The Art Of Displaying Art

College Street / Little Italy

Not to be present myself as too ornery, but this blog was originally going to be a rant on one of my many housing pet peeves. As a realtor unlocking the doors of dozens of homes each month, I’m constantly seeing the Number One no-no of showcasing art. What is it you ask, as you eye your own collection hanging on your walls? I find people consistently hang their art too high off the floor! So let me get this out of the way first…if you can’t figure out the best place to hang your art, position it 57″ on centre, so that the middle of the frame is 57″ up the wall. This is a standard used in art galleries and museums, as 57″ represents the average human eye-height.

There’s alot more to hanging art than this one essential tip, but rather than write a lengthy missive on what to do, here are a couple of great links that will give you a crash starter course. One is from Style At Home, and the other from Canadian House and Home. Check them out k?

I have a few key approaches to displaying art that I’d like to share with you.

Number One – I almost always install an Art Rail in every property I’ve developed, renovated or consulted on. What’s better than having a place where you can feature your art as you like without the worry of nail holes? It can be constructed of wood, metal or painted out mdf board. I always make Art Rails a minimum of 4″ deep, because I often locate them directly behind the sofa so it can also be used as cocktail glass perch when entertaining. Here are a couple of examples, the first in stainless steel and the second in aluminium made by one of my fav retailers starting from $150. These pics are from the StyleGarage website too!

At my loft in The Button Factory, I have an Art Rail made of MDF board that is constantly changing. Here’s a photo:

What I also like about having an Art Rail is that I can create changing vignettes like this:

I love integrating open shelving in a kitchen that can hold dishes, cooking supplies and art. Here’s a pic from The Button Factory before I styled it:

For this Art Rail, I had an artisan make hand-forged brackets which I topped with a shelf trimmed in Mahogany: Here is a closer detail:

Another favourite way I like to display art is in groupings. In my study, one wall contains my spectacular collection by artist and friend Greg Laviolette. By hanging Greg’s work together, one can see how consistent his colour palette has remained over a span of twenty-five years while demonstrating his maturation as an artist. Plus the subject matter tells the tale of his own life journey. Not only is it a visually arresting showstopper, but it presents a wonderful narrative for friends and guests alike.

I’m also a fan of placing art where one might not expect it. In my master ensuite are several of my most important and intimate art pieces which cover my entire life, ranging from photographs of my siblings and I as children, to pieces made, or gifted to me, by friends, plus several of the paintings my own talented father has created over my lifetime. Situated a few steps up from my bedroom, this ensuite is tear-drop in shape and topped with a circular skylight. A precious personal haven, all four sides of this space from floor to ceiling are covered in my art. And while this may read as strange, every time I’m in this little ‘jewel box’ I send a prayer of gratitude to the universe for my good fortune at being the caretaker of these testaments of love.

As an aside, keep in mind that the frames you choose for your art can both compliment the piece and match the surroundings to enhance the art as a focal point. As you can see below, I painted a wall in black chalkboard paint, and framed two pieces by artist Dan Nuttall in a similar black matt finish. What most people don’t know when visiting this space, is that the deep frames also cover the thermostat and electric light switchplates which would otherwise be eyesores.

Also, don’t be afraid to invest is a gorgeous frame. Below is one of my favourite watercolours painted by my father. In choosing a frame, I wanted to pay hommage to his talent and showcase this work. This frame says “Family Heirloom”, which is precisely what it is!

Sometimes art doesn’t have to hang on walls, and when it does it can also be lighting! Here’s a past blog called What’s That Glow About You? that includes a lightbox art piece that marries art and lighting.

Plus here’s an amusing one on The Art Of Shadow which combines the use of sculpture and lighting to create a magical home!

Finally, your art collection should always contain pieces that grab your heartstrings and ‘speak to you’, more so than their potential return on investment or whether the colour or image compliments your decor. Discover the provenance of the piece if you can, so that you can share its story along with how it came to be in your possession when people ask. By doing this you’re creating a personal art collection that will reflect aspects of who you are, including where you’ve come from, the places you’ve traveled, and the knowledge and passions you’ve cultivated.

Creating a space where we belong is as much about the objects we surround ourselves with as the dwelling itself. They all become an extension of who we are and what we’re about. So enjoy the art of collecting art. Afterall, this is ultimately what Home is all about, right?

Want to read more about Rejuvenating The Button Factory in Toronto, Ontario, Canada?

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~ Steven and the urbaneer team

Cute Cartoon at the top from

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Rejuvenating The Button Factory

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