More of us are downsizing, which leaves less wall space for art. Another challenge is that many of us don't have one piece large enough to dominate an entire wall. The solution: salon-style art hanging, a floor-to-ceiling collage. In French, "salon" refers to a gathering place for an exchange of ideas. • Designer Jonathan Adler says he loves the salon solution because it gives presence to petite pieces. But the look can go hodgepodge in a hurry. • "Anchoring a wall with three larger pieces is a great strategy," Adler says. • Professional art consultant and installer Jackie Warren of Kansas City, Mo., agrees. • "Then you can build on a collection and add to it over the years," says Warren, owner of Artistic Solutions. • Adler has salon-style art tips in his book Jonathan Adler on Happy Chic Accessorizing (Sterling Innovation, $17.95). "Think of the ensemble as one big artwork."
Composition: Start at the center and work outward, leaving roughly even spacing between pieces. The more diverse the artworks, the better. Balance size and frame weight, alternating big and small, vertical and horizontal, to create rhythm and balance.
Placement: Go floor to ceiling, or group objects loosely in the center of the wall. Just beware of hanging too low (where pets and young children might jostle it) or right above a sofa (where anyone could disturb the arrangement).
Integration: Rather than stress about navigating art around your decor, incorporate furnishings and include lampshades and even TVs into the arrangement (this "hides" the flat-screen by surrounding it with canvases).
Unification: Warren helped marketing consultant Linda Adams Naftel of Overland Park, Kan., hang art in her stairwell. Though the media is disparate (ceramics, photography, pastels), Naftel chose to arrange them salon-style by theme: figures in the upper half of the stairwell and landscapes in the lower half.
Before you nail it
Map it. Art-installation consultant Jackie Warren's favorite planning method is to lay everything out on the floor. It's much easier than cutting out paper templates and taping them to the wall. Move things around until you settle on the most pleasing layout.
Measure for art. Measure 60 inches up from the floor to the center of the first piece you hang. If you have low ceilings, that number can go down to 58 inches. Avoid hanging anything too high, which looks awkward and brings the room down with it.
Handy hardware. When it comes to picture hangers and nails, the ones you find at the hardware store work fine; just buy according to the weight of the framed piece. With plaster walls, Warren uses painters tape, making a small crisscross where the nail and picture hanger will go before she starts pounding to prevent cracking. And she pre-drills into the tape, using a tiny bit. Ceramic pieces are typically pre-drilled so a professional art framer can wire it; then screws or a picture hanger will work. When it comes to hanging groups of art at the same height, it's important to have a level. "Make sure to measure each individual work of art because the picture wire on the back is installed at different heights," Warren says.
Go easy on the nails. Homeowners are asking for track systems (about $200 for a 12-foot track) with adjustable cables and hooks, Warren says. They're common in restaurants and offices and are handy for folks who don't want to deal with re-nailing and re-painting as art is switched out.