Starbuck Designers, Inc.

Art In Interior Design: A Joy Forever


Art, for the artist, is a form of personal expression. For those who purchase art, it may recollect memories of a person, subject, time, place, or location. Art often evokes emotions, tells a story, or adds beauty. Sometimes it provides controversy or whimsy. But how do you choose art to decorate and personalize your interior spaces? The answer is simple. In purchasing art, collect and decorate with what you love.

The principle of scale is the single most important consideration in using art decoratively. Choose art because you love it and hang it with the scale of the room in mind. If an interior space is substantial and the furnishings large, the accessories should be appropriately sized. We often think of contemporary style as being larger, bolder, and go with the concept that "less is more." It is easy to acknowledge and bend this rule of scale by grouping smaller things together to create a unified bolder presentation in balance with the rest of the room.

Suppose, for example, that a client enjoys Southwestern paintings and that other room selections are made to complement that theme. Hanging together pieces of similar subject matter, feeling, or color are ways to unify a mixed grouping of different sizes, media, and theme. A wall of landscapes, grouping of floral themed paintings, or scenes from a particular city showcased together within a room or grouping would be examples of unified art themes. The manner of presentation such as choices in matting and framing are also considerations in unifying pieces of different sizes, formats, and subject.

Many prefer an eclectic mix of furnishings in their homes. They enjoy the counterpoint created between the richness of wood furnishings, the soft elegant comfort of rugs, drapery, and fabric covered upholstery, and art of different styles and periods to add interest and personalize the interior. The art in a room is very much like the jewelry an individual selects. It is very personal. While clients can be advised about arrangements of scale and size, a preference of one good painting over another is like the difference between selecting a raspberry or chocolate dessert. They are both wonderful and the judgment of which is best is truly a personal opinion. The juxtaposition of elegant antique furniture with fresh contemporary or transitional art is very exciting as is the opposite equation of tailored contemporary minimal interiors with additions of fine traditional art.

Medium is always a consideration as well. Which is best...oil or acrylic paint on canvas or watercolor, engraving, or printing on paper? Each has its advantages and it is important to make sure that pieces are framed in a non-acidic archival manner to preserve the investment. In selecting for a particular room, art presented under glass sometimes crates a problem with glare in certain locations. Oil or other matte media would be a better choice where this is a consideration. Humidity within the home and direct sunlight should also be considered when placing art. Locations within a home and within a room, along with lighting conditions, are important givens in how to best display art.

The best advice is to buy what you love. It's not the things we love and purchase that we regret but rather the ones we pass over and later wish we had not. As John Keats once wrote, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

©2013 John D. Starbuck, Jr.

[Reprinted from Nashville Arts Magazine.]