How To Elevate Your Home With Art

Should we think of artwork merely as a way of decorating our homes, or is art collecting about more than matching the colour of your sofa?

As an interior designer, Lauren Li knows that building an interior design concept around art can enrich a space. At the same time, she’s very clear that when art is created solely for the purpose to decorate a room, it lacks emotion and soul.

Today, Lauren offers her top tips on choosing art for your home.

Photographic art from  Maegan Brown ‘s ‘After-Form’series. From dramatic canyons to peaceful valleys, Maegan explores celestial terrain, focusing on the relentless and prevailing nature of the vast and expansive environment. Multi-coloured rock formations, geologic textures and fascinating displays of erosion create a conflicting sense of force and calm; everlasting, primitive wilderness. Limited-edition works available at The Apartment. Photo – courtesy of  Maegan Brown .

Photographic art from Maegan Brown‘s ‘After-Form’series. From dramatic canyons to peaceful valleys, Maegan explores celestial terrain, focusing on the relentless and prevailing nature of the vast and expansive environment. Multi-coloured rock formations, geologic textures and fascinating displays of erosion create a conflicting sense of force and calm; everlasting, primitive wilderness. Limited-edition works available at The Apartment. Photo – courtesy of Maegan Brown.

Tammy Kanat’s ‘Sunrays’ textile wall art. Tammy’s work delves into the ‘fine art’ realm and is a unique alternative to a traditional painting format. Photo –  Tess Kelly .

Tammy Kanat’s ‘Sunrays’ textile wall art. Tammy’s work delves into the ‘fine art’ realm and is a unique alternative to a traditional painting format. Photo – Tess Kelly.

(left) Eleanor Louise Butt’s ‘Shifts & Turns’ (IV) – sold. Photo –  Tess Kelly , interior –  Sisällä . (right) Eleanor Louise Butt’s ‘untitled’ (from After-Image series) available at The Apartment. Photo –  Tess Kelly , interior –  Sisällä .

(left) Eleanor Louise Butt’s ‘Shifts & Turns’ (IV) – sold. Photo – Tess Kelly, interior – Sisällä. (right) Eleanor Louise Butt’s ‘untitled’ (from After-Image series) available at The Apartment. Photo – Tess Kelly, interior – Sisällä.

Eleanor Louise Butt’s ‘Painted Hession Walls’ available at The Apartment. Photo –  Tess Kelly , interior –  Sisällä .

Eleanor Louise Butt’s ‘Painted Hession Walls’ available at The Apartment. Photo – Tess Kelly, interior – Sisällä.

Eleanor Louise Butt’s artwork ‘Untitled (shifting constellation #1) oil on linen, 138x113cm on display at The Barn House. Eleanor’s process-led paintings, forms and gestures interact on the canvas, creating movements, relationships and dialogues that record a personal cartography. Photo –  Tess Kelly .

Eleanor Louise Butt’s artwork ‘Untitled (shifting constellation #1) oil on linen, 138x113cm on display at The Barn House. Eleanor’s process-led paintings, forms and gestures interact on the canvas, creating movements, relationships and dialogues that record a personal cartography. Photo – Tess Kelly.

A life filled with art is glorious. When we talk about art, I am not only referring to an oil on canvas painting that hangs on the wall. Art doesn’t need to be expensive to be loved and adored. It could be a ceramic sculpture, a framed poster from the NGV, or textile wall hanging. The rules on what constitutes art are blurry, and mean different things to different people. I believe that if you find an artwork that gives you an emotional response when you see it each day, then run with it.

So how do we find art that fits with us, that says something to us, or about us? It’s about trusting your instinct – and avoiding art that is so generic, that it has nothing to say.

For instance – hotel art. Rather than uplift the soul, it crushes it. Art that is created with the purpose to simply fill a white wall in a lobby, or above a hotel room bed lacks that magical spark of creativity. This type of off-the-shelf art was developed by a business to fill a gap in the market and then selected to appease a wide audience and look ‘nice’. It needs to match the colour scheme in the room, and by definition, it can’t have a strong concept or idea. And yes, it does look ‘nice’, however, we want art to make us FEEL SOMETHING. We want more than ‘nice’ art in our homes. I can’t tell you what that is. It needs to be perfect for you.

