How to Use Art in Your Home Decor

There is more to the enjoyment of your art than just hanging it on your walls.  Carefully placed, well lit, and working in concert with your home decor, your art can make your abode look more beautiful and feel more inviting to you and your family and guests.  So what is the difference between a random collection of pictures and a well-planned design for your art collection?  Here are a few considerations:

  • Get the scale right – You just can’t put an 8×10 photo or a 16X20 poster above your sofa and expect it to work.  Large blank walls, large architectural elements like fireplaces, and large pieces of furniture like sofas and buffets, need art that is the right size.  There are a range of sizes that will probably be appropriate, but it must be big enough to stand up to the fireplace or sofa.  If it is not, it will look like a postage stamp on the wall.

  • Think about how the work will be viewed – Some works will be viewed from a distance, like above your fireplace.  Some works will be viewed from up close, like in your bathroom.  Be sure that you use your bolder and larger works in places that will show well from a distance.  Your softer and more detailed pieces will shine in places where you can view them up close, like in hallways, bathrooms, and bedrooms.

  • Consider the art’s colors and style along with that of the decor – Don’t select your art like you are selecting a pillow for your sofa.  Avoid color clashes, but let your art  go beyond the color pallette of your room for more interest.  The art should be pleasing in its surroundings, but should not blend in too much because it is the same colors as the rest of the room.
  • Only buy art you love – Don’t buy art because it goes with your couch.  Buy it because you love it.  If you do, you will like it longer and it will still work in your home when you change your decor.
  • Buy the best art you can afford – If  you have a beautiful home and high quality furniture, you should be buying original art.  Posters and prints just don’t compare to original work.  Your art should be of the same quality as your decor.  If your budget doesn’t allow the purchase of originals, there are beautiful and high quality posters and prints available that look great.
  •  Consider flow – Think about how your use your home — how you move through the spaces and where your eyes naturally look.  Those places are great spots for displaying art.  The blank wall that faces the front door, the end of the hallway,  the wall above the toilet in the bathroom, the wall right outside your office door, the little space above your nightstand you look at just before turning in — these are just some of the places in your home that would love a piece of art for you to enjoy.

  • Make art the centerpiece – If you have great art, design your decor around it.  Perhaps neutral floors, paint, and upholstery would serve as a pleasing backdrop for your great art.  Or maybe a single killer piece can be placed prominently to create a focal point that your decor enhances.


  • Think quality, not quantity – In general, fewer larger and better pieces is better than a large number of smaller pieces.  It is easy to collect small works of art.  They are easier to handle.  They fit in your suitcase.  They are less expensive to buy and frame.  However, if all you have are small pieces, they won’t be the right size for those important places in your home – above the sofa, above the buffet, above the mantle, on the dining room wall.  And too many is just too many.  Clutter is not a good look.  You just can’t get the visual impact you want with small works of art.

  • Lighting is huge – The most stunning work of art is wasted in a poorly lit room.  Art needs light to be seen.  Directional lighting (like track lights and recessed directional lights) are best because they are adjustable and really put the focus on your art.    Look around your home for the naturally well-lit places and take advantage of those places to place art.  Check out your lighting store to see your options for retrofitting directional lighting, as well as for picture lights and mantle lights.
  • Relate your art to your furniture and accessories – Much of your art will be hanging above furniture.  Be sure it is hung close enough to the furniture so it becomes a grouping with the furniture and accessories.  The grouping will be better than the individual pieces are separately.

  •  Be a student – These principles will help you use your art to better effect in your home.  You have great resources available to you to inspire your use of art.  Look at the house magazines.  Check out Pinterest.  Go on home tours.  Check out the homes of your friends.  Be discerning.  What works and what doesn’t?  Learn from others’ mistakes.  Steal the best ideas.  Find a friend or framer who has great taste who can help you.
  • Take time to enjoy your art – This is about attention.  Actually take a few seconds once in awhile to look at your art.  Think about the skill and the vision of the artist.  Enjoy the colors and the textures.  Step back and enjoy it in its environment.  Ask someone else what they think of the art and start a conversation.  Enjoy!