Beginner’s Guide to Decorating with Artwork

Not everyone is born with the innate understanding of how to choose and display good art. Maybe you’ve seen pictures of beautifully designed rooms with fantastic wall art, but when it comes to your space, you just can’t figure out what would look “right”. Or maybe you have a collection of art, but you don’t know how to display it so that it looks cohesive and complementary.

Never fear! This is your quick beginner’s guide to decorating with artwork. Stick with these basic tips, and you’ll be able to transform your space into one of those magazine-quality rooms in no time.

Choosing Art

The first tip, and probably only hard “rule”, is to buy what you love. Of course, art collectors can dive deeper into color theory, theme and history, but at the end of the day, you have to live with this art. You have to look at it every day. Only buy something if it makes your space feel the way you want it to – whether that’s happy, calm, energized, or cozy.

Don’t try to buy all your art at one time. If you want to create a gallery of beautiful pieces eventually, it’s best to start with one main focus piece, and then build the rest of the gallery over time. And while it’s not a good idea to make all of your art match all of your furniture and other décor, these smaller gallery pieces are perfect for tying your room together. Consider the style of your space, what other colors you have in the room, and if there are any motifs you want to echo (such as peppers in the kitchen, or flowers in the bedroom).

Displaying Art

The number one thing you can do to get rid of the juvenile poster feeling, and upgrade your space into an art lover’s gallery, is to frame your artwork. There are two main schools of thought when it comes to frames: either make your entire gallery match for a professional look (usually using minimal black or white frames), or utilize different styles, shapes, colors, and sizes for an eclectic look. Use matting to keep your artwork looking professional no matter which method you choose.

When it comes to how you hang your art, the sky is the limit. In general, most art looks better when hung with other art. Some prefer to create grid-like rows and columns of artwork, while others fill in space with frames however they’ll fit. You can experiment first on the floor, or try taping up paper that has been cut in the shape and size of your frames to see how things will look before you drill holes. Be sure that you don’t hang art too high, unless you’re trying to fill in space above a doorway. Most art should be hung so that the viewer can inspect it without looking up.

Caring for Art

To keep your artwork looking great for years to come, there are a few basic things you’ll need to do to care for it. Be sure that the matting used under glass frames is acid-free, archival quality. Avoid hanging any photographs or painted art, no matter how it is framed, in direct sunlight. Save those spaces for metal work or other types of art.

Painted canvases are not typically framed under glass so they will gather dust over time. Carefully wipe oil paintings with a damp cloth (one that has been dampened with water only, no cleaners). If the painting is acrylic, you’ll need to use a soft brush or feather duster instead of a cloth, to get rid of dust.

Finally, don’t forget to have fun and try new things if your artwork doesn’t make you feel at home. The personal connection you feel with the art is far more important than any design tip.


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