Skip to main content

What the Art on Your Walls Says About You, Your Friends, and Your Future

Sylvia Sky, astrologer, Tarot reader, and gemstone enthusiast, is a widely published author of books and articles about spiritual matters.

Painting by George Stubbs (1724-1806)

Painting by George Stubbs (1724-1806)

We All Need a Supportive Environment

What we hang on our walls tends to stay there. When we originally hang up our chosen paintings, plaques, photos, and displays, we hope that they will enrich daily life. But if we barely notice them anymore, it's a sign that we've evolved. They have had their season, and it's time to refresh our surroundings.

Even the things we still like, or the way they are placed, might actually be undermining our social lives or home lives.

The art we choose to live with sends messages to others, too. Family and friends can be heartened or repelled, just as you have likely felt in other people's spaces. Too tired to consider a change? Feng shui urges those who feel overwhelmed or depleted at home to clean a window or two—a genuine spirit-lifter. Or change one thing only. That might be all you need.

If you're looking for inspiration, here we cover what your wall choices say about you and others.

Best Practices and Places for Family and Pet Photos and Treasures

Frame your most treasured family photos for display. Frames show respect and honor for their subjects. Metal frames hold energy; wooden frames attract growth and success. Frame children’s school photos in wood, and any diplomas, too.

Then consider how to display family photos. A single prominent photo in a room creates stress on the people pictured, if they’re living—not so great if it’s your wedding photo. An array of multiple photos is said to “hold love in place,” but the arrangement should be deliberate, not random, and every photo must be framed. Don’t hang family photos in an unlighted place. Images of the people you love deliver positive energy as you enter or pass through, but too many family pictures make you tired.

Maybe you or your partner wants to display a photo or two of people that one of you loves and the other does not. (It happens.) Try to compromise by hanging smaller photos.

Display photos or painted portraits of deceased people or pets if you can admire them without feeling pangs of grief. Choose photos showing them healthy and enjoying life.

Should you keep something your grandma kept in her kitchen? Reminding us of aging and the mistakes we've made, this saying is attributed to the U.S. Pennsylvania Dutch.

Should you keep something your grandma kept in her kitchen? Reminding us of aging and the mistakes we've made, this saying is attributed to the U.S. Pennsylvania Dutch.

Pictures and Images That Are Divisive and Create Stress

Reconsider paintings, photos, sculptures, and hangings inherited or chosen decades ago by an earlier version of yourself. Consider whether the images populating your living spaces still work for you. Tranquility is the objective of the feng shui living room.

Certain decorations can be divisive or cause stress:


Nudity or sexual images are aggressive. Nudity snags everyone's attention. Whether the nude is appealing or offensive is a highly personal matter, and no two people will agree. Do you really want to trigger instant controversy or make visitors flinch? Nudes should be small, to be admired very personally, and belong in an intimate space such as a boudoir or bathroom.

Wild Animals

Images of mighty tigers or birds of prey that appear to be entering your living space are threatening. That's true even if you like them. The image's energy is stronger than you are, because that tiger or hawk about to pounce never leaves and never sleeps. If you love images of wild animals, select images that show them peaceably grazing, feeding their babies, or at least facing away and not attacking. Wall calendars featuring photos of dangerous, helpless, or endangered animals, on a daily basis, keep the owner's mind on death.


The “sunburst” gilded living-room clock popular in the 1950s is best in a parlor used for visits. In a room intended for relaxation, prominent or ticking clocks exert pressure and create worry. A cuckoo clock or a "cute" clock resembling a teapot, clown face, or something not clock-like annoys everyone, and quietly trivializes life.


Birds symbolize individuality and freedom, especially birds of prey. If birds are pictured flying toward or into the room claws first, it means that only the owner's personal freedom matters and other people can take a hike. And they will! Most other birds symbolize the feminine principle. Make sure bird images are hung so the birds are facing or flying toward the windows, not toward the room’s interior.


Notice how bearskin or tiger-skin rugs are a "bachelor" thing. Unless you live alone and want to stay alone, avoid decorating with skins or hunting trophies. A severed head fills the room with violent, primitive energy, and also reduces the space for living humans to stand tall and together. Never mount such trophies in children’s rooms or family spaces. Probably the only place to relax or feel fulfilled among animal trophies is a lodge.

This historic U.S. Gadsden flag is a cool design, but flags are calls to action and don't belong on a wall in a room dedicated to rest and relaxation. Better, hang it in a clubhouse or workout room.

This historic U.S. Gadsden flag is a cool design, but flags are calls to action and don't belong on a wall in a room dedicated to rest and relaxation. Better, hang it in a clubhouse or workout room.

Battle Scenes and Flags

Battle Scenes, Swords, Armor, Firearms

A room decorated with these is a fortress against vulnerability and intimacy. A potential lover or mate shown this room will find a way to leave and never text you back. To visitors who are not collectors or aficionados, such items on display signify that the owner is preoccupied with power fantasies and glory days long past.


Flags call teams or armies to action. Of course we can be loyal to countries or teams without displaying flags or pennants, but we pin them, lifeless, on walls at home not so much for our own sense of pride as an aggressive challenge to visitors' loyalties. Flags belong outside, where they truly come alive and speak to the community.

Lovely wilted flowers and other fails.

Lovely wilted flowers and other fails.

