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Accessorizing Tip: Leaning Artwork

by | Feb 18, 2010 | Decorating Inspiration, Details

Accessorizing Tip: Leaning Artwork

Leaning Art & Mirrors

Back when I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to buy my new house, I really wanted to make it feel like home without doing anything too “permanent.”

I had a number of very heavy mirrors and antique stained glass pieces that I really wanted to enjoy. But hanging them requires some heavy duty wall damage.

Accessorizing Tip: Leaning Artwork

Even in my last house I had times where I didn’t want to put holes in the walls. We had some very old plaster that didn’t always like to be disturbed.Accessorizing Tip: Leaning Artwork

In both homes, I have needed to “lean” some art in order to enjoy it. And funny thing is, even though my “leaning” all started in an attempt to avoid putting holes in the walls, I actually liked how things looked when they were leaning.

Accessorizing Tip: Leaning Artwork
Hanging any art above my mantel was not an option. The builder put one of those massive TV holes there and it was wide open right down to the top of the mantel. There was no way to cover it without construction. Or leaning! Here is the before and after of the fireplace!

Accessorizing Tip: Leaning Artwork

Now, I lean almost as much as I actually hang! I lean things on the back of bookshelves, tabletops, mantels, window sills, floors and stair landings.

I even lean little things, like starfish here are there for a little added interest.

Accessorizing Tip: Leaning Artwork

What are some benefits of leaning?
  • You can easily move art around at will.
  • You can place art without measuring, hammering or two sets of eyes and hands.
  • No walls are damaged or need to be fixed if you make a mistake.
  • Leaning often looks less formal than having everything hanging.
  • You can lean something heavy on a window sill, as I did with my stained glass (I used those new velcro-like hangers to stabilize them on the window frame).
  • Layered art ads dimension and interest.
  • You can hide unsightly things like wall outlets or like in the case above my mantels, you can hide those big black holes builders create for TVs.
  • Leaning items sometimes puts items at a better visual height or angle than hanging could.
Tips for leaning:
  • Try leaning architectural pieces, shutters, art or mirrors.
  • Bigger heavier things like architectural pieces or mirrors can lean by themselves, without additional layers in front of them.
  • Smaller artwork often looks best when layered with two or three items, putting the tallest items in back.
  • When leaning more than one item, slightly overlap each additional item  in front the piece behind it.
  • You can place shorter accessories or stacked books in front of leaning art.
  • When leaning mirrors, always check to see what you are reflecting in the mirror.
  • Try setting leaning art and mirrors on tables, bookshelves, mantels, window sills or even on the floor.
  • If you need to keep art from slipping, use sticky tack to stick things together, against a wall or to keep it from moving forward (sticky tack  is like a wad of gum made for hanging posters).
  • If you are worried about tipping or have children, you can do a combination of leaning & hanging. Set the item on a surface but still have it secured by a hook. This is actually SAFER than hanging alone!
  • If your hanging art looks a little bland or isn’t spaced exactly right, try adding a leaning item (like a starfish) right on the hanging item.
  • Don’t worry about the rules for leaning, just lean and if you like what you see, it is all good.

Do you lean art at your house?


  1. Charlotte

    Not sure if this helps anyone or not when deciding something like this but I have a hugh frame antique print of Noah’s Ark, sitting on top of my fireplace mantle that is leaning and it’s been that way for years. The reason why this print is leaning is because the light from the overhead ceiling fixture placed a reflective glare on the glass and by leaning this print resolves the problem and adds to the beauty.
    .-= Charlotte´s last blog ..Hello Lord… =-.

  2. Becky K.

    After a quick look around my living room I so nothing leaning. I’ll have to think about that as I do my little redo.

    Thanks for the idea.
    I love your starfish.
    .-= Becky K.´s last blog ..Living Room Project #3 =-.

  3. Franki Parde

    Cool! I lean things all the time….except maybe in my diet… Oh, well. Franki

  4. Jess

    Wonderful ideas! I need more of these to do in our temporary living situation! I have leaned a few things, but perhaps there is more that could be leaned.
    .-= Jess @ Frugal with a Flourish´s last blog ..Between Dream Closets and Dead Air =-.

