Friday, 12 August 2011

I really wish I’d bought that Banksy...

I have hinted at the importance of artwork in previous blogs, so this week I have decided to do a shorter blog (it is the summer holidays after all...), with a few very practical top tips when thinking about art for the home (particularly wall hanging art, as this represents the majority of art in the home). It is worth bearing in mind that art is not just an important element in the design of a room; if you have a good eye and choose carefully, it can also be a very lucrative investment...

Statement objects and artwork can have a huge impact on the look and feel of a room, especially if they are pieces to which the eye is naturally drawn (to be clear, this doesn’t mean huge sculptures of Greek Gods, tacky family portraits in oil or ‘super contemporary’ paintings that could have been done by a three year old and have no more than a random splash of ‘super bright’ attention grabbing colour - I’m not being critical of contemporary/abstract art - I love Mark Rothko, but give me a tin of blue paint and I could churn those babies out by the truck load - joking!!!). Many designers will in fact design a room with a particular statement object in mind, whether it is a piece of wall hanging art or a sculpture (in honesty, these days it may even be a light or a chair - modern design has very successfully blurred the traditional divide between ‘furniture’ and art).

So, when thinking about artwork for your home as part of the design process, it is worth considering the following:

Consistency: A collection of artwork looks fabulous when linked by scale, style, colour and subject matter (such as black and white photography - in fact, what I am really saying is a series of linked black and white photographs). Consistency can vary room by room throughout the home, but some level of consistency in each definable space is important. Stating the obvious once again, but artwork should also complement the broader style and colour scheme of the space

Scale: Scale plays an important role in the impact and effectiveness of your artwork. For instance, if you have an open (think ‘big’) and airy space (think ‘high ceilings and lots of natural light’), with architectural interest (think ‘properly old and not self adhesive decorative coving’), consider introducing a gigantic piece of statement artwork. A single piece of art in a large space can help strike the perfect balance between the architectural assets of the room and the furniture. You may also want to consider linking it with a series of smaller pieces, grouped separately in another area of the room (to create extra interest and to improve consistency).

Symmetry: Symmetry and asymmetry are important things to bear in mind when displaying pictures. Symmetrical groups of art are a great way to bring greater impact to a room and to emphasise each of the individual pieces, even if each picture is, relatively speaking, quite small (when compared both with the size of the room and the size of other pieces of art elsewhere in the home). Asymmetry can be as equally effective, but it does create a different feel within the space (less formal and less structured). It is very fortunate that asymmetry does work as my husband has found that this is the predetermined outcome when I ask him to hang more than one piece of art (when it comes to DIY, he’s got all the kit, but he’s still sh...)

Cost: Don’t be restricted to (typically pricey) artwork from a gallery. Artwork doesn’t have to cost the world - you can frame anything; maps, postcards, posters, wallpaper, even record sleeves... all of which can be as impactful as something from a gallery (and infinitely more personal). Don’t underestimate how much impact a frame can have when wrapped around an everyday item... All that said, remember, art is also a lucrative investment - so, if you do have some cash, do take the time to investigate the market, compare different pieces and ensure you are adequately equipped to make an informed choice

Framing: The way in which you frame a piece of art (or everyday object) has a huge impact on whether it will be successful and effective in your home. Good framing enhances your pictures, while bad framing just, well... looks bad (and, worse still, cheap). Perfect framing enhances your picture and draws the eye to the image. For example, consider framing an ‘arty’ postcard - it will be far more impactful if you use a large mount which draws your eye to the postcard in the middle of a blank space than if you use a frame the size of the card. Also remember that frames are meant to complement your artwork. Don’t let the frame overwhelm the image.

Hanging: In general, artwork should be hung so that the centre point of the picture or grouping is at about eye level for the average person (I say average person very deliberately as my hubby and I are not the tallest people in the world, so if we followed the eye level guide for us our art would be nailed to the skirting board). While this principle won't be possible in every situation, it's a fairly good rule of thumb to bear in mind. However, you should also think about how pictures interact with the furniture and objects around them - in some circumstances it may be worth forgetting hanging convention and positioning your artwork low over a console so that it is ‘read’ by the eye as a group with the furniture around it and display items on it. Stating the obvious once more, but artwork and photographs framed and propped up on shelves or fireplaces offer an informal way of displaying art and can look very effective when combined with other objects.

Below are a few examples of interiors where the artwork has a real impact on the feel of the space...


Image from Houzz By Ed Ritger Photography

Image from Matt Martino
Image from Style Files by Andyland
Image from B&B Italia

Image from Adriane Strampp By Sean Fennessy

So, what’s the story behind the Banksy? Well, a number of years ago my husband saw a Banksy he really liked for sale in a gallery for about £9k (expensive, but not silly if bought as an investment). In honesty, it probably could have looked pretty good in our study (‘could’ being the operative word), but I dug my (Jimmy Choo) heels in at the time because I wasn’t completely sure and we didn’t buy it... the very same Banksy is now worth more than £150k... Complete disaster and something my husband will not let me forget (as he still wants a Banksy but can’t actually afford it)! I should have just redesigned the study around the art, but then hindsight is a truly wonderful thing... at least the heels weren’t damaged.

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