Art Makes the Space 

Art: The game changer that can make your space sing

Article by Donna Hoffman

Photography by Peter Rymwid Architectural Photography

Originally published in Newtown City Lifestyle

What do all the beautiful rooms on your Pinterest boards have in common with the fabulous spaces in your Houzz idea book or favorite Instagram feed?

So, that’s a trick question. 

All the room images that get you dreaming and excited have a lot in common, to include excellent and cohesive professional design. That alone explains why they’re being saved to pinboards in the first place. 

But aside from great design, one of the key elements fabulous rooms share, regardless of design style is this: Every stellar, love-living-here space that captures your design imagination contains on-point wall art.

Art is powerful.

The right wall art can make a space better. The right wall art can transform spaces from meh to amazing. 

The right wall art makes rooms memorable.

Apart from kitchens, which have wall space generally dominated by cabinetry, (or possibly a little open shelving), all of the rooms that make design lovers swoon contain wall art that has been strategically selected and placed. 

Every design pro understands the power of wall art and the importance to include it in the total budget thinking that supports designing any room well. 

Yet for countless super intelligent design enthusiasts, wall art remains one of the most misunderstood, overlooked and underrated design elements.  

Let’s dig deeper.

Wall art has an actual function in your space. It can act in any of these mission critical ways:

  • Hung artwork holds needed visual weight in an area of a room. For example, wall art over your sofa or on a long wall in an open concept plan is adding visual significance or heft to that location.

  • Hung artwork introduces an important new color to a space or reinforces an existing color. For example, hanging an art piece that splashes a new color into a neutral space is driving a visual contrast while hanging a black and white piece in a black and white room is underscoring an existing color palette.  

  • Hung artwork creates a mood in a room, providing either a balance or a counterbalance. For example, an abstract painting hung in a transitional bedroom will make that room feel more modern, yet that same piece hung in a modern bedroom acts to reinforce the existing modern design style.

  • Hung artwork can add a needed texture or form to a room, possibly both. For example, a mirror-framed Chanel perfume bottle print hung in a teenage glam bedroom adds shine, bling and a perfect subject matter. 

Think about it: A boho or farmhouse bedroom will have very different artwork on the walls than a modern bedroom. While the art differs massively in these differing design styles, the arts influenceable power within the room is the same.   

Wall art can push a space into different design directions based solely upon its size, subject matter, color/texture, medium (print, oil, acrylic, photography, mixed media) and frame choice, or possibly not framing.  

The Big Art Mistakes Design Lovers Make

There are 2 very common wall art mistakes that separate the girls from the women in design, the DIY-er from the professional. 

Art Mistake #1 is not having any artwork in a room. Spaces filled with naked walls will forever look undone and cold. Even uber modern, uber minimalist spaces have some type of wall art perspective. 

Does every inch of wall call for hung artwork? Not even remotely. 

The art to selecting and hanging art (forgive the pun) is selectively strategizing where visual weight is needed versus where empty space, or “negative space”, is needed. 

Art Mistake #2, which is equally problematic, is hung artwork that is the wrong size for its location.  

The rule of thumb I teach to get artwork proportion correct is this: Wall art should be selected in size AND hung in position relative to the thing it sits above, next to or near.

Read that last paragraph again, it’s that important. 

Proportion mistakes are massively common, particularly wall art that is too small for its location. 

Do You Need A Trust Fund to Have Great Wall Art?

I have the pleasure of designing for private clients in beautiful residences, as well as teaching DIY design enthusiasts around the country who are decorating on their own. I share this to emphasize that I see all manner of budgets and so much is possible within all of them. 

Art costs do vary by city, region of the country and how collectable an artist might be. With this in mind, let’s break the art world (wall art), into a 3-tiers: entry level, mid-level and upper level. General price guidance given is for the Bucks County, PA region.

Entry Level: In the entry level, pieces range from $24-$1,500.

Sometimes called bridge price point artwork, these are mass-produced pieces delivered at a price people want. Framing costs can account for more than 50% of the price.

Entry level art will generally be prints, photography or giclés, which are images printed onto stretched canvas.  

This artwork is generally not original, however in the middle to upper end of this price point, it’s possible to find some small original pieces in certain galleries. But if you’re looking for something sizable, 36” wide or more, you won’t find original work in this price range.

Mid-Level: In the realm of mid- level artwork, you’ll find wall art pieces ranging in cost from $2,000-$5,000.

With this budget, you’re able to look at original art and in all manner of mediums, styles, subject matter and sizes.

From oils and acrylics to watercolors, to mixed media and more, a whole world opens to you. Larger pieces will often command a higher prince, but not always. It depends upon the artist.

Upper-Level: Here prices can be $6,000 and up. A piece by an accomplished and living artist whose work sells regularly can go for up to $25,000 in Bucks County, though a recent trip to a Palm Beach gallery uncovered prices ranging from $10,000-$30,000. Again, artist popularity, size and region of sale affects pricing.

A favorite gallery owner Tamara Cannon, Curator of Gallery Piquel in New Hope and Lambertville, offered this regarding mid and upper level art costs: “When clients ask me if something is a good investment my answer is always this: While historically, fine art has often been an excellent investment, the truth is that if you buy a piece that gives you joy, it will enrich your life for years to come. Buy what you love!”

I agree. Do you need a trust fund to have a great outcome in your home? No.

When it comes to fantastic results with art in any space, no matter the price point, remember this: It’s about the right art, correctly selected and properly placed that is the game changer that can make your space sing.

About Donna Hoffman: A multi-award-winning Bucks County based designer, Hoffman’s company, Interiors by Donna Hoffman, specializes in new construction, renovation, whole home and full room design, delivering livable luxury to discerning clients. Seen in Forbes, Real Simple, TV and radio, she’s considered a design thought leader. Also called the nation’s #1 design coach, Donna founded, to provide on-line courses that empower DIY’ers across the country. Follow @idhdesigns 

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