  5. Krys

    I lean a few things – a small piece of stained glass in a living room window, a large window-sized piece of framed stained glass in front of the fireplace during all non-winter seasons, and several small prints in front of my books on my floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
    In fact we’re putting a leaning ledge over our two-sided fireplace at our lakehouse (when we finally decide what to cover the sheetrock with!) and there will be a couple pieces of art that we bought for that house leaning in all their glory in our sitting room and in our bedroom. Can’t wait!
    But for the record, I certainly don’t lean enough and I’m going to spend some time this week finding things that aren’t out ’cause they haven’t been hung up somewhere, and I’m going to lean them against something!
    LOVE this post!
    .-= Krys´s last blog ..I’m an Organizer and a Creator =-.

  6. Tara

    love this post, Melissa! I’m not sure if I should share this with my husband…he may decide to never put another hole in our walls. :)

    **I move things around about 4 times per year!

  7. Meredith

    I lean EVERYTHING!!! Mirrors, artwork, old window frames. I love the way it creates dimension. Love it!!

  8. Missy

    I like the leaning mirrors and art work.. That way I am able to change the art work out..the only caveat is my cat likes to knock things off if the mood strikes him. (He is a big cat.. 15 pounds of cat)

  9. gina

    I didn’t, but i will know. i am a disaster when it comes to hanging things- but I actually like the layered look you get from leaning- and the inspired ideas you came up with- who would think to place a mirror so low? But leaning , it adds a whole other layer of interest! And I love the tiny little starfish- made me smile.
    .-= gina´s last blog cure for Spring fever… =-.

  10. Irene R

    The problem with leaning artwork at our house would be the fact that we have a toddler. She gets into everything and if it’s not attached to the wall, I am 100% positive she will be lying underneath it.
    .-= Irene R´s last blog ..No Zap! =-.

    • Melissa

      One solution I’ve used is to do a combination of leaning and hanging. You just set the item on a surface and then have it secured in the back with a picture hook. I’ve done that before with very heavy items.

      Having it safely on a surface but still hooked in back is actually safer than hanging alone! The thought of a heavy mirror crashing on my kids because a wall hook failed scared me enough to start setting heavy items on a surface before hooking to wall, just to be safe.

      You can also hook “not heavy” items to the wall while still leaning them on a surface, if you just want to keep pets and kids from moving things around but still want the look of leaning art. :-)

  11. Tim

    Ha! When I saw your post on my blogroll I thought it said “learning” artwork… and I was all like, cool, learn artwork. But now I see my mistake… “leaning” artwork is a great idea, unless of-course you’re just looking for an excuse to run some special molding just to hold it, or build a niche to put it in, or maybe add a room….

    I better drink some coffee before I comment anymore today!
    .-= Tim´s last blog ..Custom Exterior Shutters Equals Serious “WOW!” =-.

  12. The Stylish House

    I think leaning artwork is an unexpected look which I like it! I think this is especially a good idea for a rental.
    .-= The Stylish House´s last blog ..How To: Test Paint Colors =-.

  13. Mrs.Rabe

    Oh I definitely lean things around here! The one thing for people to remember with leaning mirrors is to make sure they reflect something pretty!
    .-= Mrs.Rabe´s last blog ..Tea =-.

  14. black eyed susans kitchen

    Melissa, I lean and I layer. Being the commitment phobe that I am, it is the easiest way to admire a painting or photo and when I tire of it or want to replace it, I move it to another area of the house and voila, a new view. I love that you considered this a decor feature.
    .-= black eyed susans kitchen´s last blog ..SPRING CLEANING? =-.

    • Melissa

      Me too, I move things around so often that leaning makes life much easier :-)

  15. AnNicole

    Yep, I’m a leaner. Not always – but occasionally..ha…that sounds funny for some reason. Anyway, I love that “leaning” kind of gives accessories a more casual feel. Know what I mean?

    By the way, the photos of your home are beautiful. The photo of the leaning shutters, in particular, looks like it’s right out of a magazine. Lovely.
    .-= [email protected]´s last blog ..Baby Girl’s Nursery =-.

    • Melissa

      Thank you AnNicole! Yes, I definitely like the casual but yet artistic look of leaning art! :-)

  16. Calamity Anne

    I especially love that little starfish sitting atop of the picture frame…what a wonderfully whimsical surprise!!!

  17. Lei

    I like to lean too, sometimes even on the floor! But it helps create a more casual look, not so pristine and formal all the time, which I love. And it’s a fast and easy alternative to nails.
    .-= Lei´s last blog ..Transforming Home’s home tour =-.

