Nate Berkus Breaks Down the Unspoken Rules of Hanging Art

Updated 11/04/19
Courtesy of Framebridge

Maybe you'll agree: When it comes to home décor, a blank wall is just... boring. We'd much rather delight in personalizing our walls with photos, fun prints, and expressive paintings to match the vibe we want to exude in each room. But hanging art can sometimes lead to such choice paralysis that our walls end up bare for much longer than we'd hope. Just think of the number of prints that are currently rolled up unframed under your bed, or the frames that have sadly been leaning against a wall for months. There's just something about committing to drilling a hole in your wall that feels so permanent. What if the frame looks off there? What if better artwork comes along? What if it's the wrong height, too small, or too big?

To help us get organized and tackle our blank walls once and for all, we're vouching to finally hang our artwork that's been hidden away for far too long. Guiding us through this process is interior designer Nate Berkus, who joined framing startup Framebridge in 2017 as a creative advisor.

Should all our frames match? Should everything be symmetrical? Are gallery walls over?

Find out how this expert approaches hanging art in his home, and borrow a few of his five tips for your own space.

01 of 10

Mix and Match Frames

Hanging Art: Mixed and matched frames in a living room
Courtesy of Jeremiah Brent

The most common mistake that Berkus notices when people frame their art is thinking that everything has to match. "I prefer mixing and matching," he says. In order to achieve a coherent result, he recommends keeping the language of the frames similar: "In my personal home, a 16th-century Saint Peter in an original Peruvian wood frame is opposite two Günther Förg black-and-white lithographs in wood gallery frames. There simply are no rules."

02 of 10

Symmetry Not Required

Art displayed asymmetrically on white wall in living room
Courtesy of Jeremiah Brent

While it might be tempting to keep a certain symmetry when hanging your art, Berkus stresses that sometimes, the opposite is what ends up looking best: "People think that everything has to be symmetrical," he says. "They are obsessed with the idea that everything has to be balanced—which is not always the case."

On the other hand, if you are interested in feng shui principles, symmetry is important to maintaining balanced energy in your space. However, most feng shui consultants, as well as Berkus, advise to find what works best for you.

Try hanging a smaller frame off-center from where you think it should be, or hang various pieces at slightly different heights to give it a more dynamic feel.

03 of 10

Don't Default to a Gallery Wall

Eclectically positioned photo gallery in living room
Courtesy of Bespoke Only

When dealing with a large blank wall, it can be tempting to go for a gallery wall—smaller frames are less expensive after all—but Berkus suggests that it's entirely situational and that people shouldn't shy away from large-scale art: "A gallery wall is more personal and allows a greater opportunity to tell the story," he says. "Large-scale art, when well chosen, can be a fantastic investment. It can create a constant focal point for a room and can be moved around to different spaces as you move." However, if a gallery wall is your jam, there are several ways to hang one, like arranging your artwork to frame furniture.

04 of 10

Do Hang Art in Unexpected Places

A framed artwork at the end of a hall
Courtesy of Nate Berkus

We all have space we default to when hanging art: Such as behind the bed, behind the sofa, above the mantel. Instead, Berkus prefers to focus on unexpected places to hang his art. "Hanging things in your home is a deeply personal exercise, almost as personal as what color to paint the walls," he says. "I've always loved the impact of hanging something unexpected in places that are often overlooked. I've always been more comfortable having less, and better things than more." Some of his favorite places to hang art include powder rooms, the end of a long hallway, the inside of a stairwell, or the wall at the top or bottom of a stairwell: "It's the idea of turning a corner and seeing something unexpected."

05 of 10

Don't Skimp on Framing

A large, framed print hangs above a bathtub next to gilded towel rack
Courtesy of Jeremiah Brent

Without a doubt, the designer's best trick for elevating your artwork and making it look more expensive is custom framing: "Companies like Framebridge have offerings that feel elegant and will instantly elevate any kind of art," he says. When it comes to framing his art, Berkus leans toward a mix of natural wood and classic gallery white frames.

Framebridge Ash Wood Wide Frame $69
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06 of 10

Be Versatile

Colorful wall of art with bar cart

Alyssa Rosenheck 

And perhaps contrary to popular assumptions, large scale art can be versatile. For example, you can play with texture and color palette. It doesn't all have to match.

07 of 10

Create A Focal Point

Bathroom with still life large scale painting

JENNY GAGE AND TOM BETTERTON/TRUNK ARCHIVE 

Use a large piece to create tranquility in the bathroom and create a focal point in the foyer. Plus a large piece is a great compromise if you're worried about putting together a gallery wall.

08 of 10

Go Beyond the Living Room Walls

Art leans against wall, set on floor

 PAIGE GEFFEN

For more ideas, consider the bookshelf, bathroom, even the floor as alternative ways to display art in your home. Leaning art is the perfect cool-girl way to have art around the home.

09 of 10

Set the Scene

Art on bookshelf, surrounded by decorative objects and books

 BRITTANY AMBRIDGE ; DESIGN: JEREMIAH BRENT

Go even further and create a vignette with a mix of personal and vintage objects (from candleholders to your favorite crystals), plants, and lighting fixtures to complete the look.

10 of 10

To Mat or Not to Mat

daybed with gallery wall

Design: William Hunter Collective, Styled by: Emily Henderson Design, Photo: Sara Tramp-Ligorria

As for the mats, he says it's entirely situational: "Sometimes a mat can lend importance to something that otherwise wouldn't have a large impact." Play around with a few options before landing on your perfect frame.

For more home styling and renovation tips from interior designer Nate Berkus:

  • Take a tour of Berkus and partner Jeremiah Brent's Los Angeles home, complete with Spanish-inspired iron staircase and a 200-year-old oak tree, as well as learn about their distinct decorating styles and preferences
  • Implement these budget-saving home decorating tips to maximize the style in your home, including repurposing what you love, investing in timeless and transitional pieces, and prioritizing the room in your home that needs the most upgrades (spoiler: Berkus recommends the kitchen)
  • Speaking of upgrading your kitchen, Berkus shares how to keep a renovation project realistic, within scope, on time, which appliances to invest in, and how to mix up your finishes
  • Transition your home between seasons with these easy updates, like affordable décor swaps, and a greenery refresh
  • Avoid this mistake when hanging curtains

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