16 of the Very Best, Most Out-of-the-Box Art Displaying Ideas from Apartment Therapy House Tours

published Oct 4, 2022
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Credit: Kim Lucian

October is Art Month at Apartment Therapy, which calls for a reminder that cool artwork can transform a house or apartment into a home… and then a second reminder: “Cool artwork” can be whatever you want it to be! In home submissions from readers, for instance, I’ve seen people frame wrapping paper and wallpaper, turn magazine tearsheets into custom collages, and make their own paintings, sculptures, papier-mâché, and more.

Whether you bought your art at a garage sale or Christie’s —whether your kid made it or you made it yourself or you had it commissioned, — whether framed, unframed, or 3D, if something makes your eyes happy and feels meant-to-be in your home, it’s art. Now, let’s take a look at 16 inspiring ways to display that art.

1. Overlap Pieces to Create a Layered Look

Too much artwork and too little wall space? Don’t be afraid to overlap pieces. In Nadia Geller’s LA studio, she hung multiple pieces at varying heights from hooks on a ledge for a layered look. This idea is perfect for replicating in your own home if you have a ledge or photo rail, hooks, and lots of lightweight artwork.

2. Overlapping Part II for a Whole New Silhouette

You can also play with where your furniture and your artwork meet. Painter Laura Dargan hung one of her own original works just slightly lower than her console table in her living room to create a more visually-interesting look. “For this particular painting, I wanted the scale of the piece to catch your eye but not feel overwhelming for the space,” Dargan told Apartment Therapy. “Placing the painting lower than the table allows both pieces to melt together as if they were one.”

3. Hang Garlands on a Hook to Make a Colorful Cluster

Fiber art, wall hangings, and garlands are fairly commonplace (and a great art choice for your home!) but I love the way this tassel garland is clustered in a corner in Anthony Conley and Elizabeth Hall’s home. You can layer colorful tassel garlands (going for about $10 a piece on Amazon) to create the same look. You’ll just need a hook to hang them from, and it’s even easier if you’re using an existing coat or towel hook in your home.

4. Embrace Vertical Space by Using Your Railings

Have a tapestry or mobile that deserves the spotlight? Another great spot to show off 3D artwork that can be draped or hung is over a railing. Artist Diego Martinez’ Buenos Aires apartment is full of 3D art inspiration galore, and he hung one of his leafy paper art creations (along with a few real plants) over a railing in the middle of his home.

5. Maximize Your Gallery Wall with a Floor-to-Ceiling Look

Up your gallery wall game by maximizing vertical space. The inspiration? Painter Laura Dargan’s home, once again! She hung frames all the way down by the baseboards and all way the up near the ceiling for a seemingly never-ending wall of art. This is also a great approach for adding art as you find it and where it fits for a maximalist look — no orderly grid necessary.

6. Lean Your Artwork for a Renter-Friendly, Boho Look

This one’s for the renters out there. If you’re not supposed to hang anything on your walls (or if you just painted and simply don’t want to), take a page from photographer, artist, and small business owner Mallory Brooks’ book. Her apartment has tons of thrifted artwork that leans against the walls and the kitchen island for unexpected pops of bright colors.

Credit: Minette Hand

7. Try the Center of a Window (or Bookshelf!)

If your apartment or house has ample windows, you could try this art-hanging trick from painter and historic homeowner Chambers Austelle’s porch. She hung one of her own works called “Patience is a Virtue” at the intersection of the windowpanes. Can’t spare the natural light in your space? You could try doing something similar at the intersection of shelves on a bookcase, like this.

8. Hang Art Around a Doorframe for a Pronounced Threshold

If you have many frames to hang but want to do something a little different than a gallery wall, consider using a doorframe or threshold as a guide, like in creative director, prop stylist, and set designer Melissa Cripe’s home. “I also used the large archway to create a visual divider between the living room and kitchen by cutting hundreds and hundreds of Matisse-inspired shapes,” Melissa adds. “It took forever (and I almost fell off the ladder — whoops!), but I really love how it turned out.” Two-for-one threshold artwork FTW!

9. Oversized Everyday Objects Make for Whimsical Sculptures

AT’s tour director, Adrienne Breaux, has noticed a trend of oversized objects as art in homes lately. “The idea that art has to be flat or on the wall is an outdated one, and this is seen beautifully in the artwork created and on display in this colorful Copenhagen apartment of Lærke Victoria Plougmann,” Breaux says. Plougmann’s papier-mâché fruits are one such example, popping up often on several surfaces in her 721-square-foot apartment. So far, she’s made a strawberry, an orange, a pea pod, two cherries, and a banana.

10. A Door Is the Perfect (Surprise!) Canvas

Not only is a doorframe a spot to add some drama, so is the door itself. While a frame might easily fall off of a door that does a lot of opening and shutting in your home throughout the day, a lightweight poster might make the perfect (unexpected) artful adornment, or you can do as Sophie Elinor did in her Australia home and use the entire surface as your canvas. “I’m just a bit of a silly goose, and I like to let that shine though in places,” Sophie Elinor says. “For instance, my bathroom door is a cavity slider, so I turned it into a retractable, peek-a-boo mural featuring those wacky inflatable tube men you see in car yards. Why not?!”

11. Give Your Art the Museum Treatment Under a Display Case

Have a small sculpture, ceramic piece, or collection that deserves the museum treatment? Show it off under your coffee table — while still giving yourself a surface for coasters and drinks — like Daniel and Geof Parkington did in their 670-square-foot Michigan apartment. This table is custom-made by Daniel’s dad, and he says it’s become “a focal point and vibe setter for the rest of the apartment.” You can achieve a similar look with a multi-level acrylic coffee table or by pairing a durable display case with any coffee table.

Credit: Liz Kamarul

12. Work the Corners — With Art, That Is

Wrapping your gallery wall around a corner is also a great way to make a traditional multi-frame setup a bit more dynamic; it can help create a flow from one room to the next or make an otherwise nondescript corner a bit more lively, as seen in Liz Kamarul’s boho tour. If you look closely, two art ideas in one exist here: Kamarul also layered her frames for an added eclectic feel.

13. Hang Art on a Mirror for a Multi-Dimensional Look

Like with a window or bookshelf, adding a piece of art to the center a mirror can add a bit of unexpected depth to a space. You can also use mirrors to strategically make a gallery wall look larger by hanging frames right up against a mirror, like this.

14. Use Picture Frames in an Unexpected Way

Adding a frame snuggly around your artwork is obviously a classic, but homeowners like Megan Housekeeper have used oversized picture frames to make their artwork more pronounced for a frame-within-a-frame look. Housekeeper painted pre-made frames the same color as her walls for a DIY picture-frame moulding look — no miter saw required — in her guest bedroom.

Credit: Kim Lucian

15. Add Art to Your Paneling

Box panel trim already comes in rectangular shapes, so why not use those built-in-frames for displaying artwork? That’s what Anna Korkobcova did in her beautifully boho Pacific Heights studio in San Francisco, California. “I like to use existing things in new ways,” Korkobcova tells Apartment Therapy. Her favorite part of the apartment is its old-school architecture; she just added a bit more color and pattern to it.

Credit: Anna Kate Reep

16. “Hang” Art on the Ceiling

Lastly, don’t forget to look up! Ceilings deserve artwork, too. Again a frame might not be the best option, here — thanks to gravity — but feel free to get creative with paint or peel-and-stick wallpaper. Anna Kate Reep’s hand-painted ceiling mural makes the vintage light fixture in the center look even more delicate and feminine.

This piece is part of Art Month, where we’re sharing how to find, buy, and display art in your home, and so much more. Head on over here to see it all!