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My Step by Step Picture Hanging Hacks for Hallways and Stairs

Why is picture hanging so intimidating? I admit it, even I find it daunting at times- – like when I’ve been in my new home for almost fifteen months and I still haven’t finished my stair case! Cue eye roll.

KleinField via Lonny

Hallways and stairs naturally have lots of empty wall space and most people don’t know what to do with them. I’m going to show you my own steps for hanging framed arrangements of prints, family portraits, mirrors, and even shadow boxes.

If you don’t have family portraits, or a good selection of pictures to hang, or just prefer a minimalist style, opt for two to three large framed coordinating prints rather than small ones. Choose sets of prints that are obviously part of a matched set, rather than mismatched for this. For a ten foot wide wall you can easily do two to three coordinating framed prints or two mirrors sized around 28” wide x 43” high. This is just to give you a guideline.

Step 1

Gather your tools and materials. Always use a good quality tape measure that’s over 20 feet long. It’s not just length you want to consider but also the sturdiness of the tape. The shorter ones tend to be too flimsy and don’t handle well. Get a pencil and hammer. Also, you may want to get a picture hanging kit from the hardware store. I like the nice brass ones. You’ll most likely need spackle for filling in mistake holes and touch up paint

Susan Ferrier

Make sure to purchase some molly bolts for heavier pieces and be aware you’ll need a hand drill for using molly bolts when hanging the larger pieces.

Step 2

Gather all your pictures, portraits, mirrors, etc. – – whatever you have that needs to be hung. In my previous home, in our wrap around staircase I mixed family portraits, black and white photography, mirrors, a shadow box of civil war pieces and a few pieces of artwork. They worked well together because I had two matching mirrors and two coordinating black and white framed stills that pulled everything together visually. I don’t use major artwork in this type of a situation because art such as that needs to be more of a focal point, not part of a grouping.

When I’m designing or decorating I intentionally bring out way more items than I’ll use. I like to have a lot to choose from, whether I’m setting a table, choosing fabrics and furniture for clients or accessorizing a room. By bringing out more choices, you’ll have a much better end result. Remember this isn’t just math, it’s also part art!

via Indulgy

Step 3

Get down on the ground– on a large, empty floor space start laying out your pieces. Start with the largest pieces first and place them in the center of your arrangement. If they’re going up a staircase you have the option of putting the big pieces parallel, side by side or stair stepping them up the stairs.

By placing the biggest pieces in the center, you’ve created a ‘kind of’ foundation, or visual anchor for the other smaller pieces. Now you can start from the center of the arrangement and work your way around the outer perimeters. I always like to work from left to right, high to low, just like you read a book. Play with different combinations. The big secret to decorating with accessories is there really is no secret. Even when I had my design stores, I relied on trial and error. Don’t discount the beauty of art and accessories in your home, or the feelings they evoke.

Once you’ve hit on an arrangement you really love, or as I like to say ‘that double clicks’ for you, the hard part begins: measuring. 

William McClure via The Pink Pagoda

Step 4

You are going to hang your pieces one at a time, leaving the rest in position on the ground. But before you lift or move anything, make sure you jot down the distance to its neighbor!  And again, hang the biggest pieces first. You will have to ‘eyeball’ hanging your first piece and you may have to do a few trial and error holes, so prepare for that contingency. Determining the height will be the hardest part.

When you place the first, big pieces don’t place them too low or too high because the rest of the arrangement depends on it. As a general rule I like to place them just a bit higher than eye level. For instance, when you’re standing up close you should have to look up a bit, craning your head about two natural feeling ‘notches’ upward. I hope that makes sense. Bear with me here, like I said this is part art too, so clarity isn’t always easy!

Once the biggest pieces are perfectly placed, you can use them as a point of reference measurement. Things start to get a little easier after this step. Yay!

If you have more than three pieces or if you’re hanging things at heights above eye level it is a great job for your handyman. Allow about 4 to 5 hours at $30 to $45 an hour. Don’t ask or allow him or her to weigh in on how it looks. There will always be nay-sayers and they will ruin your confidence and make you question your decisions. I say this from experience. On more than one occasion a well-meaning client will let a neighbor or friend or adult child attend our consultations without my consent and it always ends up very unhappy for the client. I have never once had them turn out good. I’ve discovered our best friends seldom like us to make major changes to our home, our make up or hair! So don’t ruin your joy by letting them weigh in. Trust your gut. 

via The Visual Vamp Finding Studs

If you are lucky enough to have a stud finder, great. I simply knock on the wall till I hear a less hollow sound. It takes practice.

Using Molly Bolts

For using mollies you will likely need a hand drill. If your walls are plaster, purchase a concrete bit. Start with your pencil mark, then using any old nail, nail a small hole as a starter hole. Don’t hammer the nail so far in that you can’t wiggle it back out again. Remove the nail and drill a hole using a drill bit a little smaller than your molly.

Separate the molly from the screw and hammer the molly into the prepared hole. Then screw the screw in till it’s firmly in place, leaving enough screw exposed for your picture frame wire. For heavy mirrors, please use caution. Test the weight of the piece by allowing only a small portion of the weight to be supported by the molly at first. If the piece moves at all, you know it’s not secure. I’ve hung many heavy mirrors in my day and have never had one fall but to be safe please keep kids and pets away from them altogether. There is nothing wrong with having boundaries in your home. Obviously I’m not referring to toddlers here. You’ll need to use your best judgment in that case.

via J. Cathell

My Sweet Tape Measure Hack

I learned this trick from my fantastic window treatment installer Mike Whitney whom I’ve used for over fifteen years.  

Take the tape measure in your right hand and pull the tape out about 6 feet, with your left.

Keep the tape extended by holding it in place with the pointer finger of your right hand.

Now bend the tape and bring the cartridge and tape close together.

Holding securely, place the tape firmly against the wall you’re measuring. Hold the ‘tail’ against the wall with the big toe on your right foot.

Now, pinning the tape against the wall, secure it with the side of your left hand while you pull the tape out of the cartridge in an upward motion, up the wall. And that’s it! It’s super easy.

Hey friend! If getting started is hard for you, or if you’re stumped on your design project, I created my one-on-one Designer Micro Sessions just for you! They’re an easy and affordable way to solve your most pressing design problems. Click link for deets!

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