How To Design A Room With Art

When approaching the interior design of a space, paint chips and fabric swatches may be the first things that leap to mind, but the pros know what holds it all together: art. Rather than a decorative afterthought, art is a key component in building a visually cohesive and emotionally stimulating atmosphere you’ll want to keep coming back to. But for most of us, integrating art with a room elicits a number of vexing questions. To get answers we reached out to some of the industry’s most recognizable experts.

“The first thing people should understand is that art is an essential layer to the overall sensibility to a space,” declares Thom Filicia, founder of Manhattan design firm Thom Filicia, Inc. and a leading voice on interior style. “It brings a lot of personal aesthetic and point of view; it’s a creative way to bring a vitality and soul to a space.”

When first starting out, consider the room’s dimensions, lighting (natural or artificial), and its most striking vantage points. Then, choose the wall—often near a focal point like the couch or a fireplace—that will make the boldest statement. Designer Amy Lau, whose work has appeared everywhere from the New York Times to HGTV, likes to get a sense of how things will look by putting up templates of the art first.

Now it’s time to think about the work itself. Mix mediums by placing things like photography alongside painting and even sculpture to create a visual language that reflects your personal tastes. And don’t be afraid of including a disparate piece to add richness and complexity. “I certainly don’t look for art that matches a room,” remarks Jamie Drake, a member of Interior Design magazine’s Hall of Fame.

Philip Gorrivan, a regular fixture on the industry’s “Top” lists, suggests hanging in groupings or salon-style to maximize art’s dramatic qualities. But keep them out of direct sunlight, especially works on paper. “When you buy art it’s your responsibility to maintain and protect it,” he says.

Don’t forget proper framing, which can make or break a piece, and avoid the common pitfall of using art to, as Filicia puts it, “make your sofa pop.” “Whether it’s expensive or inexpensive, you have to be emotionally connected,” he wisely advises.

And finally, make sure it’s at the right level (typically, 60”). “Things can often be hung inappropriately, height-wise,” says Lau. Gorrivan agrees, “There’s a way to hang art to create the most visual pleasure and impact.” We couldn’t agree more.

By: Michael Dougherty