Art for Formal Rooms

Formal art doesn’t mean expensive art.  You can use less expensive pieces for more formal rooms.  There are limitless pieces of artwork, so choosing art can be one of the most frustrating aspects of interior design.  It’s also the most subjective and personal design elements, so follow these guidelines for artwork for the more formal spaces in your home.


More formal rooms tend to make you think of high ceilings, so vertical lines tend to add a formality to artwork.  Artwork that is longer rather than wider tends to look more formal.  Groupings placed in a more vertical form can easily take the place of a larger piece when grouped in a more vertical layout.


Using double matting to maximize accent colors is a little more expensive when framing art, but gives it a more polished, formal look.  Thicker mats can also add a more formal illusion, particularly with smaller prints and photographs.  Consider the texture and materials of the mat, smoother textures such as silk matting are more formal than a textured mat.


The most common error in hanging artwork is to hang it too high.  Make sure the main portion of the grouping or artwork is at eye level.

Picture cords and decorative hanging elements were used in Victorian homes when artwork was hung from picture rails, a piece of molding two or three feet below the ceiling.  Try these looks for an elegant accent for formal rooms.  Cords, ribbons and decorative picture hooks and nails can be purchased online and give an age old formality to artwork. 

The art shelves that are so popular in decorating can be used to hold accessories, but leaning the artwork using the shelf tends to give it a more casual look.  Hang the picture above the shelf, leaving 4-8 inches between the shelf and the art.  Use a pair of accessories on the shelf to ‘frame’ the picture and create a relationship between the pieces.


Symmetry gives a more formal look to groupings – use pairs and groups of four for more formal groupings of art and accessories.  Pairs of paintings or a group of four smaller pieces hung in a long, narrow grouping will lengthen the wall and give a more formal look to the space. Use similarities to bring the grouping together, such as similar frame finishes, mat colors or the prints or artwork themselves.

Don’t feel as if you need to match your artwork with your formal furniture.  Art should relate in some way, but being formal does not necessarily mean matching.