Bobby Berk's Top Tips for Properly Hanging Wall Art
When it comes to artwork, buying the perfect piece is the exciting part. Getting home and hanging it up yourself—not so much. After measuring, leveling, drilling, and measuring again, we already have a headache before we even get to hammering! And if you live in a rental home or apartment, the stress is even higher. So we reached out to Bobby Berk, interior designer and star of Netflix’s Queer Eye, for his advice on displaying and choosing artwork.
1. Know Your Wall's Material
Before you even begin hanging artwork, identify your surface material. Drilling into drywall is a lot different than drilling into a brick wall, and if you don’t do it carefully, you could cause damage. Drywall is a soft surface and can effectively hold a calendar or small framed picture. But anything much bigger or heavier should be secured with an anchor.
The same rule applies to plaster walls, which are even more prone to crumbling under pressure. “If you're hanging into an older plaster wall, make sure you’re putting a lot of good anchors in there,” Bobby says. “If it’s heavy enough, make sure you're putting an anchor in, period.” Anchors come in many shapes and sizes, from simple plastic expansion anchors to sturdy toggle anchors, and are strongest when drilled into wall studs.
Related: How to Use a Stud Finder
If you’re lucky enough to have a brick wall, Bobby says to not worry. Speaking from New York rental experience, he says most exposed brick walls already have holes from previous owners. Check the mortar for cracks or screw holes, and use those to your advantage. “If you cannot find that, you need to get a mortar drill bit and drill a hole,” Bobby says. “If you try to hammer it in there, you can crack the brick and damage it, and you don’t want to do that. So make sure that you get a drill bit that’s made for drilling into brick, and your life will be a lot easier.” Bobby prefers drilling into mortar (the seams between the brick) because it’s easier to patch if you make a mistake, though you can drill into the brick face for more permanent installations.
2. Choose the Right Hardware
Choosing the hardware for a frame can be almost as important as choosing the artwork itself. “The biggest mistake is using one single nail or screw in the center to hang (artwork),” Bobby says. “It eventually warps and ruins your frames and gravity will cause them to fall apart.” Instead, Bobby suggests using a wire; most heavy frames come with this on the back.
3. Determine the Perfect Placement
When it comes to art placement, Bobby is all about breaking the rules. Although placing art at eye level is a common rule, it can be very relative based on the person’s height and the space itself. Rooms with tall ceilings, for example, may require a higher placement or larger piece of artwork.
“I recommend stacking art on top of each other—really going all the way up,” Bobby advised. “The higher you hang your art, the more you can trick the eye into seeing the wall is actually quite high because it draws the eyes up. Always make sure you’re utilizing your full wall and not just hanging art at eye level because you think that’s the rule.”
When hanging a gallery wall (Bobby’s favorite way to fill a large space), consider using three-dimensional pieces within the framed art. Or install a floating shelf and lean frames against the wall for a great twist on a traditional gallery wall. “I always make sure that the space between the frames is pretty much uniform throughout the gallery wall," Bobby says. "That way you can be a little crazier with what you’re putting up there.” For uniformity, Bobby hangs his frames three inches apart. “If it’s a larger wall with really large pieces, you can go more than that,” he says.
4. Secure Your Security Deposit
Most renters avoid putting holes in their walls, but as long as you’re not doing anything that breaks your lease, Bobby says go for it. Be sure to measure properly before hammering or drilling to avoid multiple holes. But even a mistake can be fixed with a little spackle and sandpaper. If you’re still power-tool shy, double-sided adhesive strips, like those from 3M, can work wonders and be removed without any wall damage.
Related: Top Tips for Repairing Drywall
“If you’re too scared to do hooks, if you’re too scared to patch, you can always call in a professional,” Bobby says. Art.com has a hanging service powered by Handy. They will come to your home and take care of the installation for you, so you don’t even have to pick up a hammer. The service is added to your order at checkout for a flat starting rate of $30, plus $10 per additional piece of artwork. This is a foolproof way to get the art you love without any installation concerns.
5. Show Your Personality
Overall, Bobby says your art should make you happy. Art is such a personal thing, and just because a certain style or artist is trending, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. “When you wake up in the morning, and you see that piece on the wall, if you don’t smile then you picked the wrong piece,” Bobby said. “For me, the thing that is most trendy is the thing that makes you most happy.”