Home Guru

The Art and Fun of Picture Hanging and Arranging

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By Bill Primavera

Growing up, my family was not much into wall art. In our living room was just one big gold-framed mirror measuring about four to five feet wide and three feet high.

Just to the left of the interior of our front door was one watercolor of a vase of lilies, painted and given to my parents as a gift from my Aunt Helen who never took any lessons but was a natural artist. Somehow, I inherited Aunt Helen’s lily painting and it has hung proudly in every apartment I’ve ever rented and every home I’ve ever owned to this day.

Other than that, I remember only blank walls in my family home. One exception was in our dining room where my dad had painted stenciled cabbage roses just below the ceiling in each corner of the room. It’s amazing, now that I think of it, that my dad was a skilled flooring specialist and yet possessed an artistic bent, demonstrated, for instance, when he carved out of linoleum the shape of a teapot in a contrasting color to our kitchen floor.

I never thought much about picture hanging once I went off to college because I had no pictures to hang. The one exception was the large oil painting of a clown, given to me by an artist who was a friend, looking as though it might have been painted by Picasso in his blue period.

Once graduated from college and living in the city, I got hooked on antiques, perhaps because of my college experience at William & Mary in the restoration city of Williamsburg, Va. Actually, my first apartment was furnished with a Danish Modern sofa and coffee table that I got at a close-out sale. But once I started earning a decent salary, I ditched those for furnishing and accessories, mostly from the late 18th and mid-19th centuries. Wondering about the past lives of these pieces was very pleasing to me.

My wall art collection started with the purchase of the portrait of a woman from the late 19th century that I acquired for what I considered to be a bargain: $35. A close friend thought that I had gotten rooked.   

For a while I lived in Greenwich Village, but once I discovered the historic neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, I felt that I had found a place to lay down roots. One of my first friends there was a gentleman who owned an antiques shop where I bought some of my first pieces of wall art. I was so impressed when he invited me to his home for dinner and I discovered that most of his walls were covered floor to ceiling with art. It was like living in an art gallery. That is what I wanted my home to someday be, I thought, something interesting to look at on every wall.

It took me some years to accomplish that goal, aided and abetted by my wife Margaret who become even more astute at collecting than I. We leaned toward two categories of painting – portraits and landscapes. When we moved to the country (upper Westchester), our first home was an early 18th century farmhouse. Perhaps it was overreacting to more cramped accommodations in the city, but our new home was much too big for our small family of three, but we were still rather naïve in those days about space and maintenance issues.

Be that as it may, we found ourselves with more room – and rooms – that we ever could need. However, we filled that space by opening a country antiques shop in part of the three-winged house, and we rented one of the wings to a tenant for extra income, which we sorely needed at the time.

Now, with plenty of wall space to fill, we continued our quest for wall art and, scouring the countryside in shops and through auctions, eventually acquired many pieces in our collection to cherish.

As far as the actual hanging, there are many hardware options to choose from, but embarrassingly, I admit that I usually used just common nails with a big head, rather than standard picture hooks. In some areas of living, call me basic – or lazy.

On each wall with multiple pieces of art, I choose to arrange pieces according to subject matter, portraits together and landscapes together, so it doesn’t appear jarring from one painting to the next. Also, I consider size and how each piece fits into a pleasing arrangement on the wall when considered as a whole.

Especially in these days of COVID-19 where we tend to spend more time within the confines of our four walls, the use of art, nicely arranged on those walls, serves to bring the outside world to us in a satisfying way.

Bill Primavera is a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest-running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com). To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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