Whether you’re planning a quick revamp or a complete overhaul, here’s how art can complete the picture…
1. Choose what you love...
As Hang-Up’s Founder and Director Ben Cotton says, “Art is personal and my advice to anyone buying a piece has always been to buy the work you really like and not the work you think you should.” You need to love what’s on your walls, not just learn to live with it, so (whether it goes with your sofa or not) the first question to ask when buying is “will I be happy to see this every day?”. Go for pieces that bring you joy – whether they remind you of a particular time or place, wow you with technical mastery, or just make you giggle. As the artist KAWS (real name, Brian Donnelly) told Architectural Digest a few years ago, “I just collect what I love and hope to find a place for it to be visible.”
What you love needn’t be expensive pieces by big names. At the Los Angeles home of fashion maven Anine Bing, drawings by her children are framed alongside Terry O’Neill prints, while in the living room of style icon Jenna Lyons, a Cy Twombly sketch hangs near a gigantic, glittering number ten left over from her son’s birthday. Then there’s Ed Sheeran, who finds happiness in something totally different. During a 2017 episode of the BBC Radio Four programme Desert Island Discs, he had this to say about his favourite Harland Miller piece: “I’ve got pretty much the most offensive word huge in my house. That is something I really like.”
2. Size matters...
Whether you live in a mansion flat or modern house, the size of your space will determine what you put on the walls to some degree. A small piece will get lost in a big room with high ceilings, throwing the proportions off balance. Conversely, a very large piece in a small, blank space can make it feel cramped and crowded.
Many designers recommend covering around two thirds of your chosen wall with a painting, but there are times when the cost implications make this impractical. In this situation, the salon hang is your friend. “I’ve always liked the French-style 'salon hang’ where a cluster of smaller pictures are hung together,” says Cotton. “We use salon hangs at the gallery to fill a large wall where a single, smaller painting may become lost, and I do the same at home too.”
Do your research: galleries provide excellent inspiration for hanging schemes – from our own minimalist surrounds to the jammed-to-the-rafters approach of The Dulwich Picture Gallery, via the architectural vision of Marseille’s Mucem. But remember that rules are made to be broken, too – if you have a large tiled area in a bathroom or loo for example, a tiny picture can add impact and intrigue and break up the colour. If you want to lighten the atmosphere of a room with a formal design scheme or ornate cornicing and ceiling roses, hanging a piece of an unexpected size or shape slightly off-centre can prevent it all from becoming overpowering. And, if you want to make things feel less formal in just about any room, consider propping art up on the floor or atop a cabinet for a casual feel.
3. Mix It Up
Interiors have come a long way since the matchy-matchy bathrooms and three-piece suites of the 20th-century. These days, mixing styles and eras is seen as the best way to create an authentic home. Hang-Up’s Gallery Manager Laura Rivas Lopez advises, “Never be afraid of hanging modern pieces next to more classic ones. If you love the artworks, mixing the styles will always give you a great effect.”
Combining the old and new on a gallery wall will reflect your taste and character better than lots of visually similar pieces. Broaden this concept to work across an entire home to create a more holistic feel than if the art was a paean to one particular era. Hotels can be great sources of inspiration for this. At Hampshire’s Heckfield Place (a converted country pile that’s an Instagram favourite) the owner’s extensive art collection is showcased to great effect: monochrome photos line shelves opposite Impressionist-style still-lifes, and botanical prints face-off with modern tapestries and David Spiller paintings. The Parker Palm Springs, a celeb hangout in the Californian desert, has an entirely different vibe but a similar approach. Amid the mid-century architecture (the hotel was once the first Holiday Inn in America), the Jonathan Adler-designed interior features gallery walls of Chinese lanterns and African masks alongside retro portraits and bright contemporary pieces.
4. Be practical
You’ve decorated your room and sourced your art – don’t let the frame ruin your hard work. Hang-Up’s Business Development Manager Charlotte Bain recommends keeping it simple. “Framing fashions change and going for something fairly plain will help to keep your piece timeless. You can also future-proof pieces by spending a little more on UV protection, or go one step further with museum grade, which adds non-reflective glaze to eliminate a mirrored effect.”
Think about positioning from a practical standpoint, too. “My number one piece of advice is never to hang an artwork in direct sunlight, even if you have used a UV protective glazing,” says Bain. Though UV glass limits the effects, continuous bright sunshine will cause your artwork to fade over time. Instead, hang your pieces in shady corners and save the sunny spot for plants or pieces of furniture, which will create interest through shadows.
If your art is hanging in a dark spot, pay attention to lighting. You could direct swivelling spotlights towards a piece from the ceiling, make a statement with a tall lamp or go the whole hog and add a picture light just above the frame. Whichever option you choose, use low-heat LED bulbs if possible and check that your light source is far enough away to prevent damage (you can do this by holding your hand near your picture and feeling the temperature).
Keep an eye on humidity levels as well: “Artwork (especially works on paper) hates damp! Save it from damage or from going ‘wavy’ by hanging in a room with plenty of ventilation and away from places that are cold and dank,” says Bain.
For more inspiration check out our 'At Home' highlight on instagram. If you’d like to talk to us about choosing a piece for your home, feel free to get in touch. We’d be glad to help!