When decorating our home, be it for the first or the tenth time, we often leave any wall art that we are thinking of buying or hanging till last. Not because we’ve pre-planned everything and know which piece will be going where and when and why – but because wall art is rarely the primary focus when renovating a room. We often find artwork to suit whichever theme we have established in the setting already, but very rarely consider that we could flip the sequence of events and do things the other way around, instead of modelling our interior around the art pieces that set our imagination alight. Your wall art can be excellent inspiration for what the whole of your interior could look like. Not to mention, a setting that has been designed around the wall art will look that much more professional because of the way the art will exquisitely complement each and every aspect of the interior.
Don’t rush into picking the first three paintings off the shelf in a store, if it takes you weeks or even months to find that perfect piece that may mean something to you, but is also just stunning to look at, then that’s not a problem. It’s better to put in the time and energy beforehand than lazily pick some cliché artwork and give your entire home an uninspired and boring feel, without any personal touches. Don’t restrict yourself to any one style, go ahead and have a look at art ranging from neon signs and fabric lettering to sculptures and vases, though this article is geared towards paintings and other art forms related to this bracket. Artwork can be the final piece of the puzzle – tipping your interior from halfway-there to homely, as their small finishing touches can help unify your setting and assert the theme you have chosen. You will find you enjoy every aspect of your home more if it is aesthetically pleasing rather than just the place where you do your eating and sleeping! You may find yourself surprised by just how much even one painting can do not just for a room, but for the entirety of the home, as they bring a sense of sophistication and royalty, and because of the variety available, there is sure to be that one piece that catches your eye immediately and then never leaves your mind. When you find that piece, make sure no one gets to it before you do, or you’ll kick yourself if it’s gone!
Wall art can breathe life into an already tired home, or help you start from scratch if you are moving into somewhere new. Some would even say that wall art is, in fact, the most important aspect of interior design – it’s the thing that makes or breaks the room, and you want to avoid the latter! It is advised not to leave the selection of your artwork till last (although some people avoid artwork completely) because of the kind of impact and effect you can create with it. By resigning it to an afterthought you are diminishing its power! Finding the right art for you is a much more personal experience than a beginner may assume – it’s definitely enjoyable, but also teaches you a lot about yourself, your likes and dislikes, inclinations and preferences, as well as the kind of person you are, the vibe you give off and the kind of environments you thrive in. If you aren’t convinced that artwork can have a significant impact on how you feel in your home, try and visualize a gorgeous painting hanging in your bedroom or living room, a feast for the senses, as you laze about or relax with a cup of tea or a book. Wouldn’t it just complete the set? Most likely.
A common mistake made by those looking to buy some art for their home is that they go for what they think will look nice or that will complement the setting, without considering if the art itself makes them feel anything at all. It is important to pick something that you simply enjoy looking at, regardless of interior design. Your home should be a taste of you, so don’t choose the safe options in favour of designing a home that is palatable for guests or for others. It’s yours to live in! The person who should be the most comfortable in it should be you! Don’t be reluctant to break free from tradition and go for the kind of artwork you admire from a distance but feel is too bold to actually display in your home.
In terms of paintings, consider styles such pop art, minimalist, abstract, avant-garde and so forth! You could also opt for traditional or ethnic paintings, which reflect a certain culture and time and place in history. You may opt for paintings from a different country, maybe because that place is your favourite holiday destination or just your home!
Pop art originated circa the 1950’s and has a distinctive comic book-inspired style. It is known for its references to pop culture (like popular cartoons or Marilyn Monroe) and is a style well suited to sleek, sharp and minimalist decors, as the artwork is often simple, yet bold and high-contrast. Because of its nature, if you want a retro 90’s look then pop art will serve you very well indeed!
Minimalism is exactly as it sounds – pretty simple and minimal! It is characterized by geometric shapes and sometimes symmetrical patterns, but on the whole, it is a very laidback and clean style of art, for those who don’t want a bombardment of the senses. Whilst minimalism may, at first sight, seem bland and boring, in the right setting it brings the optimal amount of contrast to pop out against the wall for something truly pleasing to the eye, however, to yield this effect the rest of your interior must be very deliberately designed. Minimalism is essentially based on the mantra “less is more”, so if you are a “less is more” kind of person then definitely consider minimalist paintings and art as an option for your home!
Abstract art represents a lot of ideas at once, and each person who views an abstract painting will have a different perspective on it. It is a great conversation starter as each person discusses what they see in the painting, and guests can compare and contrast ideas. This style of art is definitely suited to a contemporary, “out-there” home, that may be a bit wild and wacky, though certainly, that is not a requirement! It would flourish in a neutral setting for that is where it can truly steal all eyes instead of having to fight for attention. Abstract art is a great option to opt for if you want to shake up a certain room or environment. If your painting itself is in more neutral tones, then that gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of the kind of interior your art will complement. Neutral abstract art will pair well with a large variety of paintings to cultivate a wide variety of atmospheres and moods. In some events, abstract painting can be a good fit in a traditional setting, but only if the contrast is finely balanced and refreshing rather than obtrusive and garish.
