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Thinking Differently about Art

By Kate MacLeary on Aug 08 2014

It’s easy to get programmed into the mindset that paintings and pictures should be hung - just so - at a certain level or paired together a very uniform, traditional way. We are all guilty of becoming stuck in a rut of hanging our eye-catching pieces in obvious places such as above a mantlepiece or console table. After all, in traditional interior design, this look is both classic and effective. It works, so why mess with it? Because thinking differently about art can be completely transformative and has the potential to totally change the feel of a space. Here are some tricks to try yourself at home:

1) Create a bold, unexpected look

In Kate and Andy Spade’s apartment, this unusual piece of art transforms the room from a sophisticated, classic but potentially sedate space into a fun scheme full of personality, adding a tongue-in-cheek, edgy vibe. Better still, the pop of yellow performs a double duty by picking up the accent colours of the soft furnishings.

By running similar prints through the apartment, consistency is created, making the rooms feel playful yet cohesive.

Traditional antique oil portraits interspersed with fun, blown up, modern portrait photography? Sure, why not! This look is whimsical but totally works.

I love the interior design schemes by U.S designer Ryan Korban. These design elements might not be the right fit if you regularly have your Great Aunt over for afternoon tea but the look definitely embraces the bold and unexpected!

2) Use a composition of artwork to distract the eye from unsightly objects.

Ah, the good old black box. Most of us have a TV and yes, there are some pretty slick models on the market but ultimately, a television in an otherwise beautiful room is often an eyesore. The trick is not to necessarily hide the TV completely (though by all means do so if you can) but to take the edge off it’s solid black form by grouping other pieces around the set.

You can see from the images above just how successful cleverly placed art can be in distracting the eye. The idea is that visually, you are so busy taking in the cool images, that the TV isn’t the first thing your eyes go to. Painting the wall behind in a dark hue also helps to take the edge off.

By placing one or two items behind the television set as above, a layer effect is created so although the TV lis still visible, the harsh effect of it is lost.

In this example, the pairs of chairs and lamps add to the look, transforming this functional desk into a chic part of the scheme. Crucially, it takes a minute to figure out that this is indeed a desk rather than a glamorous console table. Super clever!

3) Create a gallery wall.

Why stop at one painting when you can bunch together a whole load of gorgeous pieces? This look does not need to cost the earth. Consider printing out images online and framing in cheap IKEA frames, adding charity shop finds or framing treasured greeting cards and fun postcards. The more personal the better - find images that resonate with you and go for it!

Another neat trick is not to restrict your gallery wall space to the living room. A well considered gallery wall can add instant personality to a bedroom or has the potential to completely define a tricky space like a narrow hallway as in the example above. Take this a step further and create a gallery in an unexpected space like a bathroom or kitchen for a guaranteed taking point.

4) Try taking art down to floor level

Think outside the box. A great way to create a quirky, cool atmosphere that makes your pad feel down to earth can be achieved simply by placing prints and pictures on the floor rather than hanging them more formally on the wall.

Take this example from photographer and designer Piero Gemelli’s apartment. The way art is casually propped against the floor, atop piles of magazines feels cool and informal, yet the effect is equally as striking, if not more so than the same pieces hung on the wall. Note the placement in relation to the seating areas- much of the art is at eye level when seated, allowing people to properly take in the images while seated. Genius!

Similarly, look at this great example of bringing art down to floor level. Many of these prints are inexpensive but the effect looks effortlessly chic and super glam. Not only does this composition look fantastic in its own right but also cleverly distracts the eye from the utilitarian ventilation unit underneath the window.

Finally, this oversized monochrome print, casually propped against the wall pulls the entire scheme together.

5) Layer, layer and layer some more.

I think you get the idea... but in all seriousness, layering art is such an easy and effective trick. It adds crucial texture and dimension to a design scheme which instantly makes a space more intriguing.

Take this as an example. This wall of pictures above is so beautiful and mesmerising. By keeping a monochrome palette, the effect of the layering becomes even more dramatic.

The bold artistic statement in this St. Petersburg apartment is quite simply stunning and again uses the idea of propping art on the floor as before, whilst layering the piece with other items to create texture. Another aspect I love, which I’ve used myself at home, is layering the artwork alongside empty frames and using the negative space as a feature - surprisingly effective!

The layered works in this image including pieces of mesh metal and wood are the perfect pairing with the industrial features of this loft warehouse apartment.

6) Supersize!

Be bold and supersize art. No matter whether you have high or low ceilings, striking pieces that take up a large area of the wall space will always make an eye catching statement.

I love the grouping of super sized art in florist Nikki Tibbles' London home. Not forgetting the huge striking canvas in the adjoining room which adds a lively twist to the scheme.

The bedroom above illustrates that the artwork doesn’t need to showcase bold colours to make a big impact.

Here the conscious use of colour adds a serene feel and provides definition to the space.

Not sure which way to turn in respect of images? Why not take a fashion inspired approach like these examples above. You can always rely on some trusty copies of Vogue to inject some much needed style onto a plain wall!