Does Each Wall Need a Picture Hanging on It?

Sally Painter
Pictures on wall

The key to any successful interior design is balance. That means when it comes to hanging pictures, no, you don't need to fill every wall space with pictures. Empty wall space can be used as a crucial design element to enhance your décor.

Decorating Walls With Pictures

There are very few instances when you need to place a picture on every wall in your home. The art of deciding what should go on the wall involves considering other décor elements.

  • A picture should add depth and warmth to your design.
  • A picture should be an intricate design element to your overall décor.
  • A lifeless wall can become dynamic with the right pictures and arrangements.
  • Pictures can reinforce a formal or casual room design.

Furnishings and Pictures

The pictures you add should blend in as though they've always been there. Furniture pieces create natural breaks in a wall and present empty wall spaces that may be ideal for pictures. Examine the shapes and patterns the furnishings create around the empty wall space. Decide whether the space should be filled or if it would be better left empty.

Examples of furnishings breaking up wall space include:

  • Tall floor lamps in front of a wall become part of the overall wall design by virtual of shape, size and height. The tall lamps will frame the empty space beside it, so you do not need a picture here.
  • Sideboards or console tables that support table lamps, plants and other objects will break up the wall space leaving empty wall space that can be filled with one or more pictures.
  • Bookcases can define wall space available for using pictures, such as above the bookcase or beside it.
  • A reading corner consisting of a side table, lamp and chair is ideal for pictures on the wall behind the chair and/or the table to add depth and warmth to the vignette.

Adjacent Walls

Consider the furniture and any architectural features on adjacent walls and how these break up wall space. Often, you'll want to skip adding a picture on the adjacent walls.

For example, you may decide:

  • A full wall shelf filled with decorative objects is all the design element you want for an adjacent wall.
  • Leave the wall space empty on either side of a door so the wall color becomes a more prominent part of your design, giving the room a crisp and uncluttered look.

Window and Door Walls

Window and door walls can offer interesting picture opportunities. Some of these include:

  • Window and Door Walls
    The wall between two windows that are set at least two or more feet apart can be used for displaying pictures. Keep the adjacent door wall free of pictures, especially if there are other decorative elements.
  • An empty corner wall framed by a window and an adjacent wall presents a good area for a picture or two.
  • The wall space above the door of a room with a vaulted ceiling can be a great location for an oversized vertical picture.
  • The ends of a wall with a centered window can feature one or more pictures.

Room by Room Guide

Before you start hanging pictures, consider the room layout. You will see all kinds of wall space left exposed. Architectural features can limit or present opportunities for decorating with pictures.

  • Living Room
    If you wish to create a symmetrical design using pictures, then place pictures so they are balanced within the empty space. For example, you might have four pictures the same size, stacked in two rows with two per row, evenly spaced apart.
  • If you're style is less formal, you can create asymmetrical designs that are staggered or have a random pattern. A grouping that is a mixture of sizes and shapes that isn't balanced can create a unique and interesting design choice.
  • Determine if the pictures you want to use the appropriate sizes for the empty space. Too large a picture placed above a small piece of furniture can overpower you design, while too small will underwhelm. Don't place a picture on the wall if you have the wrong size.

Foyers and Back Entrances

Most foyers feature some type of furniture. Unless you have an unusually large foyer, one wall may accommodate a console table, mirror, table lamp or wall sconces and perhaps a chair. Try hanging a picture on one of the walls but not all of them.

  • Foyer
    The space above the chair can become a space for a picture.
  • The wall opposite the console table can display a large picture or grouping. Keep in mind this wall will be reflected in the mirror.
  • Backdoor entrances or mud rooms can be brightened with the addition of a picture on the wall by the door or adjacent walls.
  • An empty wall leading into the kitchen or den might be ideal for a gallery wall or row of pictures.
  • Look at the space above a mud room bench. Would a picture or grouping of pictures enhance that space?

An irregular wall that is short and created to accommodate a coat closet and is perpendicular to a longer wall can be used to add design interest. This design is a great way to add interest by mixing shapes on a short wall space to give contrast to the oversized picture on the adjacent wall.

  • A large picture on the longer wall centered above a console table gives the illusion of a shorter wall span.
  • A long narrow picture on the adjacent wall combined with another shape, such as a wreath gives the illusion of a wider wall and adds design interest.

Staircases

A staircase presents opportunities for pictures. These include:

  • Pictures on the wall running along the staircase incline can be used effectively as a design element.
  • The main floor wall of the staircase offers more opportunities for pictures.
  • The landing wall as seen from the foot of the staircase is a great place to display one or more pictures.

Living Rooms

A living room often features a TV, perhaps an entertainment unit, a couch or sectional, a recliner or two, end tables, lamps and other furnishings. Once you have these pieces placed in your room, stand back and try to see only the empty wall space. This is now your canvas to work with.

If your TV rests on a stand or is wall-mounted with wall space around it, you may want to add a few pictures. To add pictures, treat the TV shape as you would any other picture and design around it.

