Today’s approach to wall décor is more eclectic than ever before. While some people prefer to hang fine paintings in their homes in a gallery-like fashion, others are more inclined to let their imaginations run wild, showcasing everything from vintage maps to garden gates on their walls. In fact, anything that can be supported by a nail in the wall presents an opportunity for an artistic wall accent.

And what if the objects of your desire don’t lend themselves to being hung on the wall? Custom-built shelves can play a supporting role. Use one alone or stack several — whether in perfect vertical rows or barely overlapping one another.

In contemporary settings, you might also consider using three-dimensional cubes in lieu of standard shelves. Not only can they provide a dramatic place to display collectibles, but they also become an inherent part of the room’s architecture.

prints on walls

This impressive black-and-white aerial map has been split up using black frames, maximising the dramatic effect

Pictures and prints

Arranging pictures and prints – like the pieces themselves – is largely a matter of personal preference. Still, there are some guidelines that will allow you to appreciate each to its utmost. Large works intended to stand alone should be given a place of prominence — over the fireplace, for instance, or as a focal point at the end of a hallway. The smaller the pieces are, however, the more flexibility you have.

A single painting might be placed over a desk, where it’s in plain view each time you sit down to work. Or, you might give several pieces more emphasis by grouping them together. Even if they don’t have similar subjects, you can create continuity by using matching mounts and frames.

Multiple prints in the living room]
What makes this group of Audubon pictures impressive is the sheer number as much as the imagery itself. Multiple works invariably increase the dramatic impact, whether the content is original or the prints are taken from the pages of a book

How to hang artwork

Composing a wall grouping doesn’t have to be an overwhelming prospect. Simply arrange the elements on a tabletop or floor first, then transpose them to the intended wall. Start with brown paper that’s slightly larger than your finished grouping. Put it on a flat surface, and then play with the composition of your arrangement against the backdrop of the paper.

It’s a good idea to establish one strong horizontal line and, if possible, a vertical line, too. Keep moving the pieces around, balancing heavy and light – from both physical and visual points of view – while keeping spacing equidistant.

Once you’re satisfied with the arrangement, mark where the nail holes for each piece should be. Then, using painter’s tape, attach the brown paper to the wall. For an over-the-sofa grouping, hang the bottom pieces low enough so that there’s a visual link to the piece of furniture but not so low that you’ll hit your head against them.

Drive nails and/or hangers into the appropriate places, and then remove the paper from the wall. If wall anchors are needed, determine their positions on the paper, but don’t install them until after the paper has been removed. After the nails, hangers, and anchors are in place, all that’s left to do is hang the individual pieces — then stand back and admire them.

Mantelpiece pictures
Though this arrangement starts typically enough, with a pair of prints over the mantel, it’s taken to a 3D level with the addition of a wooden bench, displaying treasured collectibles including a vintage typewriter

Make the most of a mantelpiece

When it comes to accessorising a mantel, there is a fail-safe solution: the picture over the fireplace can still be one of the best options. Before you come to any firm design decisions, though, think about how you can best enhance the architecture of the fireplace and the room as a whole. Do you want to create a soaring sense of height, perhaps in keeping with a cathedral-style ceiling? Or do you want to keep things more on eye level, creating a horizontal look that echoes the surface of the mantel itself?

There really is no right or wrong answer; it is purely a matter of personal preference. Take some time to play around with different options, keeping in mind that your mantelpiece arrangement will have a more unified look if items placed at the front overlap those towards the back.

mirrors and clocks
A collection of mirrors is grouped on one wall of this living room just like pictures or prints. The varied shapes and sizes keep things visually interesting, while the mirrored surfaces bounce light back into the space

Mirrors and clocks

Even the smallest decorative mirror can add sparkle to a space, bouncing light back into the room. As a general rule, position a mirror where it will reflect something worth seeing twice, such as a breathtaking view or an eye-catching work of art.

Or use an oversized mirror at one end of the room, as it will seemingly double the dimensions of the space. Mirrors can make a strong decorative statement on their own or in a group; you can put together a collection just as you would paintings or prints.

For that matter, the same applies to clocks. Used alone, a classic timepiece fitted with chimes can be a strong focal point. On the other hand, a collection of basic circular clocks – each set to a different time zone – will clue your guests in on your penchant for travel.

Decorating idea book cover

All New Decorating Idea Book

This is an edited extract from All New Decorating Idea Book by Heather J Paper (£16.99, The Taunton Press)

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