The Emotional, Ornamental, and Utilitarian Reasons Why We Hang Stuff on Walls

"Seated Girl and Boy Holding Hat" photographed by Alvan S. Harper circa 1890. From  State Library & Archives of Florida

"Seated Girl and Boy Holding Hat" photographed by Alvan S. Harper circa 1890. From State Library & Archives of Florida

After months and months of blogging about how to hang anything right the first time, we finally realized a critical point we’ve overlooked, and that is: why do we hang stuff up in the first place?

Since the dawn of man, we’ve been creating art — be it hieroglyphics, scrawling on cave walls, and later, painting portraits and hanging them on walls.

To wit, the first reasons we created art and hung things on our walls was to tell stories and to remember the deceased or honor the living. As time passed, we came to learn we could hang large shelves and cabinets — glass was invented and we learned how to hang drapes and tapestries to (again) tell stories using walls as the “screen” before we had movies.

Today, there are essentially three reasons why we hang things — and all these reasons play essential roles in our daily lives.

Hanging pictures and art: the emotional things we hang on walls and why

The earliest emotional reasons for hanging framed art or painting murals was to honor God (or the gods, depending on religion, culture, and philosophy), saints, and other religious and spiritual figures.

The Catholic Church created massive cathedrals where they hung thousands of invaluable works of art depicting the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and a variety of other saints, most popularly Saints Anthony, Michael, Joseph, John, Lazarus, Judas Thaddeus, Teresa of Avila, and Gabriel, to name a few. Many of these were painted by some of the most famous artists history has ever known, including Michelangelo and Francisco Goya.

It wasn’t long before people began to hang images of these religious figures in their homes — and they still do today. Hanging a painting of a saint or the Holy Virgin, Buddha, Confucius, Ganesh, Jesus, Muhammad, or any other of a massive host of spiritual leaders gives people around the world a sense of peace, wellbeing, and safety within their homes. It gives us a place to worship entities we can look at, pray to, talk to, and let go of fears in privacy and in peace.

The Immaculate Conception by Diego Velazquez, completed in 1619. From  The National Gallery of London

The Immaculate Conception by Diego Velazquez, completed in 1619. From The National Gallery of London

Beyond the religious and spiritual, the wealthy began commissioning portraits of the heads of the household or woman of the house, and their progeny.

Once photography came along, many more people could afford to hang pictures of loved ones on the wall — husbands off at battle, wives who passed in childbirth, and family portraits all became commonplace.

The Industrial Revolution allowed masterpieces to be reproduced en masse; more and more frequently, homes were also filled with popular and contemporary art in addition to images of religious entities and photographs of loved ones.

The emotional reasons we hang art are perhaps the most important reasons: art and photographs we are emotionally attached to allow us to remember loves lost, our dearly departed, veterans we’re proud of, and to forever memorialize images of our families, era after era — some more flattering than others!

Paintings by the masters become heirlooms of our distinctive, irreplaceable extended families. Artwork created by our ancestors becomes a direct connection to our lineage; for some, this filial linkage through art is palpable, important, and inspires the individual to define her past and forecast her future.

The emotional reasons we hang artwork and photographs are no less important today than any other time — the poignant expression of art passed down through the generations is touching and critical for connection, collective spirituality, and communal love.

The ornamental reasons we hang art: the beginning of home decor and interior design

French-inspired interior design: a first glance at home decor utilizing art, tapestry, and shelves

French-inspired interior design: a first glance at home decor utilizing art, tapestry, and shelves

Just as the caveman painted walls of caverns with pigments from nature to mark his spot in the world, our dwellings still feel more like home when we hang art, photographs, candelabras, sconces, and other items.

The Renaissance that brought us out of the Middle Ages is a key reason we hang ornate paintings, chandeliers, and did what ironically only “The Dude” from “The Big Lebowski” could say so well: “It really ties the room together.”

Interior design and home decor began with the idea of having a theme for a home (or castle, or mansion) and tying this theme together with various pieces of art, sculptures, wall fixtures, and even in recent times collecting and hanging commemorative plates (a favorite topic of ours here at Team YOUHANGIT).

We want our homes to be reflections of ourselves and what we love. We use all kinds of wall-hangings and fixtures to do everything from show off our wealth to create a flow that works with the architecture of our houses.

Interior design is as important today as it ever has been: almost every national retailer has a selection of reprints and other artwork, picture frames and other home decor products. The readily available abundance of affordable artwork found at department stores and online is proof that consumers across the globe are still enticed by the idea of having a living space that reflects their personas and showcases their interests and status.

The utilitarian reasons we hang stuff on walls

Vintage wall mounted kitchen shelves from  Kitchen Design Ideas

Vintage wall mounted kitchen shelves from Kitchen Design Ideas

Practicality and convenience rule the day, and nothing is more practical than saving space, having a place to store books and dishes, or a place to hang our hats.

It has only been a relatively short period of time since we began using walls as a place to hang things for reasons of pragmatism and expediency.

The faster the pace of life, the more easily we need to be able to do things — that means dashing through the door and hanging our coats on a rack, being able to quickly access pots and pans while cooking, having the ability to quickly scan a bookshelf for a specific text, or have a place to put away the children’s toys.

Given the modern concept of apartment housing, living spaces have become congested for many. Necessity being the mother of invention, our resourcefulness as a species gave way to everything from the hideaway bed and iron to shelves made from rain gutters and entertainment centers crafted from repurposed pallet wood.

To save space, we have learned how to hang shoes on the wall, ways to keep our kids happy by hanging artwork on clotheslines when there’s no room left on the fridge, and even how to hang towel bars in every room of the house for a variety of space-saving needs.

We’ve adjusted and adapted, and the tools you’ll find in a YOUHANGIT kit make this transition easy as pie. Whether you’re hanging a painting with a wire hanger, don’t know how to hang shelves with double keyholes, or even hanging a wall-mountable half-Christmas tree to create more space for gifts, YOUHANGIT and the accompanying YOULEVEL allow you to hang anything right the first time without help from a second person, and even on a wall without a stud.

Even outdoors, YOUHANGIT comes in handy for hanging everything from misting systems to fans, and engage in fun projects with the kids or grandkids, like making fence art or creating a wall-hanging spot to place patio plants and much more.

Just like the history of hanging stuff, there’s no end to the ways the YOUHANGIT wall hanging system can remove the frustration of hanging mirrors, shadowboxes, tapestries, sound bars, speakers, surge protectors, and all kinds of art and everyday fixtures.

For more ideas on what to hang where and why, check out YOUHANGIT on Pinterest!