When displaying art at home, all of the designers we asked agreed on one thing: Never buy a piece of art that you’re not absolutely in love with. “It’s all about longevity,” says Anne Smith of June Roesslein Interiors. “If you’re going to live with something for many, many years, you want to purchase something that you love.”
Once you’ve got that piece that you adore, the question becomes slightly more nuanced: How should it best be displayed? Here, all sorts of concerns come into play, from the placement to the lighting, and often framing of a piece. Anne O’Callaghan of Interior Makeovers says her first question to clients is, What room do you use the most? “That’s where their favorites need to be.” She takes the scale and proportion into account, always making sure the most important piece becomes the focal point of the room. “Many people don’t have a fabulous oil painting that they can put over their mantel,” she says. “If not, I try to get them to invest in that one thing, and add a light that shines on it.” She notes that the best height for artwork is usually centered at about 60 inches, and it should be low enough that it relates to nearby furnishings. With these aspects taken into account, she says a great piece with a high quality frame “can elevate the entire feeling of the room.”
Joie DiMercurio of Enchanting Embellishments agrees. “Quantity is not a look; quality is,” he notes. He adds that artwork is very personal, and it should be the last thing that is placed in a room. “It gives you the feel of the look you’re going for.” He gives the example of two residences at The Chase Park Plaza that he designed to meet his clients’ tastes—one in contemporary style, the other in Old World English. “It’s like walking into a very old English home, even though it’s a condo,” he says. The design used elegant crystal chandeliers, lots of wallpaper and oil paintings in heavy, gilded frames. In the contemporary home, the foyer was done in all black and white, with monochromatic artwork in black, white, grays and silver.
Of course, not all of the artwork in a home has to be expensive, and there are plenty of creative ways for families to display personal photos and prints. Pamela Calvert of Savvy Surroundings says the key to making family photos look their best is in the display. “You want to intentionally make it look like you have a living room of gallery art.” She suggests choosing a large wall on which to create a huge frame, and then placing a ‘family album’ of photos with matching frames inside it. This technique can also work well in a stairway.
A collection of three-dimensional objects also can be elevated when a little thought is given to the display. Calvert says she has used groupings of 8-inch by 8-inch wall boxes to display heirlooms such as a vase that was passed down from a client’s grandmother. Similarly, Smith tells of a client who needed a home for a collection of glasswork. She placed items intermittently throughout the house, but the majority was housed in the hearth room. “We built an entire wall unit that held the TV, and had shelving for the pieces of art,” she notes, adding that while all of the artwork in a home doesn’t have to match, there needs to be some coordination. “Designers are all about flow and continuity; we coordinate and bring things together.” LN