Design lesson: Artful choices
Relate the art to the size of the wall or to a piece of furniture. A painting that's wider than the item beneath it can feel off-balance. A diminutive treasure floating on a large expanse of wall looks lost. Make a statement by hanging one large canvas or photo in a prime position. That creates a focal point where a natural one, say a fireplace or bay window, is lacking.
Focused lighting gives a single piece or an entire collection an aura of importance, making it more dramatic and therefore more effective. In a hallway, consider track lighting, which can be directed to shine on favoured pieces. In a formal setting, like over a mantel, opt for a picture lamp.
Grouped pictures should be viewed as one complete unit. Horizontal groupings elongate and emphasize the width of a room, while vertical lines add the illusion of height. A row of pictures hung at eye level can create the illusion of architectural detail.
Hang artwork at eye level, about 65 to 68 inches from the floor. If the artwork is in an area where people are usually seated, place it lower. If one homeowner is taller than the other, consider placing two works one on top of the other to accommodate both eye levels.
Artwork can be hung on the wall for a formal look, or leaned against a wall for a more casual approach. In recent years, the art shelf has emerged, and its practicality has given it real staying power.
Dos and don'ts
DO collect various media. Oil paintings are not the only true art. Consider watercolour, photography and original print processes like etching, silkscreening and lithography. Beware of "limited editions" that number in the hundreds or thousands -- that's not very limited and they're unlikely to have been hand-done by the artist.
DO visit galleries with an open mind. You may envision one large painting over a sofa when a series of works could be grouped for similar impact. A watercolour may be what you had in mind until you get a glimpse of a photographic series.
DO work with respected galleries and don't be afraid to ask questions. Educating yourself is one benefit of the process.
DO choose artwork to mark important occasions -- a trip to Paris, the year a child was born, or the promotion that finally came. Sign the back of the piece to note the occasion.
DON'T match artwork to furniture or visit galleries with your favourite fabric swatches in hand. For a piece to have impact, you should feel emotionally connected to it, and it shouldn't blend into the background.
DON'T let the mat board overshadow the artwork. Its purpose is to separate the artwork from the frame and provide a context in which to view the piece. Never pull a vibrant colour from a painting and use that colour as matting -- classic white or off-white is usually best.
DON'T match frames to furnishings. The frame works solely for the artwork within it.