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How High Do You Want That Picture?

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If you thought hanging pictures was merely a matter of us just waltzing in, hammer at the ready and tape measure on the hip, think again. When asked to hang your pictures, we usually ask straight off - 'how high do you like your pictures?'.

And that's when the part of our job description that includes counsellor/advisor/umpire comes into play.

Consider this fairly typical exchange:

Me - “How high would you like me to hang it?

Him - “A bit higher; no, higher again.

Her - “No, lower, please.

Him - “No, a bit higher.

Her - “Darling, please not so high – I want that horizon at eye level.

Him - “But…..

And it’s here that I have to begin my counselling session for the participants in that age-old discussion. How high to hang the pictures.

At the risk of being labelled an old fashioned sexist, I can confidently say (gleaned after many years of experience as a picture hanger) there are two things I can count on. Men like their pictures high; women don’t. And my wife, who works with me, agrees.

A man will take a 6-inch nail in one hand and a big hammer in the other, reach as high as he can, and “BANG - she’s up.” On the other hand, a woman wants a picture to be on a more intimate viewing level.

Yes, of course these are sweeping generalisations, but the following take is an amusing illustration.

Recently I was asked to hang a large, heavy, awkward mirror. The client said he was happy to hang any picture, but was not confident of the mirror, as it weighed a hefty 34kg.

When I arrived, I noticed that the home was decorated with a good number of capable originals, nicely hung and at good viewing heights. All were placed in harmony with the surrounds. After I had hung the mirror, I complimented the client on his hanging skills. He laughed, looked a bit sheepish and then said: “yep, but look above every painting”.

Puzzled, I did, and was astonished to find nail holes. All from old picture hooks, and what’s more, above every single picture! As I turned to look at him, he explained he was the culprit. He’d confidently hung everything while his wife was at work. “Whoa! And didn’t she get into me about them being too high! Had to turn around and lower every one. And what’s worse, when I finished - she was dammed well right!”

So what’s the right height?

To be honest, there is no absolute set-in-concrete answer, because there are so many factors:

  • How tall are the clients, and is there a big discrepancy in their respective heights?
  • How tall are the ceilings?
  • Are there little kids who are likely to bounce off the walls?
  • What do the clients actually like and feel comfortable with?
  • What’s the picture about and for – wall décor or important piece?

And so on…

You need to observe, negotiate, compromise – and if you’re of a certain age, be guided by the old Peter Cook and Dudley Moore skit in an art gallery – “It’s the eyes, Pete, they follow you around the room”.

That’s exactly what you want from your pictures. Whether a conventional seascape, antique still life, or expressionist splashy canvas, the right height should help you engage and connect with your artwork.


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Mike McClughan

Right Hook Picture Hanging

Based on the Sunshine Coast, we are picture hanging specialists. But we don't just hang pictures, we can hang almost anything on a wall... rugs, murals, artefacts, sporting memorabilia, mirrors etc. We can do anything from a collection of pictures, to heavy items, to large pieces, to an entire gallery collection. No picture hanging job is too small, or big, so just ask!

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