We've always thought of this as a no-no. The arrangement of framed artwork in a stair-stepped manner is one look that seemed nearly impossible to pull off elegantly - but then, we saw this version of it...
...and it just may have turned us around.
In this example by C.W. Eisner (found at Desire to Inspire) the framed pieces flow up and over a large circular mirror, so even though the frames are doing the "stair-step", the overall arrangement feels grounded by the dark, bold mirror frame. Additionally the symmetrical sconces help to offset the uneven top horizontal line of the arrangement. I think those two points are the key to why this looks less contrived and more balanced.
What do you think? A success or still too stepped?
Image: C.W. Eisner