Colourful abstract paintings give off a fun and relaxed vibe which can often help family and friends feel at ease in the living room or other social areas. Abstract art is also well suited to bedrooms which are often left looking very neutral and boring likely because people assume it is a place for relaxation and not inspiration. However this sentiment shouldn’t push to go design a very “samey” bedroom – a bedroom can be soothing and relaxing even with artwork – you just have pick the right pieces. Work environments like an office or a study room also benefit from some colourful abstract art, bringing some vibrancy and energy into a place that cries out for it!
Abstract paintings can help you set a theme and colour scheme for a room. Evaluate which colours are repeated within your paintings, and then match the rest of the interior to the same hues, for some cohesion and unity. Mix up the old and new, some abstract art with some traditional wallpaper or furniture for something unique and exciting, without either style clashing with the other.
Another interesting combination is metallic wall art in your home. It will bring a refreshing and totally unique texture and feel to any setting, and is a great way bring some real interest to a wall and an interior – and is pretty much impossible to miss or not comment on! You can opt for the likes of silver and copper metallic art for something shiny and eye-catching. On the whole, this type of art would be best suited to more traditional rustic decors like country homes, due to their its vibe.
Graffiti art is yet another tantalising option, though it is strictly not for all homes. It is unusual, but in the right setting it is an eye-grabber and a show-stealer. It can work in study rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms and so forth. Beware, in many instances graffiti is likely to have a dramatic rather than dainty impact on your interior because of its vibrancy and boldness, so use it sparingly or as a statement piece! A benefit of graffiti artwork is that you can get it custom made, and each design is usually different from the last, giving you something that can’t be bought off a shelf and that no one else has in their home except you. Graffiti is an eclectic mix of colours, fonts and shapes to make something inspiring, invigorating and youthful. It’s no longer the exclusively rough and amateur drawings you’d see on walls and in subways whilst on a walk, it’s now an art form in its own right that a variety of artists and sculptors around the world take inspiration from. Designs can vary from simple and minimalist to massive action-packed pieces, depending on the kind of impact you are wanting on your exterior.
Graffiti is particularly suited to kids’ and teenagers’ bedrooms because of its youthful and energetic vibe, and you could encourage your kids to put their own stamp on their walls with a bit of (supervised!) graffiti, like a signature or their date of birth. The graffiti can be tailored according to your child’s hobbies and likes and dislikes in terms of design and particularly colour. Graffiti need not always be colourful, experiment with some black and white graffiti and discover the emphatic effect it can have in the right setting. However, graffiti isn’t recommended for more sophisticated and formal homes, because of its informality and unabashedness. Ultimately, graffiti is meant to be personalized and an ode to your style and taste, not anyone else’s. Graffiti can also carry powerful, even political messages, and can be a great conversation piece for guests.
Watercolour paintings are a more classic trend when it comes to design. They are very artsy, relaxed and free-flowing, and help a home feel much more soothing and relaxing. The watercolour effect is ultimately not too difficult to achieve, and may even be something you attempt yourself, just grab a canvas and go wild! If you create something you are pleased with, then don’t hesitate to display it with pride! There are a variety of watercolour paintings, with something sure to suit even the pickiest of tastes!
Deciding on your colour scheme is often one of the most stressful decisions when it comes to planning out your interior – you probably don’t need to be told, but if the colours are off, the room is off, if the colours are right, then the room is perfect!
Working with Colour
You may feel overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the variety of hues you can pick from – to the point where it is difficult to differentiate one colour from the next, unless you are an experienced artist or interior designer! You may struggle whittle down which colours are a definite no, which are a maybe, and which are an almost definitely. To help you get a gist of which colours do it for you and which don’t, start out with a painting that catches your eye, and then build your colourway from there. It’s an easy way to eliminate thousands upon thousands of colours that aren’t quite your cup of tea.
Once you have your one (or maybe more) prized painting, pick only a few (3 or 4 maximum) colours from the piece to incorporate into your interior. Choose one colour that you want to feature the most heavily in your design, and then a couple of secondary colours to complement the primary hue. Make sure that the painting itself consists of the kind of colours that set it apart from its surroundings and make it hard to miss, you don’t want a painting that disappears in the backdrop in which it is placed, for that would make it a waste of money and space more than anything else. If your painting houses the right colours, any person who walks past it will experience it that much more viscerally.
