Nate Berkus Breaks Down the Unspoken Rules of Hanging Art

Updated 05/04/19
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Nate Berkus and a woman in front of a wall of art
Courtesy of Framebridge

Most of us agree that blank walls are boring. 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?

Tips for Hanging Artwork
 Grace Kim / MyDomaine

In the interest of New Year's resolutions, we're saying goodbye to blank walls and vouching to finally hanging our artwork that's been hidden away for far too long. To help us with the process, we chatted with interior designer Nate Berkus, who recently joined Framebridge as a creative advisor, to tell us everything we need to know about hanging art. 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 tricks for your own space.

Don't Match All of Your Frames

a living room with mix-matched frames
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."

Framebridge Sonoma Wood Frame
Framebridge Sonoma Wood Frame $59
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Don't Think Everything Needs to Be Symmetrical

a living room with asymmetrical art
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."

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.

Movement Study in White #9 by Michael DeSutter
Michael DeSutter Movement Study in White #9 $350
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Don't Default to a Gallery Wall

a living room with a gallery wall
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."

Isaac Zoller Palm Photography
Isaac Zoller Palm Photography $910
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Do Hang Art in Unexpected Places

a nook with a chair and a painting
Courtesy of Nate Berkus

We all have space we default to when hanging art: behind the bed, behind the sofa, above the mantel. 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."

Achromatic Photography by Alice Quaresma
Alice Quaresma Achromatic Photography $2100
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Don't Skimp on Framing

framed art in a bathroom
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, he leans toward a mix of natural wood and classic gallery white frames, or a mix of the two. 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.

Framebridge Ash Wood Wide Frame
Framebridge Ash Wood Wide Frame $69
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And now, this is the art you should buy (based on your personality).

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