Choosing and displaying art is one of our frequent topics because it’s such an important topic in home decor. And, there are lots of myths and supposed rules for art that can be ignored or adapted to your taste and space.
Let me get on my soapbox for just a moment. Art exists to give you pleasure; you should enjoy it at some level every time you look at it. You should enjoy it – it’s not for your guests, your parents, your neighbors; it’s for you. Whether you can get lost in a jungle photograph or a Pollack-like dotty abstraction, art speaks to each of us differently. The hardest part is when you share your home with some that has different art preferences. Then it’s time to practice good compromise skills!
4 Biggest Art Myths
Art Has to Match Your Color Scheme. FALSE Let me say it again, choose what you like. You do NOT have to match the room color scheme or the color of the sofa or anything else. The most interesting rooms contain art that offers contrasting or opposing colors to those used elsewhere in the room/home. Art that doesn’t ‘match’ a room brings layers and sophistication to a space.
The above art uses coral and orange tones in the art to repeat a color in the accent pillow, so it is an example of using art to emphasize an accent color and carry it throughout the room.
The collection of art in this corner looks great on the light tan walls and you’ll notice that the frames don’t match, the subjects in each painting are very different and the colors only loosely coordinate (there’s a little blue or red in each). What makes them work so well together? The sizes are appropriate to the wall space and the owner loves them.
All Frames Have to Match. FALSE Some continuity can be good if you’re using a large number of frames in a single grouping (like all black or all white), but sometimes the eclectic look is very appealing. It’s much more important that the frame be appropriate to the art than that it match other frames in the room.
An eclectic collection of art and frames (above and below) keep the room dynamic and interesting. Even though nothing ‘matches’, everything is interesting, in scale with the wall and room, and reflects the owners’ taste.
While it’s fun to mix and match frames, sometimes coordinating is a good thing. A gallery wall using all black though with a variety of shapes and thicknesses (above) or a gallery wall with all images framed exactly the same in white (below) gain power in repetition.
Art Looks Best Against Gallery White Walls. FALSE The wall color should never be a consideration when you purchase art. If you find art you love, it’s much easier to paint or change a wall color (if you need to) than hunt for art to “match” or work with a wall color. Then you’re choosing art to match, not because you love it.
White walls with predominantly white art, and in white frames no less….. yawn. The art just disappears. White walls would be much more appropriate for bold art, strong colors or pieces in dark or dramatic colored frames. The white can then offer a foil against which the art can contrast and shine.
This art works beautifully on this richly colored wall because of the high contrast. The predominantly white art wouldn’t be nearly as eye catching on a white wall (like above).
Art Must Have a Theme. FALSE I think our idea that the art in a room should be themed (as well as match a color scheme) comes from our love affair with visiting model homes. We go to see how “the other half lives” and to get home decorating ideas, however, what you MUST remember is that these are homes designed to be showy pretty, not functional or reflective of how real people would decorate.
Model home rooms will often have a ‘seaside’ or ‘Tuscan’ or ‘rustic’ theme and the frames and wall decor really emphasize that very overtly by depicting seashells and ocean scenes or wine and grapes or elk/bear and beat up barns. Usually our overall decor somewhat determines the art choices in that if you love modern Italian furniture, it’s likely that you’ll prefer modern, abstract art. Or if your home is filled with heavy Tuscan furnishings, it’ll be because you love that look and your taste in art will likely gravitate toward rich colors, landscapes and maybe a grape or two. However, if you love abstract art and your home decor happens to be Tuscan in styling, go for it.
Of course, a themed display is not a bad thing in and of itself. It can be a very effective way to support a collection of a color scheme or just reflect something you love.
Even if most of your art is abstract or modern and you come across a painting of a landscape that is just too delicious to pass up, please don’t. Or if you tend to favor still life paintings in the Old World style but suddenly find a calm seaside photograph that speaks to you, please add it to your collection. Let me reiterate: it’s more important to love and enjoy your art than to match it with anything existing in your home!
Additional Art Advice
Use unexpected items on the wall. Art doesn’t have to be only photographs and paintings. Mix it up with iron medallions, plates, mirrors (simple or carved to contrast with other decor), sporting gear (maybe a bicycle or oars?), or anything else that can be attached to the wall.
A Few Reminders
Cindy and I still offer complete or single dilemma home decorating consultations tailored specifically to your home and needs, including a color-only consultation that is so affordable and will help if you’re stuck trying to determine a color direction. Read the details here.
YDH can now be found on Pinterest. There are just so many beautiful rooms and ideas out there that all the pictures can’t possibly make it here to the blog, so we decided to use the boards there to share things we find inspiring or novel. We have many boards that will let you browse room after room of inspiration for room arrangements, color ideas, DIY projects, and more. Be sure to visit Your Decorating Hotline on Pinterest to see what we’ve found.