One of the most classic art gallery walls is the simple white background amongst some traditional oil paintings or something to that effect. Whilst for some homes this age-old design will have the greatest impact, it is not the right choice for all interiors. Gone is the age of safe and simple art galleries and now is the time for experimentation and colour. Try to make sure your wall is an interesting colour without being too bold or brash, so that it doesn’t distract from the art.
It would serve you well to create an accent wall – one wall that is distinctly different from the rest and is the statement wall. If your walls are a darker hue your paintings will appear lighter and more airy, and if your walls are lighter paintings come across as darker. A neutral setting is advisable if you are still a beginner and are quite nervous about doing too much to your interior for fear that you may not be able to backtrack. It provides you with the flexibility to chop and change your décor as and when you please.
Another tip for beginners is to opt for very similar art pieces or paintings. Artworks that are similar or identical in colour are much easier to work with and display than a variety of art which is more difficult to unify under one specific theme. On the other hand, if you are willing to be a bit bold or take a risk, try multi-coloured walls! It’s possible to have walls that are vibrant without being too much, and clashing with each other and potentially becoming an eyesore. If your focus is on a largely safe and neutral setting, bring in a few pops of colour for small bouts of refreshing contrast, this could be through wallpaper, art or other decorations – it’s up to preference, time and budget.
Try to make sure your art is of a variety of different textures – this adds extra depths and more interest to a room, instead of making it all feel very boring and one dimensional. Rough and tumble textures like metal and wood add a rustic and homely vibe to an environment, whereas sleek and smooth pieces add a sharp edge to a minimalist home.
It is also important to take the size of the artwork into account before you begin hanging up pieces. You need to measure accurately how much space you have on your walls to determine what kind of painting you can accommodate. If you pick large artwork you need to take care to make sure it isn’t too overbearing or drowning out the other elements in your interior. Equally, if your artwork is on the smaller side, make sure other elements aren’t overpowering it without giving it a chance to shine. Try to envision your painting on the wall before you actually start hammering in nails or hanging it on, as it will give you valuable insight about whether or not you have positioned the artwork in an appropriate manner to unlock its maximum potential. Also consider whether you want to go for just one piece or if your room would be better off with a gallery wall. The latter is well suited to entertainment areas like living rooms, whereas something like a kitchen might just need one painting for some slight variety.
Purchasing original art and paintings will in almost all instances be fairly expensive, and maybe even an investment rather than a purchase. You may however be able to find some bargains online by comparing and contrasting prices of high-ticket items from different stores. If you aren’t so bothered about an original piece, then consider buying a replica that will do pretty much the same job for a much, much smaller cost. If you invest in large, original paintings, you likely should place it in a setting that is as simple as possible, so as not to distract from something that came with such a hefty price tag. This will give the painting a certain aura and boldness, making it the undeniable star of the room, and maybe even the house!
Hanging Your Art
How you are going to hang the art you purchase can be as important as the art itself. If this job is done poorly it can be a real eyesore, and not only ruin the painting but ruin the entire interior for you as well as guests! If art is going to be hung poorly, it certainly may as well not be hung at all. When hanging your painting/s consider the space available, if you have tall walls then you have the option of placing artwork higher than usual, but equally if your furniture or the floor elements of the setting do not reach very high then a painting that is closer to the ceiling may look awkward and out of place. As a general rule, you want to make your art look as though it is taking up the largest amount of space possible, for maximum effect, but also so that the environment does not look too crammed, which can sometimes happen when a variety of design elements are all in close proximity. If you are torn between two sizes that are fairly similar, it is generally advised to try out the larger size first.
Now, some people don’t have the time or effort to hang up paintings – it is definitely more work than it first seems. Others don’t have the possibly of hanging art up because they are renting their living space. In this case, you probably want to consider just leaning the art, on some drawers or on a shelf, so that you can still display it without putting nails and holes in the wall. You may even want to consider mixing it up – hang some pieces, and lean others – this works surprisingly well and adds interest to an interior, as well as adding levels and dimensions to the design. When hanging, you may opt to go for the strict, traditional rule of exact measurements and neat rows. Equally, you may choose to create more of a free-flowing display that you feel complements your home better. Either way, it’s important to remember that there isn’t only one right way to hang art – it largely depends on the person and the interior.
An imaginative gallery wall can be a more accurate reflection of you as well as the other aspects of your interior, and can help cement a certain vibe and atmosphere within the home. However, it’s still worth keeping some tips and rules in mind, so that you can take inspiration from them without copying them to the dot. Placing your painting/s around 56” / 57” from the ground keeps it at a general eye level, making for comfortable and pleasurable viewing for the vast majority of guests. Be sure to remember that it is the centre of piece that should be 57” from the ground, not the very tip of it. Sure, you’ll have to do some calculations and measurements, but if you take your time to get the numbers right it will definitely be worth it! However, in amidst all the precision don’t forget to still inject some of your unique creativity into the display, it is a great chance to make use of your individuality. Even get the family involved in deciding where certain pieces should go and why. Ultimately, the call is yours about whether you will hang up a multitude of paintings or just one, extra special, piece. You may already have a Van Gogh in amidst your storage boxes!
