When it comes to choosing art for your home, you have two choices: do what everybody else is doing or dare to be different.
Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Plus, how do you know that piece is The One?
This guide features the best tips from an unlikely expert in the field. Read below to discover who am I talking about…
Choosing art for your home is it one of the biggest decoration decisions you’ll make
Eternal sales, irresistible offers, seasonal collections… The home decor industry is adopting the fast-paced consumerist nature of the fashion industry. This means good design is now more democratic and accessible than ever. The downside is the short lifespan of products due to quality and trend-focussed design.
As in fashion, however, some things are timeless — diamonds are forever. The interiors equivalent is art. You don’t change art with passing trends. It’s always part of your home. You can rearrange it, reframe it, but it always has a proud place to be displayed. That’s why it’s an important decision to make. And one that shouldn’t be taken in a rush.
Choosing art for your home is a whole different level above accessories or even large furniture items. Whatever your budget, there are several key points to consider. Today I’m sharing five tips to make it easier for you. First, we need to talk about how this blog post idea came about. I may have to create a new category called “Weird & Wonderful”.
How this blog post idea came about
My Google Docs folder is full of potential blog post ideas I’ve been accumulating for a while. A few make it to the blog and others become newsletter articles (exclusive to subscribers *awkward wink*). One of them is “choosing art for your home”, as requested by Susan from @lazysusanmakes. But I never got to cover it.
A severe lack of inspiration hit me recently. One night, I went to bed thinking about all the possible subjects to write about. It was bothering me. “Have I run out of ideas?” I wondered. Well, let’s just say that night I had a dream. It was strange, vivid and highly educational. I dreamt about my late great-grandmother. And she had a lot to say…
Suddenly there I was, in her huge Madrid apartment. In real life, it’s a 50s block, but in my dream, it was Art déco for some reason. As a true Juan Sandiego dream, she even showed me the architect’s original plans to prove it. Anyway, I was admiring her art and antique collection when she turned around and approached me. She was wearing soft walking shoes — her mobility was impressive.
“Are you into art? Come, I’ll show you the best dealers in town.”
You bet! We visited several art dealers, and she shared a myriad of tips and advice. It was bizarre. There were inconsistencies, though. All the shops and galleries in Madrid had Georgian bow windows. And the streets looked too much like Diagon Alley…
We need to talk about my great-grandmother
My great-grandmother’s name was Maria Luisa, but everybody called her Mamama. Argentinian-born, she lived to the grand age of one hundred and five. I always ask my family “What’s her secret for such a long life?” Apparently, it’s money and not having to work. She lived a good life indeed. Travelling all over the world, back in the day, before mass tourism.
And now, thanks to an unexpected dream visit, we can all learn from her experiences choosing art. Yes, all this knowledge may have been buried in my head already. But it was Mamama who unlocked it all. Besides, these tips definitely bring her unique personality infused via dream waves. Let’s have a look then.
How to choose art for your home (according to my great-grandmother)
Here are Mamama’s golden tips to pick the best art for your home. These guidelines will help you break the preconceptions of what you should or shouldn’t buy.
1.- Become a storyteller
Mamama’s apartment was full of treasures. Travelling was one her passions and wherever she went she snapped her fingers and brought home a souvenir or two. I’m not talking about a tote bag and a fridge magnet, but old-school artisanal souvenirs. Paintings, furniture, accessories… Every piece is connected to a location and a moment in time — it’s a memory.
If an art piece catches your eye is for a reason. Maybe it reminds you of someone or somewhere. There’s a link to an experience. This link is essential. Although it doesn’t have to be in the past. Perhaps you’re curious about the piece itself or fascinated by an artist you’ve never heard of.
There is a story to be told if you feel a connection with art. Mamama said something like “If you can talk about it for ten minutes then buy it”. To be honest, she used to talk a lot about shopping and was good at it. So next time you’re browsing around for art think: is there a link? And if so, what story does the piece tell?
2.- Do what they say you can’t
“Mamama, you can’t cross the road here. Use the zebra crossing further down.” Nope. Off she went, crossing the busy four-lane avenue slowly. “They’ll stop” she used to say. If you asked Mamama to do something she’d do the opposite. I’m certain she couldn’t care less if you didn’t like her art or antique purchases.
Black and white supermodel photography prints are hot right now. If I told Mamama about it she’d look at me with evil eyes and walk away dramatically — slowly, but dramatically. The temptation to do what everybody else is doing is considerable. We want to be part of something. We want to belong. Here, social media is both a blessing and a curse.
She was never one to follow trends. Her apartment was a mixture of old brown furniture with a couple of mid-century modern items and exotic decor. Today, she’d be the queen of eclectic maximalism — and Marie Kondo’s worst nightmare. With art, you want to follow your own rules (and Mamama’s). If it ticks all your boxes, it will last forever.
3.- Extremes are a good thing
Mamama was a woman of contrasts and that reflected in her home decor choices. One day she’d come back from her travels with a massive engraved room divider from China. And another day with a little framed landscape picture from Brazil. How she managed to travel with a room divider I’ll never know. But let’s not forget she was good at giving orders.
When it comes to finding the right art piece for your home you have to think outside the box. A picture on the wall is a classic choice. Don’t stop there though. Try different mediums and scales: from delicate table-top ceramic sculptures to oversized patterned tapestries. There are many ways in which you can enrich a room. And nowadays we have worldwide delivery.
STYLE TIP: “If you like a piece of art, don’t buy it. If you love it, don’t buy it. If you can talk about it for ten minutes, then buy it.” — Mamama
4.- “Safe” art is your enemy
I took my family to Tate Modern a while back and my grandfather found it difficult to digest the permanent collection. In front of a Rothko painting, he exclaimed: “I can do that!” We all rolled our eyes in unison. It turns out your art preferences are linked to your lifestyle views. Does it mean we’re predisposed to like some things instead of others?
Art has to make you wonder, you don’t have to like it at first. See, we’re used to using opposites all the time. “Love it!” versus “Oh, I hate that!” When we look at art, we run the piece through our filters and come out with a conclusion based on good/bad or love/hate options. If you rely on this, you’ll end up with safe and predictable choices.
Instead, avoid using such tags when you’re choosing art. Observe it. How does it make you feel? That’s what you’re looking for, the feeling. Try to translate that feeling into your room. It doesn’t have to be a happy sunny vibe all time. Think about those films that make you sad. Just because they make you feel down doesn’t mean you don’t love those films.
5.- Put quality over quantity
One of my most precious possessions is a translucent glass Art déco ashtray depicting an Amazon. Possibly French but, really, I have no idea. It was Mamama’s and somehow it ended up in my hands. The glass is beautifully carved and catches the light creating an iridescent pattern — hypnotising. And I’m talking about an ashtray! Quality was one of Mamama’s top priorities.
“Can you sell it in ten years?” Here’s another Mamama gem. This point stresses her focus on quality over quantity. We all agree those prints downloaded from Google Images are not the pinnacle of art. Always invest in something you’ll be proud of for life — not a season. Whether you’re looking to spend thousands or fifty pounds, there is something out there for you.
STYLE TIP: No budget for art? Then do it yourself! There is no right or wrong. Source the materials and get experimenting today.
What’s your best tip to choose art for your home?
Hope you found Mamama’s expert tips useful. As you can see, there is no specific advice to be given for choosing art. Now you know the guidelines that will help you open to new ideas. The actual pieces you pick depend on you. And if in doubt, think: what would Mamama do?Want more? Don't miss the subscriber-only articles in the newsletter Join the mailing list