “CASUAL LEAN”

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 22
photo by david tsay | from: my best friend’s los feliz home

I used to only lean art. I was an “exclusive leaner” you could say, mostly out of commitment issues. It’s kinda a stylist thing – too much art, not decisive enough. But I like a mix leaning and hung art as you can see in the above and below.

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 17
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a modern and organic entry: shelf styling tips + shop the look

It obviously allows for flexibility as well as different heights and the ability to layer.

IN FRONT OF A WINDOW

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 35
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: reveal: a budget and rental-friendly living and dining room (with 80% thrifted finds)

In Atlanta, we mixed both “the casual lean” and the “in front of a window” breaking TWO big art rules, but I personally think that it looks awesome. If your windows are big and you can sacrifice the light, then it’s absolutely ok to do (but keep it smaller and of course not super dark).

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 21
photo by david tsay | from: my best friend’s los feliz home

My stylist friend, Scott, hung a sculpture in front of his french doors on the latch, simply because he felt like it (and yes, before everyone in the comments asks, that’s a vintage wood piece). Use those types of feelings because if you don’t like it, you won’t get arrested and even better – you can simply take it down.

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 24
photo by david tsay | from styled: secrets for arranging rooms, from tabletops to bookshelves

He also hung a pretty flag to block the sun in his office/desk area and it’s so much less expected than a window shade.

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 19
photo by david tsay | from: my best friend’s los feliz home

The “art in front of the window” is bold, indeed. But it’s a move that allows your eye to move around more and gives another place for your art to be showcased – especially when it’s in front of a desk, or at a sink windowsill.

Emily Henderson Where To Hang Art 20
photo by david tsay | from: styling the perfect window shot

When I proposed this post I was met with a “do you have enough examples to make this a post?” and look at that. I did. Sometimes when I’m met with resistance on something and then I end up being right I like to yell, “WELL, WHO WON DESIGN STAR?” I’m OBVIOUSLY joking, my team is usually right. Plus, these moves wouldn’t have played out too well there, anyway…

Thoughts? Anywhere else you like to hang your art to prove how eccentric you are?

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Bethany Nauert | From: FDR Chic – A Dude’s Mix of Antique, Mid-Century and Bohemian Style

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larry Skitts
2 years ago

I sure like the designs its like looking in a painting with high definition. I hope you showcase some Glass Splashbacks designs. thank you

Bea
2 years ago

You might also like my sister’s kitchen which has artwork over the hob! It’s a DeVol kitchen and featured on their website (and I know how much Emily likes DeVol kitchens!)

Here’s a link to the article with a photo – and how the issue of cooking with art is resolved

https://www.devolkitchens.co.uk/blog/2019/03/12/a-truly-authentic-devol-kitchen-in-south-west-france/

Alison Frazier
2 years ago

Great post. Thank you! Keep up the amazing work.

[…] If I had to rattle off a few of my favorite styling “moves” they’d be this: The open book on the coffee table (sculptural, yet horizontal),  a footed bowl of pistachios (obviously), or maybe the casual throw breaking the line of the sofa base… but most of those are for photoshoots and don’t apply to… Read More … The post Stylist Hack: 7 Unexpected Places I Like To Hang Art (To Make Your House Look Unique) appeared first on Emily Henderson. Read More […]

Cara
2 years ago

How do you style bookshelves that have an abundance of books?

Susie Q.
2 years ago
Reply to  Cara

Here’s my two cents: keep 1 or 2 shelves book-free, or just have a couple of horizontal books on those shelves, and put some objet there only. I also push my books back in a few spots and put some very small things in front of those books.

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago
Reply to  Susie Q.

I do the same thing!

Ros
2 years ago
Reply to  Cara

Same issue, same comment. Bookworms unite?

Kelly
2 years ago
Reply to  Cara

Room for Tuesday just did a great blog post on this!
https://roomfortuesday.com/10-tips-for-shelf-styling-with-lots-of-books/

LouAnn
2 years ago
Reply to  Cara

Good question! I have this wildly old-fashioned habit of using my book shelves for my books. And I have a large book collection. And NO, I’m NOT interested in putting all the bindings toward the wall or in organizing my books by color! (Cue: book rage!) And I don’t like a lot of dust-collecting tchotchkes on my shelves.

That said, much like Susie Q., I do have a shelf or two that I use to display objects I love and break up all the books. I have some books vertical and some horizontal. Among the objects are a large vase, a lovely piece of driftwood from my favorite beach, a small stack of 3 wooden “books” my grandfather carved for me. I mostly avoid small objects on my shelves because the larger ones are more dramatic and a lot of little things tends to look cluttered.

But mostly I “decorate” my shelves by finding really cool bookends — heavy enough to actually hold up books but also beautiful and/or quirky. There are all kinds of great vintage book ends.

lauren
2 years ago
Reply to  LouAnn

I guess it depends on how your brain stores knowledge… I have a huge book collection and am an avid reader, however I am also an exceptionally visual learner. I am much more likely to remember a book is small and aqua blue the by author or title. So even though it would cause book rage for some organising books by colour is actually the easiest way for me to find anything.

