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Interior Design Art is Personal but Rules Apply

by Carlene Duffy
Posted: September 21, 2015

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Sourcing interior design art for clients can be challenging as your personal style may be different. Our Interior Design expert Carlene Duffy shares her tips on getting the balance right. 

Through the help of design and renovation television shows; an increase in interiors blogs; and of course, social media outlets such as Instagram and Pinterest, Australians are becoming increasingly houseproud. 

We are looking at our homes with more consideration and assessing blank walls more critically. Luckily for us, purchasing art is not what it used to be, limited and a luxury. We are fortunate to live in a time where art is accessible and affordable. 

Now, I’m not an art expert or art critic, I’m a decorator and stylist and while I am mostly drawn to a piece for unexplained reasons, as to whether I purchase it or not is often influenced by the piece in relation to my home. (Hot tip: Keep an eclectic home, so that you’re never restricted in this situation).

Sourcing art for clients is trickier again and in fact, because art is so subjective, it is probably one of the most difficult items to buy for someone else. There are a few ‘rules’ to apply to help you achieve the best outcome for your wall treatment.

1. Love and commitment go hand in hand

Interior design art decoration by Carlene Duffy, The Block

I feel like some people incline towards abstract art for the same reason they paint a feature wall a colour they love rather than just paint the whole room. My theory is it’s about being noncommittal and possibly being more motivated by what other people will think of your space rather than being driven by what you love.  

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t appreciate an abstract piece of art. But I'm saying, choose it because it resonates with you and not because you are concerned that a more figurative piece is saying something more overt.

I used to incline towards abstract pieces because I was ‘creeped’ out by faces hanging on my wall. I’m happy to say I overcame this issue and it has opened up my art options immeasurably. 

2. Size it up

Consider really well the piece of art you want to hang in relation to the size of the wall it will hang on because like rugs, people are often inclined to go too small. Your piece needs to really fill the space, if not with one piece then with multiple pieces in a cluster/gallery style.

Your art will command a wall more if the proportions are right and the alternative risks the piece becoming dwarfed and losing impact. If necessary, consider specifying a wider-than-normal mat when framing. It'll give the piece that extra width and height you might need.

Want to build up your specialist interior decoration skills? Get the expertise and skills you need to succeed, here.

3. The right frame is art’s best friend

Professional framing can often cost more than the art itself, which many people can find incredibly off-putting. However, the big retailers are catching on to our need to make our homes beautiful and are stocking a bigger and better range of ready-made frames.

If you decide to have a piece professionally framed which, sometimes we’re forced to or simply want to, be explicit with your framer in what you want. It can sometimes be difficult convincing your framer that you want a simple, narrow frame, white mat, no coloured borders, and no fancy tricks.

Not only is this the least expensive way to go, it also gives your art the opportunity to shine. If you are buying a stretched canvas pay the extra dollars to have it box framed. It may cost you a couple of hundred more but the outcome will look like much more than that.

4. Photos; there is a how and where

About ten years ago, personal photos blown up and printed onto canvas became the new thing to do. Now (and there’s no diplomatic way to put this), it is just bad taste. This is not to say you shouldn’t display photos on your walls but if you are going to do it, do it in style.

Print them at a respectable 8x10 size (or thereabouts), frame them (don’t forget the mat board) and hang them together, gallery style, on your stair wall or hallway. Let them tell a story as a combined effort.

You can have some uniformity by using matching frames or for an eclectic look mix it up with old and new frames in different colours and sizes. Framed photos are a million times more sophisticated than photos on a stretched canvas scattered in every room of your house.

And ladies, as for glamour photos or wedding lingerie shots, they are for a special spot, in an album under your bed.

5. Be discrete

You will have probably heard the idea that when decorating your room pull out the colours from your art. While this is not bad advice, how you interpret this notion can make or break a space.

Reference one or two of the least obvious colours in the art so that you don’t risk saturating the room in one or two colours and it all becoming a bit matchy-matchy. The colour of your frame might also come into play here.

For example, if you have chosen a black frame (and I’m assuming you’ve done so because it complements the art), consider the black frame in the accents you use in the room.

6. Think outside the square

I’ve worked out that there is little that doesn’t look better framed. I have been known to frame fabric simply because it’s pretty and because I know it will otherwise sit in my wardrobe unappreciated. Tea towels, crochet, jewellery can all be framed and used for art, and beautiful clothing is a perfect wall-filler.

I hang on one of my bedroom wall’s a red silk kimono covered in cherry blossoms that Michael (hubby) bought me in Japan (where we met). It fulfils two roles:

  • It looks good
  • It has sentimental value.

In my daughter, Stella’s room I hang beautiful crocheted outfits made by my Grandmother (her great-grandmother) that she has never worn but are valuable to me for the hours of work that I know have gone into them.

Interiors are demonstrating increased diversity and eclecticism and of course, there are exceptions to almost every rule so let’s consider these said ‘rules’ to art more guidelines. In any case, pay some careful consideration to your art choice, framing and hanging because a bare wall is still better than a bad wall.

Thinking of a career in Interior Design? Read all about what you can expect from the profession in this infographic here


Carlene Duffy

Carlene is best known as one half of Michael and Carlene Duffy; the down to earth Gold Coast couple who shared their highs and lows with Australia on 9’s series The Block ‘Glasshouse’. The dynamic duo also featured in Renovation Rumble, and have together established their business ‘Cedar & Suede’.

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