Art that captures an atmosphere or a moment in time give can you a sense of calm in a busy family home. Artwork may capture a simple scene from everyday life so magically that it gives a sense of gratitude.

Think about a feeling and emotion you would like the artwork to evoke. Should it bring a sense of playfulness, excitement and light to the space? Or are you looking for calm and quiet? At the same time, don’t over think it too much, trust your first reaction. You don’t need to give a reason for why an artwork speaks to you, or doesn’t. Put aside what your sister thinks, or your neighbour’s best friend. This is your home and your unique space, and it’s your call!

Art as an investment

Often when we work with clients to select artwork, they ask if it will be a ‘good investment’. Well, of course, it is – an investment into their everyday happiness! Usually, they are actually asking if it will it increase in value, and will their grandkids be sitting on a goldmine.

If your purpose to buy art as an investment, you will need to call in the experts. Generally speaking, you’ll be spending upwards of $10k. You want to work with an art advisor that is highly knowledgeable and that you can trust.

You need to decide if you’re collecting art as a passion, or an investment. Maybe both? If you want to invest in art for profit, but don’t have a lazy $10k to get started, then I suggest you buy new art by emerging artists. Sure, its risky but also a lot of fun. Visit artist-run galleries, go to university exhibitions and keep your eyes peeled.

You may find yourself forgoing the sofa to make space for your art collection as Dorothy and Herbert did. He a postal worker and she a librarian, and in the 1960s they began amassing an astounding collection of modern art in their one-bedroom New York apartment. They sometimes did cat-sitting in exchange for art. They could have become millionaires however they chose not to sell a painting and donated all of their collection to the The National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Art As Decoration

I’m the first to admit that using art as decoration is ok. If you have some bare walls, please fill them with art. The one pet peeve I have, is when a space starts to look too contrived. When the artwork matches perfectly with the cushions on the sofa, it all gets too serious and uptight. The idea is to coordinate and not match. Here are my top tips:

1. Buy art that speaks to you rather than matching the colours of your room. There is so much more to art than colour alone. There could be a pattern or motif in an artwork that echoes in the shape of an armchair or pattern on a fabric.

2. Consider the mood or themes of the artwork to tie into the interior design. Perhaps a black and white photograph of a forest ties in with the use of natural timber in the space.

3. If you find your is artwork varies across mediums, colours and themes then try arranging them in different ways. A gallery hang could be too busy, so instead break them up around the house. Group a few pieces together that share a common thread.

4. Choose if you want to make art the hero. When the artwork is a bold colour and pattern, then other elements such as the rug should be more subdued.

5. Artwork doesn’t need to be a painting that hangs on the wall. Consider a beautiful sculptural mobile or a textile wall hanging. It could be decorative arts, which are both decorative and functional, such as a fine porcelain water jug or a fabulous Italian mirror.

6. The gallery wall is always a favourite. There are endless configurations and ideas on what makes a great one. I believe that there should be a unifying element when hanging art together in this way. I’m not one to meticulously measure, instead, I go by eye and have a secret weapon. An art hanger.

7. A wall ledge is ‘the new gallery wall’. By using one long ledge and arranging artwork along it, you can layer pieces and constantly shuffle the composition with minimum commitment. In a hallway consider a few rows of ledges which is great for the kids’ artwork, or keep is sharp by only using black and white images in fine black frames.

8. If you’ve found a piece of art that you love, but when you contacted the artist you find it’s been sold. Don’t fear. Artists are often happy to take on commissions and can accommodate to the size you would like. I suggest to make a good first impression and give them a call. Don’t assume they are able to take on a commission, they may be working towards a show in a gallery so don’t take offence if they can’t take it on. Ensure that you have a contract in place and keep the lines of communication open

This article also appears in The Designfiles, Lauren is the interior design contributor.