Roberta Davis
2 years ago

These are some beautiful examples. It’s not only the art, but all the other objects and the way you put them together. Hell yes, you won Design Star! Thanks for sharing!

Julie S
2 years ago

This was a tasty delicious and extra pretty post! Over the years I’ve moved away from decorating with small things (including small art) in favor of fewer larger items that give presence without clutter. But I definitely have smaller art pieces I still can dot around in appropriate spots – for example two in my kitchen, one of which is leaning. Just here to say this post got me excited again about finding great spots and unusual methods of adding art to rooms.

Susie Q.
2 years ago

One thing I don’t see you doing that I like to do: use small easels to display art on shelves. If you put another object in front of the art, the easel raises it up and allows you to see the art better. Of course I just have a couple easels, but the easel itself can be unique and add another layer of interest.

Juliet
2 years ago

I love leaning artwork. What is your trick to keep it from sliding off and taking the rest of the shelf contents with it?

Charisse
2 years ago
Reply to  Juliet

I use the rubber bumpers that framers use on the back of picture frames; you also see them under glass tables that sit on a seperate frame. You can but them in all sizes. I use them for artwork that leans against a fireplace wall and for plates.

Lynn W
2 years ago
Reply to  Juliet

Museum putty can work and not damage the art or the shelf

Elisabeth
2 years ago
Reply to  Juliet

Quake Hold works wonders! (Like museum putty, but stronger.)

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago
Reply to  Juliet

I use blu-tac.

Donna
2 years ago

Sorry, but I think the low pictures look ridiculous.

Vicki Williams
10 months ago
Reply to  Emily

I use all these spaces for installing my art, so great to see you put this out there. And I’m not sure what the weird (to me) comments were about a 2 year old post…so what? And one of the most enjoyed by everyone who came in the room was when I placed a picture under a window! Just sayin’. I think the key to that one is when it can be viewed from a slight distance, so obviously not, at least not usually, any furniture placed directly in front. Only, hahaha, i just envisioned a piece that might be viewed under and between open table legs legs framing it. I’m going to look for that spot right now! :))

Stacia
10 months ago
Reply to  Donna

Yes – ha ha! That totally stressed me out too! (But also do love placing art in unexpected places – like little surprises/gifts for my eyes…).

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Sierra
2 years ago

Love this!! I have so much art and not enough wall space! I’ve been thinking about trying to style the area above my kitchen cabinets by placing some artwork up there. Any thoughts/suggestions/tips?

Vicki Williams
10 months ago
Reply to  Sierra

Absolutely! Maybe, if possible use some books or something to create various levels. Go for it!

Donna
2 years ago

I am an artist, & think of art daily. I have seen art that was especially created for ceilings. Example: a view through the trees as if the artist were looking up through them. As always your post was unique. I look forward to each one daily. Keep up the good work, Emily!

Patti
2 years ago

I love the low artwork! So unexpected and whimsical. Likewise I love pictures above doorways! And on bookcases! All seems very old English library to me!

Susie
2 years ago

I have very high ceilings and shallow cutouts above my fireplace. I find them very difficult to fill, so I hung a large piece of art across the higher one and use the lower one as sort of a mantel. It’s dramatic and totally unexpected, but I like it. So there.

2 years ago

I love placing art in unexpected places. As an artist (@foxfiregalleries), my collection of artist friends’ work outgrew my walls awhile ago so I am always seeking out new places to house a painting. We have art everywhere in our home including kitchen counters and bathroom walls. Always consider the environment of the room against the type of art though. (Don’t put a delicate watercolor where it might be splashed with water for example.)

One point I do want to bring up in regards to art in front of windows: be aware that long term exposure to direct sunlight may damage your art and cause fading of the colors. This can be true with both original art, and especially prints. Be aware of this when you choose what you display in the window so you don’t end up damaging that priceless heirloom piece that you love so much.

Korina
2 years ago

I am still working on my kitchen remodel…but I picked up a 5 foot tall painting in a huge ornate frame and leaned up against the wall in kitchen. And it is staying there. huge huge amount of drama and it made me realize how much I really need artwork in every room.

We did no uppers in our kitchen, but I made sure that I had 2 single shelves above the counters specifically for art, pretty flowers from garden and to display produce. Note that I’m a painter, so wI’ll mostly be doing my own still life paintings.

Told hubby the other day that I want little still life displays all over. I think we commonly don’t fix up smaller areas because it’s a hallway, or laundry or pantry. And I think we should make those areas beautiful!

Lynn W
2 years ago

I love all of these examples and use some myself. The “art in front of the window” is one I’m planning for my bathroom ?
I watched every minute of Design Star and knew from the first episode that you would win!!! So much fun⭐️

Stacia
10 months ago
Reply to  Lynn W

Same here – in fact looking at some pretty tea towels I have picked up on travels to hang in front of my bathroom window (via dowel hanger) for a little change (and added privacy). Figure I can take it down to wash it to keep it fresh much like a curtain – just cuter!

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Lisa
2 years ago

How do you pair leaning art pieces? I feel like I can’t get the sizes right!