  18. Kathy

    Great post, Melissa! I have recently shopped my basement and found two prints that I am redoing that will be leaning against the big mirror hanging over our great room fireplace mantel {which is hanging}. Because it’s a long expanse, I think leaning some pictures on either side will help break it up.

  19. Renee

    I live in a 1929 bungalow with plaster walls, which make it difficult to hang heavy art and mirrors. So, I opted to lean a large mirror on my mantle above my fireplace . I like it, and I move it from side to side depending on my mantle arrangement of the moment.

    .-= Renee´s last blog ..A PARISIAN ARTIST =-.

  20. Vee

    Yes, all the time. Love the look of leaning objects and I love the arrangements that you’ve shown us here.
    .-= Vee´s last blog ..China Cupboard Before and After =-.

  21. Lesley

    I have a large mirror leaning on my fireplace mantel. I love it that way, but my husband has been clamoring to actually hang it. I’ve finally agreed, figuring that it’s time to do something different. But it’s going to mean putting a hole in brick. Yuck!
    .-= Lesley @ TheDesignFile´s last blog ..HGTV to launch new lineup in March =-.

  22. Bekki

    I love leaning things against the walls! I just did it because I was lazy, and then found I liked it. Back when we had plaster walls, I found brass professional nails that went right in without making a hole bigger that my fist. Thet sell them at home depot and are made by oox( or some combination of those letters), before that I was yelling at that plaster constantly! They are pricey bit oh so worth it!

    I love the little detail of the starfish leaning on top of the frame, I might have to do something similar with my stars.

    • Melissa

      Yes, I have those same type of hooks for plaster walls. They are wonderful!

  23. melissa*320 sycamore

    Mmmm, I love the leaning shutters with the wreath and the apples! This completely reminded me of While You Were Sleeping…remember when Joe Jr. asks Lucy(Sandra Bullock), “You okay Luc? ‘Cause it looks like that guy is leaning?” Lol :)
    .-= melissa*320 sycamore´s last blog ..remember craft paint?? =-.

  24. lylah ledner

    I’ve been away way to long from your very fun space of creativity. I’m a leaner too.
    .-= lylah ledner´s last blog ..Vintage Shutters =-.

    • Melissa

      so good to see you sweet lylah! xo

  25. Milehimama

    I have a mirror leaning in my LR right now, waiting to be hung. An added bonus is that I can use it to spy on the kids in the kitchen without getting up from the couch. I told my husband we need to get those round bubble mirrors that convenience stores have so I can monitor every corner of the house without getting up from my laptop, LOL!

    I also have two picture shelfs that I lean on, too.

  26. Julia

    Ooh, fun post. This makes me want to go find something to lean!

    Your house is really looking beautiful, Melissa. It must feel so good to know it’s yours now and you can decorate it how you want for the long term!
    .-= Julia @ Hooked on Houses´s last blog ..A “Something’s Gotta Give” House in Sun Valley, Idaho =-.

    • Melissa

      Aw, thanks Julia. I appreciate that. It does feel good, I feel like I am still moving like a snail with decorating (just too busy!), but once I finally get around to painting my walls things will definitely feel more like home!

  27. teresa

    I “lean” all the time. I thought it was because I was lazy…but now I know it’s a great decoration tool! Thanks =)
    I love the way he decorate your home….theres a wonderful spirit there.
    Have a wonderful day.
    .-= teresa´s last blog ..Valentines Day….and more- =-.

    • Melissa

      Thank you Teresa, you always brighten my day! :-)

  28. Mary Joy

    I love to lean holiday artwork in my house because then I am not making holes in the walls for season things. It works really well (most of the time, I have a toddler who loves to explore) LOL. You gave me a great idea that I hadn’t thought of! Leaning to cover outlets. That is an awesome visual solution! I am going to go try it right now! Also, I like the fact that you are taking your time to decorate your home…sometimes it’s good to go slow so that you get the real feel for a place before going on a speedy decorating spree…its worked well for me at times…and it seems to be really working for you!!! Your house is gorgeous!!!
    .-= Mary Joy´s last blog ..My nesting journey ~ such a freeing place to be! =-.

