Diversity of elements adds visual interest in interior decorating. When you hang a collection of plates up on a wall, you have something else to look at other than the often seen paintings, prints, photos and sometimes tapestries. Hanging a collection of plates is not just limited to dining rooms, breakfast rooms or kitchens, Plates can be hung in living rooms, bedrooms, libraries, bathrooms and halls as well.
In this post, I cover (1) stacking plates up a wall and looking at visual weights, (2) directed action of images on plates, (3) looking at different groupings of plates that might inspire you, (4) grouping plates around a center item “focal point”, and (5) composing an arrangement on the floor and getting it up onto the wall.
1 Stacking Plates ..A lot of interior decorating is about working with visual weights, and when hanging plates the same applies. When hanging a vertical arrangement on a wall, the basic rule is Bigger or Darker (whatever has / seems to possess more visual weight) is hung over smaller pieces. The smaller piece(s) under the large act as a pedestal(s), holding / supporting the large piece above it.
Now look at illustration 1A. Illustration 1a shows a vertical arrangement of graduated sized plates that looks bottom heavy. Your eye is drawn right to the bottom / lowest plate, because it is the largest.
Illustration 1B shows the same four graduated sized plates, but now a smaller plate is under the large platter, visually holding it up on the wall.
Illustration 1C shows the larger platter hung up even higher in the arrangement. When looking at 1B and 1C, the choice is yours as to where you want to position the larger piece. Both combinations work equally well.
Illustrations 1D and 1E shows how one large piece is suspended / supported above one or two smaller pieces placed below it. An arrangement of plates can be lined up straight in a row, like 1D or composed off-center like 1E. Again, the choice is yours.
Illustration 1F shows a pair of elements that are arranges opposite to what I’ve been presenting in this post. If you have two or more elements that are the same size, but one is darker of color or heavier looking, the darker or heavier element goes on the top. A larger light-colored-low profile platter (as seen in 1F) can act as the pedestal / base for a smaller-darker fruit bowl that extends out from the wall more. A large low profile-light colored platter can also act as the pedestal for a smaller light colored fruit bowl, that looks heavier because its profile is deeper and extends off of the wall more.
2 Directed Action ..All paintings, prints, photos, dishes, etc with a design on them have a directed action. Directed action is how the decoration, in this case on the plate, is directing your eye, be it to the right, left, upward or downward, as well as being center focused.
Illustration 2A shows a design that has right directed action. The bird is facing right and the branches ends are arching toward the right. An image like this should be, if possible, placed on the left side of an arrangement; looking to the center of the display.
Illustration 2B shows center focus. Both birds are looking toward / facing the center of the design. The branches they are sitting on / surrounded by, are both drawing your eye to the center of the illustration. This kind of design would look best in the center of a grouping.
Illustration 2C shows left directed action. All the birds are facing left, and the branches they are perched on are directing your eyes left. An image like 2C would work best on the right side of an arrangement, directing your eye to the center of the display.
Not all plates have birds on them. Illustration 2D shows right directed movement; it is like 2A, with its branches and flowers facing right. It would look best placed on the left side of an arrangement.
Illustration 2E is like 2B. Both images are placed in the center of the space and have center directed action.
Illustrations 2F and 2C both possess left directed action. They both move your eyes to the left, and would do best placed on the right side of a grouping.
The final illustrations in this section show how a landscape has either right, center or left directed action.
Illustration 2G has right directed movement. The trees on the left side, behind the house are higher on the left and fall off to lower on the right. The high to low directs the movement. Also, in this illustration the house is facing right, and the driveway from the house directs your eyes right.
Illustration 2H is center focus. The road leads you up to the center of the image. The trees and houses on both the right and left sides fall down toward the center of the drawing.
Illustration 2i has left directed action. The tall trees and bushes on the right fall downward to a low left. This kind of image is best placed on the right side of a grouping.
Now look at the cover illustration for this post. When making a grouping of many different kinds of plates, with different types of images, try to have everything leading your eye to the center of the grouping, that is an ideal. Look at the top and bottom plates that I’ve drawn. They both direct your eye downward from the top, and upward from the bottom.
3 Looking at some different grouping of plates ..Illustrations 3A through 3F show some different ways / patterns for laying out an arrangement of dishes. 3A is a classic square. It is composed of 3 rows with three plates per row. (Notice the 3’s along the right side of the illustration).
Illustration 3B is a diamond pattern. It is the square 3A turned on its side. The numbers to the right of that illustration (and all the other illustrations in this section) show the amount of dishes per row that make up that grouping.
In Illustration 3C the center core of the design is the diamond, shown in 3B. The 4 plates outside of the center diamond, which is outlined in red, shows how the grouping was added to.
Illustration 3D shows a composition made of one dish placed over two. The blue arrow shows where you could stop the arrangement if you wanted it smaller.
Illustration 3E portrays another combination of plates. If you wanted to compose a layout like this, but smaller, leave off both the top and bottom dishes. Look at the 3, 2, 3 plate combination that makes up the center of this collection, it is between the green lines.