Vicki Williams
10 months ago
Reply to  Lisa

Suggest looking into juniperprintshop.com. They have wonderful prints at affordable prices and are great at helping you figure out how to arrange, what things look well together, etc. (Even if you don’t buy from them). I am not affiliated with them at all but they are wonderful.

Heather O’Brien
2 years ago

Love, love love the low hanging art!!! I also love slightly overlapping a small picture in front of a larger picture or even a mirror to show off more pieces. How about art inside closets? I have a painting by my Grandpa that I absolutely love, but couldn’t find the right place for it, so I hung it inside a closet over a dresser. Such a delight to see it there!

Love that idea. Did this over the dresser in my daughter’s closet. Makes it feel like a fun little dressing room. And it’s not a walk in.

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Caroline Haviland
2 years ago

LOL love your sense of humor and keeping it real. Love your talent even more. You’re my fave. Keep it up. <3

Martine Bury
2 years ago

Inspiring post! Where are those dusty rose-colored bowls from in your best friend’s home?

Debalina
2 years ago

One of my top 5 favorite posts of yours! Great photos, text supports images, Images are interesting, great flow. Going to hang that little coastal landscape that never found a good home behind my white china bowl collection today.

Liz
2 years ago

Love posts like these. Achievable wins!

[…] post Stylist Hack: 7 Unexpected Places I Like To Hang Art (To Make Your House Look Unique) appeared first on Emily […]

Jo
2 years ago

Your long wall of open shelving is phenomenal! Like the artwork but absolutely love the wall of shelves!

https://www.HomedecorEtc.com

Jessica
2 years ago

Love this article. I have too many pieces of little art. I do occasionally like to put a (generally small rectangular) piece of art above a doorway. Obviously you need tall ceilings, but drafty old New England houses are good for something!

Kelly L
2 years ago

Great post! I have a vintage music stand that holds art instead of the sheet music it was designed for. It brings height to the art, is easily mobile and the art is resting on the ledge so it is easy to change out. So glad I found at a flea market.

Paula
2 years ago

I’ve used all your tips! But it’s mostly because I have a lot of art, but live in a townhouse with limited space. You gotta be creative with that combinaton.

Rachel
2 years ago

I just hung some small art in the kitchen of my new home, and love it. I don’t love the tumbled creamy tiles, but it would not be prudent to rip them out at this point. The art work gives the backsplash some life. Love how you take the time to explain your thought processes to us!

10 months ago

Thank you for this post! I love art, in any shape or form. I refinish furniture and decided years ago that I would focus on fine art. One of the problems people run into is lack of wall space. I wanted to create functional art. This is a piece that I’m most proud of: The problem we all live with by Norman Rockwell. http://www.thepaintfactorypdx.com

Amanda
10 months ago

I do not have a lot of wall space, and in some rooms I have begun hanging art on closet doors with command strips! I have so much art I love and enjoy rearranging it to make spaces feel new to me!

Rebecca
10 months ago

One of my favorite things you do!

Tina
10 months ago

I love a piece of art above a doorway and, in the right situations, tucked behind a door as a surprise

T.
10 months ago

Next time you’re stumped for content ideas, just ask “What cool tricks did we NOT learn in design school, but should have?” and/or “What cool stuff did we learn into science school that we are still using?” 😎

I think I bookmark all your how-to posts, and I can’t possibly be the only one.

Ursula Ellis
10 months ago

What about hanging art on interior doors? I have lots of art and very little wall space. Seems to me not a bad place to hang it???

Tricia
10 months ago

Kinda chuffed to say I’ve done every single one of these. Love this post!

Patti
10 months ago

Oh man this was fun! I could have done with a ton more pics! I love unexpected art placement! I would add over doorways! Draws your eye up and lets you know that you’re entering an interesting room! Let’s do a post on unusual places for art ie bathrooms, pantries, bars, patios…. What about a post on “art” alternatives? I love old taxidermy but realize that it’s controversial. What about walls full of vintage finds like breadboards, snowshoes, farm implements, clocks, platters…. Always fun to be on the hunt and no big box stores required!

Beth
10 months ago

I have been so inspired by your first book, Styled. It was so inspiring and helpful to me to help me focus on how to improve my surroundings. Before I read this recent post about the artwork placement, interestingly, in my office/den area, I removed all books from the book shelf and ended up after some patience with contemplating things, ended up placing an art piece in the center and framing / flanking each side with books that are not vertical but horizontally-stacked. It looks so cool and is like a little museum and I love admiring it. You give such good advice on styling. I learn a lot from you and liked the 3 piece basics you taught early in the book – putting horizontal, vertical, and sculptural, together. I like experimenting and your encouraging wisdom that it’s not permanent if you move things around, as they are just things!! I think early on I felt scared to move things for fear of something bad happening, yet it’s fun to kind of shake things up and move things around and find what pieces work together, and to find that some things end up harmonizing that you would not see… Read more »

Jesse
10 months ago

I wish I had a Frame TV, but I don’t think they were available when we bought ours. What I’ve done to make ours more integrated is to remove the stand (as if you were going to wall mount it) and then place it on a console and let it lean against the wall (like a piece of art). I layered some smaller art around it and while it’s still obviously a tv, it looks a lot more intensional.

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