Picture rails can be superb timesavers when hanging frames. Over the years though, the rails have become more decorative in home décor rather than used for their actual purpose – hanging frames from them. You can even hang mirrors from them, too. If you’ve got an older home with a picture rail already there, you may as well be using it.
How do you know if you’ve got a picture rail?
Period homes often have rails placed about a quarter to a half inch from the ceiling. In addition, the picture rail may be a close match to the decorative coving and placed just underneath the coving. If that’s the case, have a close look at your coving because you may find you have one-part coving, with a picture rail placed directly beneath it. Needless to say that if you’ve spent a while thinking you’ve just got really deep coving and find you’ve actually a picture rail there, well, that’d be a nice surprise.
These are solid wall fixings suitable for hanging all types of framed material from regardless of weight. That being said, you will need to be careful with what you use to hang heavier frames from. A thin picture cord may not be sturdy enough to hold the weight of a gigantic framed print or mirror.
Heavier items should be hung using the correct gauge (thickness) of picture wire (All picture hanging wire will provide the maximum load weight on product packaging and on the product descriptions online).
The advantage of using a correctly fitted picture rail is that every time you want to hang something up, you won’t need to get the drill out. Simply attach a hook to the rail, affix your hanging materials to the frame and up it goes.
The 3 things you need to hang your frames from a picture rail
- Two D rings
You definitely need two. If you try with just the one hook, the frame’s just going to dangle mid-air. Even the slightest of a breeze will move it out of position. Two D-rings affixed to either side will let your frame hang balanced.
- One piece of hanging material
The hanging material is the part of the picture rail system that you can get decorative with. Just because you may be limited to having your frames hang down, rather than firmly fixing them in place at any part of the wall, doesn’t limit your display options. You can get really creative with your hanging materials.
- A picture hook to hang it from
Brass hooks are sturdy and often come in decorative styles. However, in addition to getting creative with your hanging materials, you can also add some further decoration over the hook.
The Simplest Way to Hang Your Frames from a Picture Rail
- Attach the D rings to the back of the picture frame about a third of the way down each side of the frame
- Thread your picture wire, or other hanging material through the hooks
- Attach your hook to the picture rail
- Hang your frame from the hook. This method will create a triangle shape with the hanging material and that’s the part you can get decorative with (although that is weight dependent so be sure not to use anything that’s too thin to support the weight of the frame)
Alternative Hanging Materials for Picture Rail Systems
- Brass or Silver Chains
These come in all different lengths and thicknesses. They’re more secure for heavier items and with a bit of research, you may be able to find yourself some matching hooks and chains. If you’re shopping online, the search term to use is “picture hanging chain”.
There’s two ways you can decide on what type of chain to use. One is to match your room décor. If yours is light and airy, then the silver/chrome option would be a top consideration, whereas for darker décor, such as deep mahogany woods and furnishings, the brass chains would likely have a better visual appearance.
- Leather straps
Leather is a sturdy material and you can get it in many colours and thicknesses. That being said thicker leather won’t mean it’ll hold heavy items. Remember, leather’s a material and will fray. For lighter items, it’s something you might want to consider using. Leather tends to look the part with wood picture frames.
- Decorative rope
If you want an alternative to picture hanging wire, rope’s a sturdy one to go with. Nylon rope is the type used on the old pulley systems and it’s also the type of rope that’s the best at load-bearing so it’s perfect for hanging picture frames with. The only type of rope to be cautious with is polypropylene rope. You can buy it in different colours so it’s going to appeal to some just because of the ability to colour match to your décor. It stretches though, so if used, you’re likely to find yourself having to reposition your frame occasionally.
There are many other alternatives for hanging photo frames on a picture rail including rattail satin and bead cord. If you choose anything thin, you can layer it multiple times to give it some added strength.
One other thing to note on the decorative element is that if you do choose an alternative to picture wire, there’s also the option of painting the material. Therefore, while you may find polypropylene rope an attractive option because of the colour choice, you could also use the stronger nylon rope option and give it a coat of spray paint such as gold, silver, or even a glittery finishing touch to suit your décor.
Decorating Over Your Picture Hook
Once you have the frame hanging from your picture rail, there’s one last finishing touch you can add to your display and that’s to decorate your picture hook. As the rails are often far up towards the ceiling of the room, you may find it not the best of attractive looks to have such a small piece of brass that doesn’t really do much in terms of how visually appealing it is to look at. It can be dressed up.
Button tassels can be placed over the hooks.
By using the button tassel or a similar finishing decorative method, you’re able to add more aesthetics to your display. You’d have the frame, the triangle shape above the frame with whatever hanging material you used and then from the very top of your triangle, that’s where you can add your button and tassel which would essentially be a decorative finish placed inside the triangle that’s formed above your picture frame. Depending on the frame, it could also be an object you hang from the hook. An example of that could be a sports memorabilia picture of someone being presented with a medal, so a rosette would be a good option to cover the hook with and add to the display presentation of the medal hanging down from the hook with the framed photo beneath it. That would let you display the photo and medal as a collective piece rather than two individual items and save you the expense of a custom framed job to frame both items together.
There’s a lot more you can do with a picture rail system than just hang your frames from it. You can get super decorative with it and with some simple and cheap materials, too.