The ART of ART

Key to successful interior design, Artwork is one of Beasley & Henley’s FIVE FOUNDATIONS of Good Design.  

Artwork serves both an emotional and practical function in a space, tying the space together and bringing unity to sometimes disparate elements.  The color, subject matter, theme, even the framing, are critical to the completion of the design and to creating a focal point where a room’s colors and elements coalesce.

Artwork can do this subtly by carefully coordinating colors and styles with the environment or it can be done in a very bold fashion with artwork that seems in contrast with the environment.

Remember that like everything else, artwork is subject to trends.  Its colors can come into or go out of fashion, an artist can be more or less popular, a style might be all the rage – for the time being.  Trends will just eat up your money, so unless you are a serious investor, just buy the art because you like it and it fits your design purpose.

Here are some of the things that we look for when selecting artwork:

The Tie-In: Artwork doesn’t have to tie in perfectly to everything but it needs to relate to the overall design of a space either in theme or color.

Contrast and Friction: Contrast can also be a tie in and add Friction or interest to the design.  A monochromatic room with bold bright artwork is an example, or visa versa.

Framing:  Framing is an important part of the artwork and is part of the color scheme of the room. The color tones of the frame should be appropriate, the matting complimentary to the artwork and the room, the size of the frame and matting are important in relation to artwork.

Non-Art:  When a space has too much artwork, we use ‘Non-Art’ such as a  sculptural piece, a tapestry or some other design element that is not made up of paint, paper and a frame.

As with most creative endeavors, the attempt to put hard and fast rules on the use of artwork will fail.  However, there are some common errors that do-it-yourselfers and even bad designers make that should be avoided. Here are some examples we found on the internet:

Don’t hang it high!  This is the #1 most common error. Artwork should be hung at eye level.  Even if you have a collection of many pieces taking up a large portion of a wall, keep the center point at eye level.

Below: The artwork in this picture is hung too high and the pieces are underscaled. It also has no relationship to anything in the room. One solution would be to move the two pieces to the narrow wall and stack them.Reframing would make them appear larger with more substantial matting.  Over the bed the large mirror could be used instead of artwork to enlargent her oom and reeflect the bold colors of the bed.

Too small or too big.   Scale and proportion seem to be a tricky thing in selecting artwork.  A common sight is a regular size living room sofa with an undersized piece of art floating alone on the large wall behind it.   If it is a single piece of art, it should run at least 4/5 of the length of the sofa.  If the art is too small put a larger matte and frame around it to extend the size.No big gaps! The space between the top of your furniture and the bottom of the artwork only needs to be a few inches.

Below: Move the artwork to one side and then add two smaller pieces to balance it. The pieces should be large enough to reach close to the edges of the bench.

Below: The theming of this piece framed in shiny gold makes it an odd selection for this Victorian chaise surrounded by dark woods. A solution to make it look more appropriate is to move it to the lower side of the chaise an add a round piece or a mirror to the other side. I couldn’t resist adding a lamp too…

Too much of the same thing .  Matchy-matchy only works in small does. Keep a variety in color and theme, while maintaining a general tie-in to the environment

Below: This room is matchy-matchy and so is the artwork, except for the gold frames, which don’t match anything. If you can’t donate to charity, then one solution is to lower and level the artwork, and reframe so they blend in.


Cheap framing.Decent framing is expensive so expect to pay.  You can make or break a piece of art by the framing, the matting and the filet you use. Designers use professional frames and so should you.