Two weeks ago, we talked about some ways to create big impact in small spaces, which included adding art and accessories. However, I want to revisit this topic because art shouldn’t be limited to small spaces — it can create stunning results in just about any space you can think of!
Art adds personality, emotion, and even motion (or stillness) to a space. It sets the mood, sparks intriguing conversations, and can unify the various colors in the room… and believe me, when you design spaces as vibrant as ours, you need color harmony. 😉
That said, for truly designer-quality results, art should be incorporated into your space with some forethought and strategy. Today, I want to walk you through our 5 steps to doing just that…
Forethought is sourcing art in the Blakely color palette for our studio’s powder room! By Marc Mazzarelli sourced from Candita Clayton Gallery.
Step 1: Identify the Design Direction of the Space
Because art adds feeling to your space, you need to decide in advance what feeling you are most hoping to achieve. Are you looking to create a bold, wow-factor space? A serene escape from your busy day-to-day?
Your goals for the design direction of the room will determine which type of art to look for. Since art is pretty personal, you could also address these questions when considering the design direction…
Where will I be adding art in this space? To the walls? Bookshelves? A mantel?
What type of art do I enjoy? Original paintings and prints? Photography? Hand-painted murals? Standing or mounted sculptures?
Once you have an idea for the overall feel of the piece, how you will incorporate it, and where it will go, you’re ready for Step 2.
Hand-painted malachite wall by Deb Sabo and inspired by the blue agate wall in the Blakely office.
Step 2: Consider Your Color Palette
Sometimes the art dictates the design concept of the room and is the jumping off point for the color palette. Other times, we’ll source art that works with the palette we’ve created with all the other materials and textiles.
In fact, some vendors allow us to customize prints, so we can change up a color in a piece to perfectly match the room’s palette. Here’s an example:
In the Space:
Pretty neat, right? When it comes to your project, it’s up to you whether you want to create the design concept and palette first, or if you want the artwork to direct the palette.
Step 3: Have an Idea for the General Composition
Once you have a plan for the color palette (or you know that the color palette will be determined by the art you find), it’s important to think about the piece within the context of what is going on in the space around it.
Many times the art is the focal point; other times, it’s the supporting act and should simply balance the space without distracting from the focal point. Having a plan in advance will help you find art with a subject matter, frame, and composition that fits ideally into your space.
For example, if the wall has busy wallpaper or there are other eye-catching patterns nearby, then the art should be very simplistic. It could be line art, or one with color blocking that brings the palette together in a subtle way. Like this one:
The scale of the patterns around it should also be different — at least half as big or twice as big — so that each stands on its own instead of melding together. In this powder room, the abstract painting has large blocks of black and white in more than double the scale of the wallpaper pattern. This grounds the space and keeps the wallpaper from being too loud.
By contrast, if your walls are neutral with little to no pattern, and your design goal is to create a wow-factor, then bold, large-scale art might be exactly what it needs. Here’s what that would look like:
Brigitte by the Pool was the center of many conversations during installation day at the Jersey Palm Project. This stunning, oversized photograph ties the entire color palette together and adds serenity and interest to the space.
Step 4: Understand the Optimal Scale
Once you have a general idea for the feel, palette, and composition of your artwork, you’re ready for the final prerequisite on our list: scale. It is crucial to know the ideal size of your art before you ever head out to galleries or open a new browser tab for your favorite online art shop.
That said, scale is difficult for most people to get right. Many homes I go into have art that is far too small for the space. It could be an incredible piece of artwork, but if the scale is too small, it gets swallowed up by the walls around it.
Good rule of thumb? Art should be two-thirds to three-fourths the size of what you’re balancing below it.
For example, if you’re placing artwork over a 90” sofa, the artwork should be roughly 60” wide for proper scale. This could be one 60” piece, or it could be a collection of smaller pieces that cover that 60” width as a whole.
These same rules apply to art over a console table, over a mantle, over your bed’s headboard, and even over a built-in banquette, like this one!
As for height, an easy rule of thumb for hanging a large piece is to have the center at your eye level (not above!). The height when placed over a case good piece is somewhere between 6” and 10” inches off the piece.
You can use a tape measure to roughly map out the dimensions of your art installation, or for visual representation, you could use painter’s tape to see how it lays out on the wall. Be sure to write your measurements down before you go browsing or decide to commission a piece.
We commissioned this piece by Linda Donahue to complement the color palette for the Westcote Project.
Step 5: Shop for the Perfect Artwork
Alright. You have all of the information you need to make a wise decision when shopping for that perfect piece — or pieces. Now, where do you go first?
Finding art is a process, and I would caution you against selecting the first piece that catches your eye. Wait until you find art that fits your specifications AND inspires a real emotional response in you. You could…
- Visit local galleries in-person or online
- Discover artists on Instagram
- Find new artists at local markets (we discovered Liz Lane, Barry Lantz, Linda Donahue & Jill Pumpelly at High Point Market)
As you begin your art adventure for the perfect piece or look to start a larger art collection, here’s a quick note on original artwork vs. prints…
Original Artwork vs. Prints
A “print” is simply a reprint of an original piece, so they tend to be more budget-friendly and can offer more customization options, like the customized palette I shared with you above. This can be a great alternative to original artworks if perhaps you fall in love with the original but it isn’t the right size or it’s out of your budget.
By comparison, original art can be an investment, but there are so many additional benefits.
First, an original piece of art has a tangible presence. You can see the brush strokes, the textures, the true value of the colors. It feels more raw, usually has evidence of the artist (whom you’re supporting with your purchase!), and evokes more emotion… all of which contributes to setting one incredible mood for the room.
Original artworks are also one-of-a-kind pieces, and when we’re designing one-of-a-kind spaces, this adds another dimension of customization. Unlike prints, an original piece is likely to increase in value over time, too. That’s a lot of wins, and it’s easy to see why I love originals!
Somehow It Felt Right by Josef Kote sourced from YJ Gallery. There is a ton of great original art in this Narragansett home, and all speak to our clients’ love of the ocean and fishing.
Art Crushes: The Blakely Design Team’s Picks for Artists to Watch
Janelle’s Pick: Liz Lane
Brianna’s Pick: KARIN OLAH
Becky’s Pick: DIANE CARNEVALE
Emily’s Pick: CATE BROWN