This traditional-style stairway features an equally traditional, symmetrical arrangement.

Different Picture Arrangements for Stairways

by Anya Deason

Whether your stairway wall is visible from other rooms or is only visible from your foyer, stairway picture arrangements have great visual impact. Traditional stairway groupings tend to follow the incline of the stairs, but alternative arrangements are equally pleasing. To arrive at the perfect picture arrangement, consider the style of your home and the type of artwork and frames that your grouping will display. While traditional pictures are often hung in symmetrical arrangements, other strategies can also be used for an effective arrangement. Sometimes it's interesting to play with proportions, melding traditional and modern solutions.

Symmetrical Stairway Alignment

In a traditional stairway grouping, pictures of the same size are hung in parallel alignment with the stairway's slope. This arrangement is good for photographs of children in matching wood or gilded frames. A chronological progression is indicated by placement of a baby picture near the bottom stair, following with an ascending series of pictures that chart the child's growth. Traditional pictures, such as botanical prints, also follow this pattern. Choosing a stairway runner that echoes the color of the frames establishes another strong parallel, increasing the sense of symmetry.

Asymmetrical Arrangements

Modern frames harmonize with asymmetrical arrangements, and when antique-style frames are arranged asymmetrically, a vintage quality is achieved. Asymmetrical groupings are effective when a stairway opens into another room, such as a den. When viewed from the distance of a sofa, the grouping's overall shape is more noticeable. To establish an interesting overall shape, make cut-outs with wrapping paper by tracing around your pictures. Experiment with different arrangements by taping them to the wall. If stairway and den wall colors match, a smooth visual flow results from using mats and frames in related tones.

Large Picture With Peripheral Grouping

When a foyer opens into a stairway, consider hanging an arrangement of matted pictures on the stairway wall while hanging an oversized oil painting on the wall at the top of the staircase. Since all pictures are simultaneously visible, the frames should relate, but color can be the common element. For example, a modern abstract oil painting, with a range of green-grays and a modern silver frame, relates to a grouping of frames with green-gray mats. Three plain silver frames correspond with the framed oil, while two ornate silver frames provide stylistic variety. Walls and carpet in green-gray create tone-on-tone subtlety.

Thematic Triads

Unless stairway picture groupings are strictly symmetrical, odd-numbered arrangements are often preferable. A different banister alignment option involves triadic groups, continuing in multiples up the stairway's incline. Hang two document-size framed photos, staggering them in a diagonal fashion. A smaller picture in the space at the upper right forms an interesting triad, especially a small picture with an oversize, weighted mat. Alternatively, a sculptural element could complete each triad, possibly a clay mask made by the child portrayed in surrounding photos.

About the Author

Based in Franklin, Tenn., Anya Deason has more than 15 years of decor-related experience, assisting leading interior designers and owning a custom frame shop. While working at Lyzon Gallery in 1999, she wrote descriptions of artwork for Sotheby's online auctions. Deason holds a Bachelor of Science from Tennessee Technological University.

Photo Credits

  • Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Getty Images