How to Properly Display Art at Home

Due to what can be immense weight, those paintings and their frames, especially when grouped together, often require special techniques from architects like reinforcing walls and other precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the collection, the collector and the home.

Paul Bertelli, senior design principal and president of JLF Architects in Bozeman, Montana, endeavors to construct walls that are universally available for hanging art, particularly because an increasing number of collectors are rotating their works. That might involve putting plywood and other surfaces behind fragile finishes, like gypsum, and even defying expectations by making stone walls suitable for hanging art.

“Very rarely are we creating specific ‘gallery rooms’—most clients spread their art throughout the entire house—so we’ll [reinforce] a lot of walls because pieces might end up in a room that we never thought they would go,” he said.

The same universalist approach applies to Mr. Bertelli’s lighting design preferences. “Ten to 15 years ago, the technology for lighting paintings was projector lights. Now we work with LEDs, which have much nicer tones and you can get any tone you want,” he said.

“The fixtures are small, and what’s cool about them is that you can adjust the beam spread with a simple layer of glass so that you don’t have to change out the bulb or buy a whole different fixture [if you move your art],” he continued. “We’re much less inclined to light a single canvas than a whole wall evenly. What tends to be more important is the quality of the light, and now we have infinite control [over that].”

As with lighting decisions, highlighting art through architecture concerns subtlety and restraint, which Mr. Bertelli sees as an issue in the field. “Some architecture tries too hard,” he said. “I don’t need to add color to a room when someone has an extraordinary painting or colorful collection of fabrics. It’s very much like how Monet used gray backgrounds to make colors pop—that’s what architecture should do.”

With all these facets though, as well as concerns with framing and handling your collection, communication at all stages remains the most critical issue. “Both sides need to be able to listen,” Mr. Bertelli said. “And the client needs to be able to express what’s important to them.”