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How To Hang Art Above A Fireplace

It's simpler than you think.

When it comes to hanging art above a mantel, what are the dos and don’ts? How high should you hang the work? Is one piece enough, and what’s the right colour scheme? Read on for expert tips.

Do coordinate strategically. This dark gray stone fireplace takes centre stage, standing out amid warm neutral furnishings. The temptation might be to hang a dark artwork above to harmonize with the stone, but the painted gray alcoves on either side complement the fireplace enough to leave the white space above the mantel primed for a brighter piece. This painting ties in more with the yellow tiles of the fire surround, while the muted blues are picked up in the accessories.

Since above-the-fireplace art is a natural focal point for a room, this can be a good place to start when deciding how to decorate and accessorize the space. Pick at least one colour from your artwork and repeat it in details around the room. How far you go with this will depend on how “pulled together” you want your scheme to feel; for example, a more eclectic space than this might feature many more colours.

Tip: Using a mat around a picture can add an air of formality, so it works well when you want your decor to feel classical. Here, the white-on-white effect also helps the coastal room feel airy and modern. A mat can also be used to boost the size of an artwork — useful if you have a very small piece.

Don’t be afraid to pick a vibrant piece. A large, colourful statement piece of art is the perfect partner for a more subdued fireplace, which has no colours with which to compete or coordinate.

This space is also an example of a more eclectic interior. Compare it with the previous room and its comprehensive coordination. Here, the artwork doesn’t tie in in the same way, and the space has a far more bohemian feel as a result.

That said, the white in the artwork links to whites around the room, which helps tie things together, but it’s the art, not the fireplace, that’s the star of the show.

Styling a vibrant statement piece with a black fireplace? Try using a black frame to harness the artwork and boost the character of the fireplace.

Do fill the space. Larger artworks are often placed on expansive blank walls as a way of making use of empty space and demanding attention, but this can produce the impersonal feel of a gallery. For a more homey style, take advantage of your center-stage fireplace and choose a piece that will fill the space above the mantel, bridging the gap all the way to the ceiling.

The rule of thumb is that an artwork — or mirror — should be about two thirds the size of the fire surround and mantel over which it hangs, but here that rule has been broken to great effect. But resist the urge to use a piece that lines up with the edges of the mantel: choosing something that’s either narrower or wider will ensure that your art becomes a feature, not just an extension of the architecture.

Don’t overlook the mantel. Using the mantel as a shelf is a more relaxed way of featuring an artwork. It also means it’s easier to change your display. Whether you want to rent new art as the season changes or feature your favorite pieces on special occasions, this is the perfect way to keep the space fresh and display your collection hassle-free. (It’s also a great idea if you’re renting and can’t put holes in the walls.)

Do try a bold backdrop. Painted feature walls are usually dramatic enough to stand alone without the added statement of a bold artwork, but this rule can also be broken. The blue skyline in this piece blends subtly with the backdrop, while the golden sky and water and a strong frame ensure the work gets the attention it deserves.

Tip: Hanging artwork farther from the mantelpiece draws the eye up, adding height to the room and providing the perfect space beneath to display prized items.

Don’t keep your art in the dark. Petite sconces next to your piece of art will ensure that it draws the eye even late into the night. This living room has plenty of natural light flooding in, but the wall is rather dark, and the sconces ensure that the artwork, a subtle piece rather than a scene-stealer, doesn’t fade into the background.

Another option is a more traditional picture light, which will cast a glow all over your artwork.

Do mix and match. An artwork above the fireplace doesn’t have to be the sole focal point, but with some good styling, it can still stand out among other treasured possessions.

Just as galleries like white for its ability to let the art shine, black can do the same job, really letting a piece stand out. Here, this casually placed portrait isn’t competing with its dark frame, which blends into the wall behind it, and the colours are further enhanced by a ceramics collection in hues to complement the tones of the painting.

Choosing a frame the same colour as your wall is a good tip if you don’t want to distract from the piece itself.

Don’t compete — pick something petite. If you’re lucky enough to have an impressive fireplace that’s guaranteed to grab anyone’s attention, try to resist the temptation to bridge the gap with something like a panoramic landscape. Instead, emphasize the impressive scale of the fireplace by styling it with petite artworks or ornaments. Placing these off-center is key to achieving balance within the space without distracting the eye from the heart of the fireplace.

Do hang it high. As a general rule, art is hung at eye level to increase impact and visibility. However, art above the fireplace will often break this norm, allowing for a bold, unconventional choice. This statement piece almost clashes with the straight-edged, colorful style of the interior, but since it’s hung up high above a contemporary fireplace, it sets the tone of the room and adds to its character.

Tell us: What’s on the wall above your fireplace? Share your tips and photos in the comments.

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