4 Mixing up Plate sizes and Grouping Plates around a Center Item (Focal Point) ..When composing a grouping of dishes, assorted sizes and shapes will add extra visual appeal. If you are just starting out at collecting plates, look for ones in different sizes, and shapes; rounds, squares, ovals, rectangles and even fish shaped to name a few. Try to find dishes that share the same color story like Chinese Blue and White, or that have designs in brown, russet red, etc. Look for images that have a theme, like fox-hunting, or people on horses. Flowers, fruits and vegetable motifs are other possibilities. To make it easier for you to work the plates into an arrangement, buy two of each shape and size, so you can place them across from each other in the collection. If you must have that one of a kind odd plate, try to locate it at the exact top, middle or bottom of your display. Being unique it could act as your focal point.
Illustrations 4A through 4C show examples of groupings that have mixed sized and shaped plates. Notice that in 4C a wall bracket with a vase on it is the center piece / focal point and all the other plates are clustered around it.
Illustrations 4D through 4E show how a mirror can be the centerpiece of an arrangement. A painting, wall clock, decorative light / candle sconce, or a sculptural relief wall plaque are other possible choices. When picking things to hang around the just mentioned, choose things that are not as visually bold as the centerpiece, and try to find things that go with and pick up the colors of the main element. It is not just about the individual pieces, but how everything looks together in the end.
5 Composing an Arrangement on the floor and getting it up on the wall ..Step 1 Measure the height and width of the space where you will be hanging your arrangement of plates. Think about lining up the top of your grouping with the top edge of doorways, or the top of molding that surrounds them. Other logical places to line things up with are tops of china cabinets, book cases and tall chests, and with the top edge of other tall framed things like mirrors, paintings and/or prints in the room. For more information about lining things up click here to read my post about Hanging Pictures around the room. The same thing applies to hanging dishes.
After you figure out how high up on the wall you want your arrangement to extend, you also have to figure where the bottom of the grouping will be. When making a grouping over a piece of furniture like a chest or buffet, start the grouping 8 to about 11 inches above its top. If you are hanging a grouping of plates over a sofa, the same 8 to 11 inches applies, but have someone sit on the sofa, and see how far their head is from the wall, and start your grouping of dishes at a height where it will never be hit by / bumped into by a guests head.
Step 2 After figuring out how tall and wide your grouping will be, take some low-tack painters tape, a yard stick and tape measure, and mark off, on your carpet or floor, the amount of inches that represent the four corners of your groupings space. That will make it easy for you to see the exact amount of space that you have to compose an interesting display of dishes.
If you are making an arrangement of plates that are all stacked one above the other, take your tape measure and open it to the exact amount of inches your grouping will run vertically. Lay the tape measure on the floor and start arranging you plates on it.
Plate Hangers, sold at craft, hardware and discount stores everywhere are devices that attach to the back of a plate, platter or bowl, which gives you the ability to hand them up on a wall. They come in assorted sizes to fit almost anything you want to hang. The plate hanger has a hook for hanging and arms that extend across the back of your plate, ending in “J” shaped hooks that go around the rim of your dish.
Step 3 To get your arrangement spaced right and hung properly on the wall, trace each of your dishes outlines onto a brown paper grocery bag or craft paper and carefully cut them out. Write a description or number each plate and accompanying silhouette so you can easily match them up. Fold each silhouettes in half, with the crease going top to bottom, then re-flatten. With the painters tape, tape the silhouette up on the wall in the same order / pattern you laid your plates out on the floor. Step back and take a look. Adjust your silhouettes if needed, so they are spaced right, and move them around if needed to perfect your display.
Step 4 Working on the back side of your plate, with a measuring tape, measure the exact distance from your plate’s hanging hook to the top of your plate. If that distance is (for example 2 1/2 inches), on the center crease line of your paper template (silhouette), make a dot with a pencil 2 1/2 inches down from the top of your silhouette. That dot is where you will position the bottom of the “J” part of your picture hook, not the nail. Hammer the plate hook to the wall and hang the plate. It should be positioned exactly over your silhouette if you measured and hammered right. For more information about hanging pictures, which are the same as plate, click here to read my post It’s Easy to hang Pictures up on the wall. After getting the first plate hung, go to work on the rest. After getting them all up, tear the paper templates down, rehang you plates and enjoy your display.
I hope all the different parts of this post inspired you. To read other articles about hanging wall decor and other aspects of decorating that I’ve written look at ..
Twelve Reasons to buy WHITE DISHES 4-12-2013,
It’s EASY to Decorate a Room with Tall / High Ceilings 2-3-2013,
Hanging Pictures around a Room 8-3-2011,
Making and Interesting Arrangement of Pictures 7-8-2011,
Interior Decorating is ALL about Equal Balance 2-27-2011,
Picking and Hanging the Right size Picture or Mirror over your Fireplace 6-23-2011,
Arranging your Decorative Accessories (Knickknacks and Collectibles) 6-7-2011,
A Bridge unites a Tablescape and Wall Decor 6-10-2011,
Pick (Use) Four Colors when Decorating a Room 3-7-2011
I collect blue and white “anything”. Thank you for posting your methods for hanging plates. Just what I needed!!! Love all of your posts and the pictures of you. Love your unique art!!! Keep up the good work! Verna
Happy New Year Verna! I have plates in many rooms here at Whimsey Hill. Some are also blue and white. In my kitchen are Franciscan Apple dishes, hung up on the walls, that were my maternal Grandmother’s. As kids we ate off of them. I don’t have many, but love them because they were Grandma’s.
