How to hang your swords – our indispensable guide to home decoration

For most historical fencers, swords are practical tools, not something used to decorate the walls. Still, a lot of fencers give it a go, sometimes with less than satisfactory results. Because as difficult as it is to hang paintings and artwork – which are meant as decoration – hanging swords is even harder. But if you get it right, the result is all the more impactful.

The easiest way to hang a sword so that it fits well in a room is to first buy a mansion. In an old, larger building, a sword doesn’t feel out of place. It’s much harder to make a sword feel natural in a small, cramped flat filled with modern furniture and electronic equipment. The underlying problem is that the sword is a decoration that attempts to be something it is not or, rather, that the room is trying to become something it is not. Because the most common mistake that people make when putting up swords is that they don’t take the room into account. The sword doesn’t fit in, and as much as you want it to lift the room to seem more classy, it simply cannot. You have to think of the room as a whole and look at how the sword fits with other items. It takes more thought than simply hanging it on a naked wall in a room with no atmosphere.

If you do it right, you can hang almost anything on your walls.

If the sword and the room shouldn’t try to be something that they aren’t, then what should you do if you live in a modern flat and you want to display your swords? Here are a few pointers.

What swords should you put on your walls?

The first thing to consider is what type of sword you should hang on the wall. People naturally assume it should be an antique or their most expensive sword, like a sharp Albion. But the important thing is really what the sword says about itself and what it means to you. A banged-up feder or your first wooden waster might do a better job than an antique in your home simply because they aren’t pretentious. Fundamentally, your relationship to the sword is what really matters and you should tell the story of the sword. Presenting a shiny new production as an antique can easily give as strange an impression, just as showing off a fantasy sword as if it were an antique or real sword. The same is true for antiques in a modern home; if they are put up in an effort to make the room seem like an older room than it is, then it will feel off. But that does not mean that you cannot place an antique in a modern home, you just need to make sure that it fits in.

How to present the sword

Which brings us to how the sword is presented. With the example of an antique being placed in a modern home, it’s often harder to make a traditional arrangement of the swords (for example by hanging a number of them in a pattern around a shield). If you have decorated your house with simplicity, minimalism and functionality, then the sword should follow that same pattern to fit in. Placing a single sword on a stand and letting the functional beauty of the sword speak for itself, is a preferable option.

Also, make sure that the sword is hung so that it works with the lines in the room. The sword’s shape sometimes makes it hard to hang in a room where the ceiling is relatively low and furnitures like sideboards, paintings and sofas are long. In these cases it’s often better to place the sword horizontally. The important thing is to consider the geometries of the room, windows and furniture.

Where should you put it?

Hanging a sword on a wall is, of course, the classical way of doing it. But you should really think whether your room can do it justice and if you get away with it. If there isn’t a wall where you could hang it and decorate the rest of the room to have an air where swords on the wall feel natural maybe casually placing it in an umbrella stand, or leaning against the piano or in a corner, is a better option.

In summary

  • Avoid presenting the swords as something they are not
  • It’s better to be personal than copying a format due to lack of inspiration
  • Be aware of the geometries when deciding on placement and orientation of how you hang the sword
Matt Galas’s mantelpiece is beautifully decorated with Indian clubs and two 19th century foils from Solingen tied together with a ribbon. The grips are Chamois legs. Notice that the foils are pointing upwards, just as the Indian clubs, giving the arrangement a harmonius look.
“Taking a page from the Victorians I covered my cassone with an oriental rug. The rug protects the wood and allows me to lay a variety of weapons on it,” Jeannette Acosta-Martinez.
“The weapons hanging on the walls are mounted on picture frame hooks. I then cover the hooks so that they are not visible. I believe in repurposing so I save the ribbons on my Christmas presents and use them to make the bows that cover the hooks. That type of ribbon has a fine wire running along the edge which keeps the bows in place so they don’t droop. An added benefit is that I can easily take one down to clean or to exchange it with another piece.” Jeannette Acosta-Martinez.
A cupboard in the Acosta-Martinez home.
“Some years ago, I bought a breakfront on eBay for under a hundred dollars with the express purpose of using it for storage and to display weapons.  
Since I had several hooks and odd pieces of carvings, I made a small rack to hang some foils.” Jeannette Acosta-Martinez
A wall mount from Benjamin Arms in the Acosta-Martinez home.

Designer Virginia Frankel used a highly personal collection of accessories in this corner of her den-guest room. The sword and medals belonged to her father, while the grouping of old etchings and the modern abstract are gifts from family and friendsBarbara Taylor Bradford’s Easy Steps to Successful Decorating, 1971. Letting the objects tell their story in the room is key to successful interior decoration.
Three sabres naturally arranged by the stairs in the home of a friend. Placement is everything when it comes to hanging swords.
An arming sword on display in a modern home. The horizontal placement is natural on the sideboard.
A short African spear, called an Iklwa, hung on the wall shows that done right, a weapon can fit in almost any setting. Notice that hanging the spear horizontally in its current placement would look strange.
Viking sword by the window at Ruben Terlouw’s place.
Here, a feder is leaned against a shelf with some nice artwork and a pelt hanging from a spear shaft at Ruben Terlouw’s place.
A broken Feder on display next to an animal skull at Ruben Terlouw’s place.
A seax blade placed next to some historical replicas and artwork in the home of Ruben Terlouw. Creating a still life like this can be done in almost any room if you put some thought into it.
A stand does not have to be horizontal. Bronze sword, Iran, 14th-10th century BC, Timeline Auctions
A Swedish sabre arranged with some hunting trophies and antiques by a 19th-century mirror and drawer. The arrangement is assembled to draw the eye and spark interest. A fencer’s curiosity cabinet of sorts.
But a sabre like this can be just as decorative resting on top of the drawer as if laid aside after having been just worn.
Back lighting can be used for extra effect. Here at Inveraray Castle.

A traditional arrangement of weapons and armour in a castle under an arch…
A contemporary version. Feders and medals nicely arranged on a brick wall in the house of Marek Tadeusz Helman, telling the story of a modern practitioner.
I’m not sure this counts as interior decoration, but Cristoph Amberger’s armoury certainly has an impact.
Beauty in numbers. At the Amberger residence.
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