How do you choose over-the-bed art? As you look at that big space over your bed, you’re probably mulling over what feels right in terms of size, scale, and tone.
Picking the right art brings the whole bedroom together. It evokes the right mood for your restful sanctuary. The right art can take you to another place, make you feel at home, and bring out all sorts of emotions.
So how do you choose over-the-bed art? How do you select art for such a key room? Here are 8 tips to help you fall in love with your over-the-bed décor.
Photography: Caroline Sharpnack
1. Consider the Space
When you choose over-the-bed art, your biggest consideration should be the mood and personality of your space. You aren’t necessarily beholden to a painting. Photography can be quite evocative. Textile art is also popular both for aesthetics and sound-muffling qualities. A beautiful tapestry, framed vintage rug, or even a wall hanging can be beautiful in the right room.
You'll also want to consider the room's color scheme and the layout. For example, if you have a window above your bed, then wall art might not be appropriate above the headboard. Likewise, if your bedroom has a low ceiling, a high ceiling, or an angle, you may also need to consider that.
If you're working with a designer, they may have suggestions on curating a flattering piece of art for your bedroom. If you're doing DIY room design, keep your eyes open to many different options—antique and estate sales, local art shows and galleries, as well as online resources such as Chairish, 1st Dibs, and Etsy.
2. Choose Restful Images
Whatever over-the-bed art you choose, you’ll want something soft, restful, and calming for your bedroom. Landscapes, figure studies, and natural images are often good choices. What images help you think of peace and tranquility?
Some people are drawn to water—images of the ocean, a sunny beach scene, or the countryside in the rain. Others may find serenity in a beautiful flower, a graceful dancer, or an abstract image. Restful imagery can still be interesting and evocative, but it should create a sense of peace.
Should you select above the bed wall décor that’s less traditional—for example, a tapestry or a wall-hanging—look for patterns and textures that make you feel cozy, warm, and safe. Your bedroom should be a place where you feel respite from the care, hustle, and bustle of the world around you.
3. Play with Scale
I love to play with scale when I select above-the-bed décor. Many people look for rules like the frame should sit one foot from the edge of the headboard, or artwork should cover a third of the wall space. When it comes to over-the-bed art, the rules are very loose, and there's a lot of room to play around.
Photography: Caroline Sharpnack
A smaller piece of art can feel very unique and cozy above a big bed. A large piece of artwork can draw you in and offer a sense of escape. Choosing artwork is an intensely personal experience, and I urge you to really work closely with your designer to curate pieces that feel right for you.
Have fun with above-the-bed art too. For example, a child's room with two twin beds can be perfect for two small, framed pieces that tell a story or even a canopy. A bedroom is also a place where you (even as an adult) can lean into your sense of whimsey. After all, a bedroom is a place you dream.
4. Aim for Balance
No matter the size of your above-the-bed décor, aim for balance with the rest of the room. If you have a California King-sized bed, a large olive tree, and a formidable bedframe, an incredibly tiny painting may feel odd or off balance. Keep your above-the-bed art in scale with the rest of the room.
You don't always have to center the artwork or wall décor directly above the head of the bed, but it is generally best to create a sense of balance in the room. For example, if you choose to do a grouping of several items—a mini gallery wall—be sure to create a sense of equity. But oftentimes, the unexpected can be the perfect finishing touch.
If your bed isn't in the middle of the room, it can be challenging to know whether you should align artwork with the wall or with the furniture below. Generally, it's always best to center your pieces above the furniture. However, if you're struggling to decide the best placement, you can cut out paper templates the size of the wall-hanging and use painters' tape to move things around until you find something that feels right to you.
5. Pick Pieces You LOVE
One of the most important "rules" about choosing over-the-bed art is always picking pieces you love. Many people end up with a "hotel room art" feel in their bedrooms because they don't select art that speaks to them. They may try to look for pieces that match the room or complement the furniture, but it's critical that you love the art in your bedroom and that it resonates with you.
I’ve found that vintage pieces are often wonderful finds. Watch antique sales and estate sales for beautiful treasures at affordable prices as well as Facebook Marketplace in your area. If there’s something that you love that seems to be a bit damaged, a good art-restorer can often breathe new life into a piece.
As with any item in our homes, original artwork gets dusty and wears over time. Therefore, it's essential to know the proper care for your artwork and occasionally have any valuable pieces professionally cleaned. A word of advice—don't trust just anyone to clean artwork, and don't try to clean it yourself (especially if it's a valuable piece of original art). If you're unsure, a local gallery should be able to point you in the direction of a restoration professional.
6. Invest in Framing
The frame of your artwork serves as protection for the piece and as an extension of the painting itself. The right frame can make or break a piece. An ornate frame can quickly overwhelm a simple piece of art. A heavy, wide, or dark frame or the wrong matting choice can detract from the artwork.
Framing is an investment, but it’s often a very sound investment to protect your art. A beautiful frame elevates the piece and will help it feel complete. In addition, many framers will offer advice and help you select the right setting for your bedroom art.
For some original paintings, particularly oils, the glass may not be appropriate for the piece, but specially treated glass can protect a painting from fading, dust, and damage. I personally like to forego the glass in most cases for a more organic look. Some pieces look best with a mat board, especially prints, photographs, and certain types of painting like watercolor. Art that’s more dimensional and textured may not need matting. Again, it’s best to talk to a framing professional to help guide you through the framing, glass, and matting options.
7. Try Art Alternatives
When choosing above-the-bed art, there are plenty of options that aren't traditional artwork, per se. As I mentioned before, tapestries and even beautiful rugs can be lovely pieces to hang over the bed. Macrame-type wall hangings have had a recent resurgence in popularity, and in the right context, textile art can be very becoming in a bedroom.
Canopies, drapes, metal art, and relief sculptures can be different and appealing in the proper context. There are many art alternatives out there. You can even look for mural-type wallpaper to cover the wall behind the head of your bed. A mirror is also an excellent option, especially in a small room. I happen to love this convex option.
One thing you should keep in mind when choosing over-the-bed art is safety. Hanging a shelf or a big sculptural piece might seem visually interesting above the bed, but it can also be a little impractical. When you get out of your bed at night, you don't want to accidentally hit your head on the corner of a shelf or a wall sconce. Similarly, always make sure that the artwork over your bed is securely and professionally hung. You don't want to risk injury if something falls off the wall.
8. Keep it Simple
With the endless options for choosing bedroom art, it's easy to get overwhelmed or overdo it. Gallery walls are lovely, in the right space, but too many wall hangings in the bedroom can feel busy and energetic—not the vibe you want to cultivate for the room where you sleep. However, a small gallery wall grouping can feel beautiful and well-collected when placed over the bed.
Keep the artwork for your bedroom on the simple side. Clean lines, sweet details, soft colors, and natural beauty are all great qualities for bedroom art. Your bedroom is a room that should feel a little more subdued and restful than the rest of your home.
Photography: Caroline Sharpnack
Like linens and textiles for the bedroom, look for comforting pieces. Bring in touches of nature, whether it’s flowers in artwork or a natural wood frame. Sleep is a natural occurrence—our bodies are restoring themselves and rejuvenating. Artwork in your bedroom should evoke the same restful, restorative feelings.
The right piece of art can tie the room together, create a mood, and invoke a sense of peace. Choosing above-the-bed art is a fun, exciting process, where you make the bedroom uniquely your own. Enjoy it!
What type of art do you have above your bed? Are there any guidelines you follow when selecting bedroom art? Let me know in the comments!