    • Melissa

      Thank you Mary Joy! :-)

      Yes, I definitely like to go slow and it has saved me from MANY expensive decorating blunders. I ponder everything and give myself the freedom to change things often until they work. Usually when I share something here, it ends up being moved within the week because after studying it awhile, I suddenly am inspired by a better place for it. That is the beauty of creating a home, taking our time and making it feel right … we don’t have to be in a hurry.

      • Mary Joy

        Amen! That is so true! Its hard not to get so excited about creating our new home that I forget to take my time this time around. LOL I am working hard to slow down and enjoy the process. I agree that it is wonderful that our decorating isn’t permanent…it can change and grow just as our tastes and needs change and grow. :)
        .-= Mary Joy´s last blog ..My nesting journey ~ such a freeing place to be! =-.

  29. Kristi

    Hi Melissa!

    I just jumped over here from the Vintage Pearl and I LOVE what I see! You are amazing. If you don’t mind I’ll be back for more, I’m going to put you on my blogroll. I can’t wait to go through everything, starting with the kids rooms!

    Love the leaning idea, I have one piece that I just have not hung yet because I actually like it leaning where it is, I think I might start doing more of it. Have a great day!
    .-= Kristi´s last blog ..Pictures, Lots of Pictures =-.

    • Melissa

      Thank you Kristi! :-)

  30. Julianne

    All this talk about “leaning” reminds me of the show “While You Were Sleeping,” where Joe Jr. and Jack Callahan are talking to Sandra Bullock’s character about what it means to “lean”. Hehe.

    Anyway, we use the leaning technique with our large mirrors and pictures all the time! We didn’t want to hang anything above our rental fireplace, so a large mirror and two large pictures lean up against each other and the wall. Works out well, even being on the same wall as the sliding back door…I was worried the door being shut might disturb the leaning pieces, but so far, so good (we’ve been here 2 years now, so I think we’re safe).

  31. Myrnie

    It looks so beautiful, you’ve done a lot to make it “your own!” We live quite near several major fault lines, so I try not to lean too many things :)
    .-= Myrnie´s last blog ..Your Turn =-.

    • Melissa

      Oh, yes, you definitely should lean with security measures…I mentioned to someone else that leaning on a secured surface WITH hooks in the wall to secure it as well is probably the safest thing for both homes with young children and as you mentioned, earthquakes. When my children were small I secured EVERYTHING to the walls, even (and especially) shelving units and armoires.

  32. Piper Green

    you have been awarded the Sunshine Blog Award!
    I attempted to post the picture of the award.. it did not work you may link my blog
    to retrieve the image to post on your blog!
    Thanks for inspiring so many :0

  33. Piper Green

    You have won the Sunshine Blog Award

    The rules for the award are:
    With this award I have to:
    Post the award on your blog.
    Link the person I received the award from.
    Pass the award on to 12 of your favorite blogs and share the link to their blogs.
    Let the bloggers know you have awarded them the award.
    your link is on my blog at

    thanks for inspiring so many!
    .-= Piper Green´s last blog .. =-.

  34. emelie

    Yes! I lean art and mirrors all the time – I’ve yet to buy my own house, and, when you’re renting it really is a must! Just like you, I adore leaning as it adds architectural interest.
    Recently found your blog and I think it’s just lovely.

  35. micah murray

    I love to lean…but I have never taken the time to secure anything…so people seem shocked when something just falls off randomly:) This drives structured/ rule oriented people nuts. I think I will take your tips and lean with some security:)

    Thanks for coming by my blog…I looked that book up and am ordering it. Thanks for the tip. I love your blog BTW!

  36. BlueCastle

    Leaning rules! :) I love the look of a leaned mirror or painting on top of a mantel. I have a painting that I lean there – when we need to cover up our tv. I also like to lean things on top of my window and door moldings.

    Thank you for stopping by my blog the other day. I almost choked when I saw it was you. You made my day.
    .-= BlueCastle´s last blog ..Sunshine =-.

  37. CariCardon

    Please, Please, Please see the Feb. 14th post. This is a library my husband built. We love your blog and thought you might find this amazing. This is my daughter’s blog.

  38. Allison

    OK, I love the leaning artwork! Now without sounding completely psychotic, I love the half wall with the square column. I have a long half wall that has the very pretty 70’s spindles in it. (blech) I have described that I want a square column to my contractor and he just stared at me (yes, he is a good contractor). I was wondering if you could take a pic and post it or send it to me via email so I can so it to him. Thanks so much and sorry for the long comment!
    .-= Allison´s last blog ..Responsibility =-.