Verna, the illustration for the cover of this post is of my Grandmother’s buffet that is in my dining room. The arrangement of Blue and White is a lot like what I have here, BUT my dining room is an old Sherwin Williams color called Lounge Green, and there is wallpaper and chair rail molding. The collection of Blue and White in the dining room is a mix of antique and new pieces. It is not about the age, but how they look in the space.
Fred, this is a bit humbling discovering all the things that I didn’t know about hanging plates. What a universe of things to consider. I look forward to making some ignorant observations after I have absorbed this a little. Nice work as Always!
Sent from my iPhone
Hi there Glenn, You and Kathy inspired this post, and if I’m going to write something, I’m going to tell my readership everything I know about the topic, and they can use as little or as much of it as they like. Remember, the premise of FGGH is to inspire my readers, and I hope I get them thinking about possibilities. When I started writing this post, even I did not know it would be soo long, but I wanted to be thorough, and making all the art works was also a time consuming project.
Very excited to find you. I’m looking forward to reading your work.
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Any advice for an asymmetrical plate wall?
Hi there Mel, I would say place larger plates toward the top and top-middle and place smaller plates around the larger pieces. Lay your plates out on the floor and keep moving them around until you make an asymmetric grouping that smiles at you. If it smiles at you is it right, if you question the grouping in any way, you still have to keep shifting the pieces. Also if something doesn’t seem right, you could possibly not have enough pieces in the grouping, or maybe too many. Mel, Good luck with your project.
Thanks for the reply. Here’s a picture of my finished wall.
Hi there Mel. I love what you’ve done. Could you get one more of the rectangular platters, like seen in the grouping on the top left, or something similar of size and color and hang it on the upper part of the right side of the arrangement. Hang the plate vertically instead of horizontally, as you have done on the left. Line up the bottom edge of your plate with the bottom edge of the top small plate hung on the far right. By adding the extra platter you will be centering your asymmetric grouping more over your buffet.
How about finding a nice pair of white candle stick holders in ceramic that match your dishes, and have them on your buffet. The look that you’ve successfully done is soo of the moment. Read my post titled A Bridge unites Tablescapes and Wall Decor and Arranging your Decorative Accessories (Knickknacks and Collectables). You might also find inspiration in those articles. Thanks for following up and sharing your photo. Soo few people ever write back and tell me of their successes from what they have learned from this blog. You are really one of the few ;-}
Great post! I need these tips and really love your detail explanation. I am a delftware collector. And my delft plate collection is pretty much but I am confused as to where and how I should decorate it. Because I want, it’s not only as decoration but I want my house look beautiful. Thanks again for sharing. And if you want to see more collection of beautiful delftware plates go through aronson.com/news/month-of-earthenware
Hi there Rosemary, when I looked at your delftware collection I instantaneously thought of the antiques dealer John Rosselli and this wife the famous interior decorator Bunny Williams. The things you show are things John would sell in his stores and Bunny would decorate with. Beautiful pieces, that would grace the rooms of well off collectors. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Fred — I hope this finds you well! My family has a beautiful painting of yours, “Mrs C. V. Whitney’s Living Room, Saratoga Springs” that we purchased at a gallery in Williamstown, MA. We have some questions about your work but can’t seem to find your contact info. Would you mind providing an email address we can contact you at directly? If you prefer not to make your email public, let me know and I can provide you with mine. Look forward to hearing from you!
Fred, thank you so much for your post. I have a wall-hung shagreen rectangular console that is 48 inches wide. I would like to hang a fish-shaped mirror centered above it that is 24 inches wide, with the wider portion at the bottom and the tail at the top. I was thinking about hanging round alabaster wall sconces on either side of the tail, but need help with a balanced composition. Any ideas?
Hi there Jill, I would first start by measuring the height of the space from the top oy your console to the top of the ceiling or bottom of any crown molding, if you have that. Knowing that measurements I would tape together pieces of newspapers to make a 48 inch by what ever your space is high, big piece of paper, that represents the space and then lay it on the floor and start laying your different elements on it until you come up with a grouping that you like and can live with. After that lay each of your decorative elements on some kind of paper and trace around them with a pencil and then cut out the different things. Take painters’ tape and tape the silhouettes of your things up on the wall to see how the different things now look. You might have to move them up or down a bit until they seem just right. You might also want to add other things. Read my post It’s Easy to Hang Pictures up on the wall, that article tells you how to get the hanging hooks in the right spots. Also look at A Bridge unites Tablescapes and Wall Decor, that post also will be of help. Arranging Decorative Accessories on a Sofa Table, Buffet, Sideboard or Credenza might also interest you.
Jill, I hope my suggestions are of help, best of luck with your decorating project.
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