If you really want to go the extra mile, try hanging art that traditionally is not hung, though you’ll need the help of some special tape and hooks, and maybe a professional too! If you want a display that is staunchly minimal, then hold back on all the paintings and select only the very best few. If you want your space to be busy and lively, hang all of them up! You can choose between symmetry and no symmetry, and could even try making cool shapes, designs and patterns out of your paintings. You could also just hang the paintings pretty casually, creating a more relaxed vibe. If you aren’t bothered about the maths or measurements, just go with what you feel! It is your living space after all. Mix up the styles and sizes of the paintings you hang up to give guests a surprise and something new to look at as they wander from room to room.
A bold wallpaper behind the artwork will also help to draw attention to it. Of course, try and keep some cohesion between the artwork and wallpaper, so that it looks deliberate and planned rather than a bit too eclectic! If there is no cohesion, often the wallpaper and paintings can fight each other, meaning neither piece really keeps its place and can be admired for what it is.
Ideas for places to hang your paintings include: living room, stairways, corridors and bedrooms. You need to take into account if the place the painting is situated in is a standing or sitting area. If it is a standing area like a hallway then naturally the painting should be placed higher, in the region of 60” to 63”, to adjust to a higher line of sight. This is particularly true for hallways with rather high ceilings. If it is conventionally a sitting area then the painting would benefit from being hung lower. If you want to experiment with different heights then enlist the help of someone else, and ask them to hold up the art at various heights, whilst you stand or sit at a distance and evaluate the effect the height has on the artwork. Whilst you are in this position, take a moment to evaluate the furniture or possible distractions around the paintings to decide if it a good placed for it to be hung. If you are hanging your painting above furniture or a TV, hanging it a bit closer to said furniture can sometimes have a complementary effect, where all the pieces work with rather than against each other, making a cohesive whole. However, this effect tends to only work for art that is on the larger, rather than smaller, side.
Finding a Frame
You may also want to consider framing your art before hanging it, though make sure beforehand that this is compatible with your budget. The easiest options are the sophisticated black and white frame, which can suit a wide variety of styles and hues. If you are unsure about which frame will complement your art the most, start with one of these two options. You may want to frame each piece in either all black or all white, or mix up the colours. It’s possible to leave some unframed for a more rough and reckless vibe. You may think leaving artwork unframed is foolish or a missed opportunity, but this is simply a common misconception. Not only does all art not need to be framed, some artwork is worse off because of a frame! You can mount canvas paintings in a way to leave the edges exposed for something a little different.
However, if you are definitely wanting a frame then you must begin by determining the kind of style and genre your painting falls under. If you have a more traditional piece then your frame should reflect and complement that – go for something like a wood frame or a more expensive gold or silver one, to add to the sense of history and mystery. More contemporary art could benefit from a simple frame. You can also find frames that combine these two, if you are wanting the best of both worlds and are unsure of which style of frame to commit to. The great benefit of a frame is that is makes it easier to mount art on the walls, or at least easier than if the art was not framed. Don’t be afraid to shake up your interiors, place some contemporary frames and art in a more traditional room, and vice versa. Whilst it is tempting, try to avoid going for the same frame for each and all of your pieces – it gives off the impression of being repetitive and uninspired. Mixing up styles, sizes and colours when it comes to frame can reap great rewards, and add a personal touch to your décor.
If you have a large piece, a larger frame would go well with it, as well as a smaller, or less wide, frame for a smaller piece of art. If the painting itself is bright and lively, it wouldn’t be wise to choose a frame that is bright and lively also, as the entire piece will become too overcrowded. Try and achieve a pleasant balance between busy and quiet. Frames can also help dress up what might be a mediocre piece of art. If you can’t afford to go for the more expensive pieces, consider framing a cheaper piece to make it look like hot property! This is a great option for those interested in being more cost-effective, or who maybe have only begun to experiment with paintings as décor.
So there you are, these were some tips on what kind of paintings and art styles may be the right ones for you, and how to display them in your home in the most effective manner possible. Now of course, decorating with paintings can be very expensive indeed, so it is advisable to go for testers and tasters and to shop around to make sure you have picked the perfect pieces for the perfect price. If you already know you want to use paintings as wall décor, then use the options above to decorate on a budget, with the same going for if you rent rather than own your property. Happy decorating!