Guide to Choosing Living Room Artwork

What to Use, Where to Use It, and How to Make It All Work Together

Trio of artwork hanging on a living room wall

The Spruce / Marty Baldwin

If you think your living room looks incomplete or bare, it may need a few pieces of art on the walls. But where do you start? Think about what you'd love to see on the walls as soon as you walk into your living room. Maybe it's a gallery of images from a recent trip or a large, solo piece of artwork that makes your heart sing when you see it. Sometimes, all it takes is a few brightly colored pieces of artwork to liven up a dark or dull corner of a room. Let loose and have fun completing your living room with artwork that reflects your personality.

Types of DIY Art

The art you use in your home doesn't have to break your budget. With a little creativity, make one-of-a-kind artwork for your living room that'll be as priceless to you as a piece that costs thousands of dollars to a serious collector. To inspire your inner artist, here are some easy ideas for living room artwork:

  • Frame a collection of children's colorful and creative artwork.
  • Mount antique keys, jewelry, or silverware in a grouping of shadow boxes.
  • Frame coordinating samples of wallpaper or fabrics that tie together the colors of your living room.
  • Frame pages from vintage books or group framed antique maps.
  • Create modern art with boldly patterned washi tape from the craft store that you can stick on various sized canvases.
  • Take advantage of free online apps that create printable collages of your existing photos.

Once you have a grouping of about three to five frames, the artwork for your living room is ready to hang. It will take a little bit of experimenting with your pieces to make it work in the space. You might even want to mix in existing and purchased artwork with your DIY creations.

Where to Hang Living Room Artwork

There are three strategic places to hang artwork in your living room. Most of the time, the space above our sofa sorely needs help when it comes to artwork. If you have a fireplace mantel, that's prime space to hang or lean pieces of art. The empty spaces on walls that flank a window are also ideal spots for color and visual interest.

Above the Sofa

You may already have artwork above your sofa, and it may be too small for the space. Whether you're using a single piece of art or a grouping, there are a few rules of thumb:

  • If you're hanging one piece of art, make sure it measures about two-thirds of the width (arm-to-arm) of your sofa.
  • If you're hanging a grouping, use the same general proportions of making sure the arrangement measures about two-thirds the width of your sofa.
  • When hanging a grouping, make sure there's about 2 inches or 3 inches between each frame.
  • Make sure there is a consistent space of 6 inches to 8 inches between the bottom of the frame and top of your sofa's back.

Over a Mantel

Placing artwork on mantels can be a little tricky because of the height. There should be about 4 inches to 12 inches of space between the bottom of a piece of artwork and the top of your mantel. To create a casual look in your living room, lean a tall piece of artwork against the wall on top of your mantel.

Flanking a Window

If you have a window in your living room framed with drapes, see if there's a need for artwork. The drapes may spill over into the wall space and the addition of any artwork may make the room feel crowded. Ideally, you'll have about 4 inches to 6 inches from the edge of your artwork to the edge of your drapes to make the arrangement look proportioned.

Creating a Photo Wall or Grid

Grouped artwork creates texture, drama, and visual impact. You might want to arrange a meandering photo wall on a large expanse of space in your living room, such as above a longer sofa, or on an accent wall behind a table and chair, for example. Photo walls are ideal solutions for the empty wall space on staircases and hallways. It may take a few tries and tricks to find the right arrangement for a grouping, but here are four basic and important tips to get started:

  • Create a plan: Place the pieces on the floor in front of the wall and play around with the arrangement until it looks and feels right.
  • Create a focal point: A grouping needs a focal point, which could be a large anchoring piece in the center of the arrangement. Other pieces can be placed as a constellation around this centerpiece.
  • Tape a level line: Use non-stick painter's tape or masking tape and a level (there's a free app for that) to make sure you're photos hang evenly. For example, put a level line of tape a few inches above the back of your sofa, making sure the bottom of each frame touches the tape.
  • Use consistent spacing: A photo wall looks neat and organized if it has a sense of a grid. That means pieces are hung with the same exact distance between each frame. Use an item, such as a pre-cut piece of cardboard, to evenly and consistently space your frames. Slightly uneven grids are noticeable to the eye.

With these simple tricks of the trade-in your toolbox, you're now on your way to bringing more color and warmth into your living room with artwork.