Create Your Own Salon Wall: A Brief History and How-To Guide

Originating in 17th Century Paris, the Salon hang is a term derived from the manner in which artworks were displayed at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris for recent graduates of the École des Beaux-Arts. This hanging style was intended to accommodate the maximum number of works and often paintings were tightly hung side-by-side and filled the walls from floor to ceiling and included a wide variety of sizes and genres. Alternative salons began to emerge throughout France, as the notion of appreciating culture began to spread beyond the elite classes. This style of displaying artworks continues to be popular today as a means of displaying even the most eclectic of collections. However, approaching this in your home can often be overwhelming and so we wanted to share some our tips to help you.

Rowlandson, Thomas. Royal Academy Exhibition Room, Somerset House.

Thomas Rowlandson, Royal Academy Exhibition Room, Somerset House

What you will need:

  • Tape measure
  • Spirit Level
  • Pencil or post it notes (use these to mark out the edges of the picture frame and where you plan to place your hooks)
  • Hammer
  • Picture hanging hooks (consider using D-rings rather than wire or string to avoid a crooked hang)
  • Appropriate nail, pins or wall plugs depending on your wall and the weight of the picture.
  • A willing assistant.

A collection of modern art is displayed in the study of Aldo Businaro’s Palladian-style villa

A collection of modern art displayed in the study of Aldo Businaro’s Palladian-style villa. 

Find your location.

Whether this is the focal point of your living room, hallway or even up the stairs, choose a place where your artworks can be enjoyed. Don’t worry if you don’t have a huge space as this style lends itself particularly well to corners. We would suggest limiting a salon hang to one wall in a single room to avoid a cluttered look. A few other things to avoid when choosing your space are direct sunlight, humidity and heat.

Choose your artworks.

Pull out your favourite works from paintings, drawings, photographs and of course prints! We think the most successful gallery walls showcase artworks that have been collected over time and tell the story of the home's occupants, so other personal and hangable items can (and should) be included such as maps, ceramics and masks.

Marie-France Cohen, the co-founder of Bonpoint and Merci by Céline Clanet

Marie-France Cohen, the co-founder of Bonpoint and Merci's home office. Photographed by Céline Clanet for T Magazine. 

Assemble your artworks on the floor.

Start by placing your items on the floor in front of the intended space, in order to how they will look before committing to hanging them on the wall. If you have the patience, you can cut out pieces of paper the same size as your artworks and secure them to the wall using an adhesive tack to mark out the potential positioning. Don’t forgot to write on each piece of paper so you know what they are meant to represent. It is also a good idea to photograph your placement before you begin hanging.

Create a focal point.

Hang your largest artwork first as this is often the most impactful piece and will anchor your display. After this has been decided, begin to work outwards to ensure that your viewer’s eyes travel in a circular motion and will span the entire wall.

Graduate Hotels Paolo Alto

Graduate Hotels, Palo Alto 

Hang your artworks more like a puzzle than a grid.

Do not hang in neat rows or grid format. Your artworks will be in all shapes and sizes and so it will be impossible to reach perfect symmetry especially if you have to work around furniture, light switches, etc. Don’t worry about equal spacing between the works and just find beauty in that awkwardness.

Avoid putting too much space between your chosen pieces.

The aim of a salon hang is for individual artworks to be enjoyed together, so the best effect is achieved by hanging works in close proximity. Evenly space your works leaving at least 3cm around each piece to avoid overcrowding and ensure each piece stands out alone.

Follow the gallery golden rule.

Hang your focal artwork with the centre of the piece at 150 centimetres (59 inches) from the floor to catch eye level.  However, if you are hanging artworks over a piece of furniture, you’ll likely need to adjust the height upwards.

The Home of Leopoldo Pomés  The Home of Leopoldo Pomés

The Home of Leopoldo Pomés. Photographed by Jara Varela for Santa & Cole. 

Mix it up.

Avoid grouping artworks of the same size, medium or colour together as this can interrupt the flow of the collection and create smaller groupings. Instead distribute the most similar pieces throughout the space to help achieve balance and flow. Spreading striking colours throughout the hang will also help to lengthen or heighten your salon wall and ensure the space looks balanced.


As well as the artworks feeling harmonious, you also need your frames to do the same in order for them to not distract from what’s inside them. For a cleaner, more streamlined wall, opt for thin frames in just two or three different finishes and instead use varying margins and mount sizes to add variety to the overall look. If you need some framer suggestions, read our guide here. 

Trust your intuition.

Remember it’s your house and you can always rehang.

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