Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home (2015)


setting up your home



Brenda + David Bergen

Graphic Designer + Digital Media Consultant

son, Daniel

A home without art is not finished.

Artwork, whether a drawing, photograph, poster, or careful stack of polished stones on a windowsill, is both wonderfully impractical and deeply important at the same time. With art, you express your true self, lifting your spirit up out of the material crush of your daily life. In this way, the things that matter most to you should be on prominent display. Nothing can inspire instant happiness like opening the front door to a painting that makes you smile.

Beyond its role in self-expression, art goes hand in hand with decor. It can be used to inject color or express a mood, and, what’s more, it’s usually mobile. Artwork can—and should—be moved around often to continuously shift how you feel in a space. Hang a statement work alone, group things together like puzzle pieces across a wall, or keep the mood easy by propping frames on a ledge or atop a stack of books.

If you haven’t started your art collection (however you choose to define it), now is the time to get inspired. A well-curated assortment adds heaps of personality to a home—and can become your most valuable possession. Most objects can be replaced; art rarely can.



 … as a single focal point

If you have one piece of spectacular art that’s your pride and joy, or that is particularly large, place it on a prominent wall or surface. Use it as a jumping-off point for decorating decisions in the rest of the room—or keep the space minimal, and let the art shine.


 … as a gallery wall

Display a number of smaller art pieces together to cover more space—and make a bigger impact. This is one of our favorite decor trends of the moment. But the downside is … gallery walls can be tricky to get right. Spacing is your biggest ally: leave 3 to 6 inches of empty wall space between each piece (and keep whatever distance you choose consistent). Avoid the temptation to fill a wall by placing frames farther apart. The goal is to create a cohesive unit, not a scattered mess. With this in mind, there are three ways to organize your gallery wall.

even rows A folio series (art with related subject matter) is strongest when hung in matching, thin frames and stacked in neat rows—either vertically or horizontally.

symmetrical composite If you have art that varies in size and shape, you can still arrange it in a symmetrical pattern. Create a grouping with clean, even borders, where the art is “contained” inside an imaginary rectangle or square. Just make sure to stagger art of the same size, so you don’t end up with too many similar pieces in a row.

asymmetrical This arrangement mixes colors, textures, and styles—and feels more eclectic and personal as a result. Balance is key, though. Start with your largest piece as an anchor; then offset it with smaller frames and objects, hanging items at equal increments beside and above your anchor. Stick with similar frame styles or colors to keep things from looking too chaotic.


 … as decorative objects

Not all art fits into a conventional frame. Some of the most exciting collections integrate dishes, taxidermy, pottery, and other objects into gallery walls or grouped vignettes on tabletops or other flat surfaces. In this case, too, each object is less significant than the greater whole. Arrange items in groups of odd numbers (threes or fives are nice) and varying heights.

how’s it hanging?


Save your walls from being riddled with holes; check out this guide to hanging art before breaking out the hammer and nails.

1Don’t hang it too high. Most galleries hang art 57 to 60 inches on center (that’s the measurement from the floor to the center of the piece of art). With groupings, think of the collective as one big element, and apply the same principle.

2Adjust for seating. In dining rooms or offices, where people are primarily seated, it makes sense to lower art slightly to about 48 inches.

3Allow for headroom. When mounting over furniture, keep 3 to 6 inches of wall space above a sofa or headboard; 4 to 8 inches above a table. This is close enough to keep the two elements visually connected but far enough that you won’t bang your head when sitting and standing.

let’s talk frames

The art will steer you to the right frame if you let it. Choose a style and color that complements the piece and its surroundings.

picking a frame

As a general rule, use a thick frame for large art and a thin frame for small art. The variety of styles (both store-bought and custom) is huge, but most fall into these categories:

modern Sleek metal or wood frames—usually with a thin profile—and a white mat; great with high-contrast art.

transitional Understated frames (with little ornamentation) and a neutral mat. Complements most styles of art.

traditional Typically more ornate, with a wider profile. Often warm wood or brass, this style works well with representational (versus abstract) art.

picking a mat

As art gets larger, so should the width of your mat. This allows your artwork room to “breathe” and be noticed. In most instances, when it comes to color, choose a mat that’s lighter than the art but darker than the wall it hangs on. Neutrals are best, so when in doubt, stick with white or off-white.

frame alternatives

If spending loads of cash on framing isn’t in the budget, get creative. You can use washi tape to casually stick prints to the wall (opposite). It’s delicate enough to be pulled off without damaging your art. Or try covering your art with a sheet of clear acrylic and securing it in place with four L-hooks (also known as square-bend hooks). The result is minimalist and chic (and cheap!).

unexpected art

Elevate everyday objects by hanging them, like art, on a wall. (Bonus: it might save you some storage space.)

SPORTS EQUIPMENT: bikes, skis, archery arrows, snowboards


FLAGS OR BANNERS woven tapestry, vintage rugs, lace


LARGE TEXTILES: bikes, skis, archery arrows, snowboards


FUNCTIONAL ITEMS: pots, pans, cutting boards, even brooms or dusters


QUIRKY VINTAGE OBJECTS: framed bathing suits, cameras, toys