How to Choose the Right Art for Your Home Décor

All art courtesy of Stanford Fine Art and Tinney Contemporary

I always include art in a home design. It’s not like there’s a checklist, where I have to have a sofa, a rug, a side table, and a piece of art. It’s just that home décor calls for it.

Think about it: The oldest art we know about is drawn on the walls of caves. Art was the first home décor!

This topic has been on my mind lately because I have a talk coming up. I was fortunate enough to be asked to moderate a discussion at a ladies’ club in Nashville; I’ll be talking with two art gallery owners on “Interior Design Meets Art.” I was especially happy to hear that I was extended the invitation based on this website, specifically my post about the Henry Koehler artichoke painting. It’s always good to hear people are reading and enjoying, and so wonderful to be able to take the conversation off-line! The two gallery owners are Susan Tinney of Tinney Contemporary and Stan Mabry of Stanford Fine Art, both here in Nashville. Those are two very different galleries (and they are two very different people), but their passion for art is undeniable.

All art courtesy of Stanford Fine Art and Tinney Contemporary

As I discussed in the post about the Koehler painting, a great piece of art is enough to build a room around. At the same time, I realize that most people look to art as something to hang above the sofa, to cover up big expanses of wall. There has to be a compromise — you want something that matches what’s going on the room, but at the same time you don’t want a mediocre piece of art just because it matches your favorite chair.

So here are a few things to think about:

Make it interesting.

Choose a piece that immediately strikes you, and then come back to it later. Do you notice new things? Do you see new techniques, new meaning? Are you seeing colors that weren’t there before? You’re going to be living with this artwork for a long time, so it needs to keep you amused over the long haul.

All art courtesy of Stanford Fine Art and Tinney Contemporary

Make it original.

Prints are lovely, don't get me wrong. But even rare or numbered prints still exist in a thousand other places, so they are best reserved for smaller frames, and in placements such as small rooms, hallways, and as part of gallery walls. If you’re looking for a showpiece, it needs to be something created with someone’s two hands. It doesn’t need to be a Monet — or even anyone famous — but you should go to a reputable gallery and fall in love with something before you give it a place of honor.

Make it personal.

Choose a subject that means something to you, whether it’s dogs or flowers or Napoleonic Wars, and find some artist’s interpretation. It will help establish your personality in the design, but it will also be a lovely way to bring up your interests to guests. It’s not just a piece of art, after all — it’s a conversation piece. This even works for abstract art, where you can talk about how the color reminds you of the Aegean Sea, or your love for Bauhaus architecture.

All art courtesy of Stanford Fine Art and Tinney Contemporary

Make it visible.

If you hang a piece of art over the sofa, no one is ever going to see it without bending over the largest piece of furniture in the room, and you’ll never have time to study it since you’ll always be facing the other direction. If you’ve got a great, but large, piece, place it near some chairs or over a small table, where it can be appreciated.

Find the story.

“Because I like it” is a fine enough reason to own a piece of fine art, but knowing the story of the artist and the story behind the painting can give you a much richer appreciation of what you’re hanging on your walls. You’d be surprised what you can learn with a professional appraisal!

What art do you have in your home, and how do you display it? If you could hang any piece in the world on your walls, what would it be?

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  • Amazingly I never hesitate when I see a piece of art I love. Thankfully it doesn’t happen that often but every piece in my modest art collection practically jumped into my arms as I said you are mine. I don’t plan where my art will hang, I just know I will find a place.

  • If you have art that is valuable, as well as valued, think about getting a current appraisal. You might be surprised by how under-insured you are!