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An interior designer offers 14 tips for choosing art for your home

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There are two schools of thought on choosing great art for your home. Artists and gallery owners tend to promote the idea that if you love a piece, buy it. You will always find a place for it.

Interior designers, on the other hand, look at art as a way to finish or inspire a room. They tune into the art’s scale and colors to make sure they work with the room and its furnishings. To them, even the most generic OTC (Over The Couch) art can work, if the palette and size are right.

That leaves those of us who love art, want a beautiful pulled-together home and don’t have unlimited funds  scratching our heads. Do you buy what you love and not care if it fits in? Or go to the opposite extreme?

I’m optimistic enough to believe you can have art that cuts both ways — if you’re careful. So, when I heard that  interior designer Angela Neel, of Winter Park, Fla., was giving a “How to Marry Art and Interior Design” talk at a local art gallery, I signed up.

“Art is what gives a home its personality,” she said as she launched her informal talk. “It tells the story of those who live there. Without art, a home is just a house.”

She was singing from my hymnal now. Indeed, as far back as the Lascaux Caves in France, circa 17,000 BCE, home dwellers have used their walls to display what mattered to them. Although homes have come a long way since prehistoric cave times — let’s pause to give thanks for flush toilets, central heating and microwaves — that need for artistic expression hasn’t changed.

As Neel spoke, the 20 or so guests nodded in vigorous agreement. The conversation ranged from how to pick art, how to revitalize it and (read this next one twice) when to let it go. Here’s what else Neel said about the marriage of art and home design:

1. Yes, color matters. Although the main reason to acquire art is because it speaks to you, it should also work with your home. “You picked the decor and colors in your home because you liked them, so work with them,” Neel said. “Don’t put a piece of art in warm tones in a room designed with cool colors. Muddy yellow in a gray room never works.”

2. Start with art. If you’re decorating from scratch, starting with a painting you love can be a great foundation.

3. Let your art evolve. Tastes and décor change. Ideally, art does, too. Periodically look at your art and ask whether it’s still working or if you even still like it. Consider whether it’s time to refresh it or re-home it.

4. Break it up. If you have always had the same painting next to your dining room table, try moving it to another room and enjoy seeing it anew.

5. Reframe it. If a piece looks tired, or you’re tired of it, consider reframing. A new frame can revive a stodgy piece and make a traditional piece feel contemporary.

6. Give it up. When a frame won’t salvage the art, it might be time to let it go. “Sometimes art runs its course,” Neel said. Consider passing the piece along to a family member, selling it or donating it to a furniture bank.

7. Experiment with scale. Don’t be afraid to put a big piece on a small wall or in a small room. It can actually make the space feel larger by adding depth.

8. Take your time. Don’t hastily buy art because you want to fill a space. “I would rather see an empty wall than an ugly piece of art,” she said.

9. Mix it up. Serene landscapes, bold abstracts, soft watercolors, sculptures, photography and pencil drawings can and should live successfully in the same home.

10. Gang it up. If you have many smaller pieces, rather than scatter them, unify them on a gallery wall. They can be varied sizes, but should have something in common, such as subject matter, or similar (but not matching) frames. Line the collection up at the bottom to help make it cohesive.

11. Take a risk. Edgy art that reflects you can add a welcome touch of whimsy, she said. “I like unexpected art that makes a statement.”



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