    • Melissa

      Hi Allison! Sorry for the delay on this, I finally went to snap the photo! You don’t sound psychotic at all, (I’ve had some of those 70’s spindles myself in other houses :-)

      I finally snapped the photo for you and just put it in the behind the scenes section of my blog in case anyone else wanted to see it. I am actually not sure this will make a clickable link, you might have to copy it and paste it, but you can find the link to it below.

      Good luck! Send me a before and after once you get it done! I’d love to see it!

  39. Bethany

    I love leaning, as a renter it is so easy to do and changes a room completely!! thanks for inspiration and the tips!
    .-= Bethany´s last blog ..treasure pick of the week =-.

  40. Kristy

    GAH! Thank you! When I tell clients I want them to lean an item against the wall, rather than the looks of praise and adoration I expect for not making their husbands hang something, I usually get a look that says something more like “Perhaps I should look for a new decorator.” I am printing this, laminating it, and keeping it in my briefcase for just such occasions.

    P.S. Can we talk about how much I love the leaning starfish? Talk about making a point. LOL!

    • Melissa

      Kristy, I {heart} you. I know just what you mean. ;-)

  41. Heidi

    Great post! It takes me forever to hang pictures, because the holes seem so permanent to me. But I really like the look of leaning items too. And it’s so simple to rearrange that way!
    .-= Heidi´s last blog ..Christmas in February! =-.

  42. Amy

    I do this a lot because I’m lazy! ha. No more though after a large mirror that I thought was so heavy it would never move, just fell off a table. eek! I like the little starfish on the frame.
    .-= Amy @ Living Locurto´s last blog ..Great Business Cards from Blissdom =-.

    • Melissa

      Oh no! Next time you want to lean something just hook it on the wall in back with a picture hook. That way it can be leaning supported by the surface AND the hook. Much safer :-)

  43. Melanie

    I am a fan of leaning but hubby is not. Therefore, no leaning at our house:)
    .-= Melanie´s last blog ..The Dining Room =-.

  44. Rona

    We certainly did while living in our former homes. Most of our items are in storage while we get back on our feet.
    I’m so looking forward to eventually moving out of our very small apartment, getting our things out of storage and decorating our new home.
    .-= Rona´s last blog ..Family Game Night! Uno Mod {Review & Giveaway} =-.

  45. Carolyn

    So glad to see I’m not the only one who leans artwork! Interestingly, today DS1 mentioned that he has a large framed antique mirror that weighs at least 40#. I suggested he lean it on an armoire, rather than hanging it on the wall – have no idea what type of anchors he would need to secure it on the wall.

    Such a great safety tip to lean AND hook the item on the wall – that’s what I do, too, and it feels so much safer – if someone bumps the piece of furniture the artwork is leaning on, no worries about it falling to the floor or on someone! :)

  46. Susan

    Hi, I just discovered your blog – it’s gorgeous! I will be back.

    I have started to lean things in my house; I’m going to do more – I hadn’t thought of some of your suggestions!

  47. Jo

    Wow I am such a leaner, i had no idea there was a term for this decorating idea he he, i currently have mirrors, pictures of all sizes, a shutter, even large clock leaning…. i thought my leaning was because i was failing to commit but your post made me realise i just love the leaning look!! and love your post Melissa :)

  48. Kaitlyn

    Thanks for sharing your tips! I like how you have a combination of items hanging and leaning. It looks great!

  49. Sandy

    I have a mantel that is 64″ wide and 8″ deep. The fireplace itself is only about 2 inches wider on either side. I am wondering what the ideal size of the piece of art would be (a friend of mine is going to paint it to size)? I also have 2 candlestick holders and a small plant each will sit on either side. I want it to make the right impact but not look too big or too small for the mantel. Any rule of thumb for size if you are only using one absolutely gorgeous painting? Would appreciate some feedback. Thanks.

  50. Vicki

    Hey Melissa I have a very heavy mirror I would like to lean above my fireplace on the mantle, how can I make it secure without attaching it? I have cherry wood on the wall and don’t want to put any holes in the wood?
    thank you

    • Melissa @ The Inspired Room

      If it’s heavy it will probably be fine just leaning but you could try those heavy duty command strips to give you a little extra security as it leans against the wall!



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