  • Living room TV
    One way to minimize distraction is to use pictures smaller than the TV.
  • Pictures can be used above or to the sides of the TV. Some people find this distracting and prefer to leave the remaining wall empty.
  • If you have a large entertainment center with additional decorative items along the top and sides, you may want to leave what remains empty.
  • Picture(s) can be used above an entertainment center or bookcase but should not extend past the width of furniture.
  • For very tall furniture, you may want to use the empty wall space on either side rather than hanging pictures above the furniture.

A fireplace is such a focal point that many people decorate the mantel and space above the mantel with pictures. Depending on the fireplace style, you could have several types of picture arrangements. For example, add pictures on the wall above the mantel. Floor to ceiling fireplaces that have wall space on either side are excellent areas for displaying pictures.

If you have a sectional, break up the long look of a sectional with pictures on the wall space above or use round, square, and rectangle pictures to create a gallery wall above the long part of the sectional. Do not hang pictures on the adjacent wall, especially if the wall is broken up with tall lamps or plants.

A couch creates a linear effect that defines the available wall space above it. Ideas for pictures placed above the couch include:

  • Sectional
    If the couch rests underneath a pair of large windows, you may decide to use the wall space between the windows.
  • If your couch is flanked on either side with an end table, chances are each has a table lamp. These furnishings frame the wall space above the couch and is usually a great picture hanging area.
  • You may find the space above the end tables tall enough for pictures.

Dining Room

The dining room offers several possibilities for placing pictures. Keep in mind the furniture on each wall and the wall space surrounding each piece defining the available space.

  • Dining room
    If you have an accent wall of a different color or wallpaper/stencil, highlight it with pictures.
  • The adjacent walls can be left bare for a bigger design effect.
  • If you may decide a few more pictures would look good on the adjacent walls, go for oversized pictures to balance the accent wall.
  • A picture above a sideboard completes this look.
  • Flank either side of a mirror with pictures.
  • A large window can be further framed by pictures on one or both sides, depending on wall space available.

Kitchen and Breakfast Nook

Kitchen walls are typically covered with cabinets and pantry doors. The key to adding pictures here is choosing appropriate picture sizes for exposed wall space.

  • The wall space between doors is often narrow, but the right picture(s) can transform your kitchen with interest and depth.
  • If the backsplash wall is untiled, add a few pictures.
  • If the kitchen cabinets aren't flush with the ceiling, you can add pictures above the cabinets.
  • If your refrigerator doesn't have an overhead cabinet, make a design statement with one or more pictures.
  • An empty breakfast nook wall can be a mix of shelving, objects, and pictures.
  • A buffet wall might not have any useable empty space, so do not place pictures in these small spots. However, you may have space enough to display pictures on the wall between the kitchen and buffet.
  • A bay window may have additional wall space either above or on either side for pictures.
  • Walls spaces between doors leading in and out of the kitchen/breakfast nook are sometimes candidates for pictures.

Hallway

Hallways are often neglected with bare walls or over-used with too many pictures. Finding a balance is key to the successful use of pictures in this area.

  • Hallway
    Use the whole wall for a gallery wall by creating a collage of well-placed pictures of varying sizes and shapes.
  • Install a chair rail to define the wall space for your pictures. Place pictures above the railing in a row or a grouping centered in the wall space.
  • Small halls broken up by many doorways can host smaller pictures in the spaces between doorways. Don't overdo. Choose one or two for a focal point.

Bedrooms

The two most common places for pictures in a bedroom are above the headboard and night stands.

  • When placing a picture or pair of pictures above nightstands, don't hang them higher than the headboard height for best look.
  • A dresser with a smaller mirror centered over it can be decorated with pictures on either side of the mirror. Don't extend beyond the dresser width.
  • The wall between the closet door and bedroom door or bathroom door if wide enough can accommodate one or more pictures.
  • A master bedroom corner sitting area is given depth and warm with pictures.

Bathrooms

Some bathrooms offer very little wall space while large ones may have more bare wall space.

  • The wall above the toilet is a good place for a long vertical picture or stacked smaller pictures.
  • Pictures on the wall opposite a bath mirror doubles your picture power.
  • Pictures can be placed between a window and a corner shower or tub.
  • If you have a double sink with a mirror over each sink, utilize the space between the mirrors with one or more pictures.

Accent Walls

An accent wall can often become overpowering, especially if it has a decided pattern. For example, if an accent wall features different colored rectangle tiles, you can repeat the rectangle shape with a pair of stacked pictures on an adjacent wall. Don't overdo it since your focal point is the accent wall.

  • Accent Walls
    Break up the accent wall with one large picture or a grouping.
  • When designing a grouping, avoid creating a competing pattern with too many different sizes of frames.
  • Adjacent walls can be left bare or sparsely decorated to draw attention to the accent wall.

Wall Decorating Is an Artform

If you love symmetry, then you will strive for a balanced look with your picture placements. If you prefer a more carefree look, then you may decide that an asymmetrical placement of pictures is just fine. Ultimately, you must decide what you like looking at and how you want the wall space filled in your rooms.

Does Each Wall Need a Picture Hanging on It?