What Does Your Taste in Art Say About You?


Still-lifes of cut flowers, especially in pastel colors, numb strong feelings or help to repress them. The viewer might think, at first, “how lovely,” but the floral picture displayed for months or years is so numbing it becomes invisible.

Abstract or Very Unusual Art

The owner is probably self-involved, self-important, cerebral, and a gossip.

Sad and Lonely Pictures or Posters

Images of alienation or loneliness are, no surprise, depressing. Without realizing it, people in the room tend to turn their backs on such images. The same is true of images of poverty, sad clowns, or ragamuffin children. Some people flinch at the mere sight of them.


Serene and homey scenes, such as Thomas Kinkaid’s paintings, are favored by people who have lived hardscrabble lives. The more idealized the scene, the more generous and hospitable the people are, maybe to a fault. Placed in a room you actually relax in, farm and settlement scenes and folk art keep you where you are, on all levels; they say "I am not moving." That's best for those who are contented. Dramatic scenery of mountains or rocky or snowbound places intensifies personal difficulties and slowly persuades owners that their dream life and happy place are unattainable. Hang cityscapes in the room where you work out, work, dress for work, or toughen up.

Seascapes, Beaches, Ships

Feng shui suggests hanging these on a room’s northern wall, which is governed by the “water element.” Have the sailboat or schooner sailing toward a window, not the room’s interior. It’s common sense not to hang a seascape above a fireplace. A lovely beach scene in a home that is nowhere near a beach generates envy and self-pity.

Painting by Edward Lear (1812-1888)

Painting by Edward Lear (1812-1888)

What Else Is on Your Walls?

Trinket/Shadow Boxes

Shows others that the occupant once had a serious interest or special talent that was sacrificed to please and serve other people. Are you done being that type of person? Take the box down!

Signs, Quotations

Neon signs, traffic or street signs, mottoes, and quotations such as “Just do it” or “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” are constant reminders to whip oneself forward physically, emotionally, or financially despite tremendous ongoing stress.


Ads and labels are carefully created by very smart, creative people, and when they or reproductions are of reasonable size they stimulate intelligence and make visitors smile.


Images of athletes, trophies from games and competitions, sports memorabilia collections, and so on mean the owner is bit by bit overcoming an old psychological wound. Big photo-posters of athletes in action are exhausting. Both owners and visitors might unconsciously avoid sitting where they can see them.

Celebrities, Movie Posters, Pin-ups

Visitors can tell that the owner has a lot to learn. Large or glamorous images show that the occupant longs for special attention or fame. Teens often decorate with such images because they are ambitious.


Books are great, but a wall, or a room, lined top to bottom with books is a shield against bad feelings.

Faith-Based Images

Images of glowing angels and cheeky cherubs are for children’s rooms. What seem like comforting symbols of faith, such as crosses or symbols with sharp corners or points, stimulate worries and self-consciousness if constantly in view. On the wall behind the seating, they can sustain and inspire. Pictures of suffering saints or crucified Jesus might sadden some visitors, but certain homeowners think such images are supportive. Pictures of inspirational figures such as the Pope or dead revolutionaries signal that the owner hopes to discuss them. Fairies, nymphs, unicorns, druids and gods and goddesses enchant the young, but in adults they sustain depression because life isn’t like that.

Maps/Pictures of Historic Sites

These are favorites of the book-lover, teacher, or pedant who in earlier days used to be more active and inventive. If you want a livelier life, remove them.

Fabric Hangings

The larger the hanging, the more its subject or form dominates the owner's thinking. Often in some way it represents the owner's profession.

Collections of Fragile Ceramics

Usually owned by a love-hungry person who feels under-appreciated. When you are a guest, show interest in these items to show appreciation.

A perpetually popular faith image for family homes, painted by Bernard Plockhorst, German, in 1886.

A perpetually popular faith image for family homes, painted by Bernard Plockhorst, German, in 1886.

About Windows, Mirrors, and Hotel Rooms

The windows in your living space symbolize your future. Keep them clean and with daylight coming through.

Oversized mirrors in marital bedrooms drain romance out of the relationship. The bedroom is the last place we should feel self-conscious. For that reason, don’t hang there either pictures of family or friends. If the bedroom is yours alone and you enjoy your own company, you can hang pictures of yourself: the "glamour shots," the young-and-beautiful pictures—if you aren't too absorbed in posting them online.

Most hotels hang pictures in pairs. Each of the pair has the same theme painted in the same colors and style, and mounted in the same type of mat and frame. Why? Because hotels are where people rest. Our minds absorb one image at a time. Two paintings very much alike cancel each other out; we feel nothing. When we are tired that is fine with us.

If there’s nothing on your walls except duct tape over the cracks in the plaster . . . well, what would you say that says about you?

One last word that sums up feng shui: “Don’t own so much that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.” -Wendell Berry.

A dead cow skin rug does not inspire one's appetite.

A dead cow skin rug does not inspire one's appetite.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Sylvia Sky


LetterWriter from Georgia on August 20, 2021:

I really enjoyed this article. I found it so informative and very useful as I reviewed the images on my walls. I will make some changes. Your information makes me reconsider why I have chosen pictures of animals, in pairs and showing their connection, affection, etc. Maybe it's a personal things, it's peaceful for me. This article could be very useful for interior decorators; I will ponder your thoughts... thank you.