To lean or not to lean? That is today’s question. Leaning artwork, frames, and other flat objects is a casual way to display them and create a layered look. Personally, as a bit of a type-A personality, I have always struggled with letting things lean. It does not feel as orderly to me. Sometimes it feels undone. But, the look is growing on me, and I have a few leaners in my house.
I thought it would be fun to write out the pros and cons for leaning vs. not leaning.
- If done right, the look is casual, effortless, and approachable
- Creates connection with the surface it is leaning on (looks grounded)
- Allows for layering
- Can lean on any height surface, even the floor
- Flexibility to move or change the art easily, because there is no commitment
- Ideal if you rent and don’t want to put holes in the wall
- Great for leaning art against walls where you can’t easily hang art, like tiled or brick walls
- Use a large leaning piece to hide unsightly outlets or vents
- No measuring or tools required
- If done wrong, can look unfinished or haphazard
- Can look temporary
- Must have furniture or ledge to lean on
- If you don’t have enough depth to lean and layer pieces, it can look flat and awkward to have pieces leaning
Not To Lean…
- More orderly or finished look
- More deliberate and intentional, because it requires a commitment
- Makes art feel more treasured or valuable
- Can be formal or casual, depending on what you hang
- Does not need furniture or ledge to lean on
- Can be hung anywhere
- Hanging is a commitment, either holes in your walls or an investment in hanging strips to avoid holes
- Flat arrangement hanging on wall, no way to layer
- Pieces look best hung at eye-level
- Need to measure, level, and use tools
- Hanging piece floats above whatever is under it, if it is hung too high the connection is lost
You can see from the pros and cons there are arguments for and against both approaches. I think there is a time to lean and a time to not lean. It all depends on the look, the piece, and the room.
I let our family silhouettes lean on the board and batten ledge in our dining room for a while, but ultimately hung them up. The ledge is so narrow (only 2″), it just felt too shallow and I was afraid the pieces would fall off. I also wanted to fill more of the wall space above the board and batten in this tall room. Hanging the pieces up higher, draws the eye up and accentuates the height of the room.
My longest piece ever to stay leaning is the framed placemat art in our master bedroom. At first, I leaned it on top of the dresser temporarily, planning to hang it. Then, I kind of liked it leaning with the lamp layered in front. When I decided to create a whole gallery wall to disguise the TV in our bedroom, I left that piece leaning, but turned it on its side and layered another frame in front of it. I think it creates a connection with the dresser. It is as if the gallery wall casually spills onto the dresser and mingles with the other decor.
I am more comfortable leaning decorative objects, than artwork and pictures. For example, I have a large letter H leaning on the mantel. It layers nicely in front of the artwork. I love the casual look.
My latest exercise in leaning was the most intentional. I made a DIY picture ledge to display a family portrait and a few other pieces in our basement family room. I love the overall look, but I wish I had made the ledge deeper, so I could have had more room to layer. The family portrait is a 2″ thick gallery wrap canvas, which takes up most of the picture ledge.
So what is your preference…to lean or not to lean?
I think you lean about as much as I feel comfortable doing. Is it earthquakes that produce this uneasiness? I once leaned a wooden sled up high and felt it was very balanced but it came crashing down one day. I thought, oh wow. My child could have been there! So although nails and command hooks won’t stand a major earthquake, a bit of movement from far off earthquakes is more secure not leaning overhead. And then on a dresser….I just think, oh what if it slips and I have a huge scratch???So I end up putting some small heavy object in front or the edge to prevent the slide!! As for those heavy mirrors people were doing, gasp! Kids!!! So I guess I’m a minimalistic leaner
Gwen, such a good point. I will have to add safety (potential falling or slipping) to the list of cons for leaning, especially for larger or heavier items.