Making a decision about what kind of painting to put in a living room needn’t be complicated. Allow yourself to integrate a theme that works for you. Find pieces that are similar. Maybe stick to one artist and allow the eye to drift from one work to another, continuing the visual conversation.
You may feel that your theme needs to blend with the room furnishings of the moment. Making your selection of art on this basis does carry a risk.
If you are likely to be redecorating your living space at any point, be ready to move the whole set to another living area. Don’t be constrained on either side of the argument. Neither your art selection nor your furnishings need to hold sway. Achieving a blend that works will always require compromise.
But if staging a theme isn’t for you then it will have to be a combination, a variation that flicks the eye from one subject to another. This may be seen as a risk but the stimulation that you get from the visual challenge could be enough to bring a required energy to your living space.
The biggest mistake that most people make is that they over crowd their walls with art deco. Because there is an empty space doesn’t mean that it has to be filled. Your living room is a space for you to relax. Don’t allow it to be a place where the eye is challenged by too much going on. Stick to selecting a few choice, quality pieces that do enough for you. You have to know your limits and now when to stop.
How about size? A large area of wall can comfortably accommodate a large artwork but look again, is it in a passageway where it’s only seen when you’re walking by. A large area will take a large piece but you must consider the surroundings. Large pot plants may have to be moved to ‘carry it off’, because you need to avoid too much conflict.
Conversely a small piece can easily look lost. Small requires the audience to be closer to it, it cannot be distant. Small usually carries detail that can’t be absorbed from afar. Place it near to where you or others are seated and the glory of the gem won’t be wasted.
Then there is the framing. Much deliberation goes into selecting a frame that goes with the artwork. This is time well spent, usually. The choice of frame can be influenced by the soft furnishing surrounds which may go some way towards solving any conflict that the piece itself may be causing. A simple solution is the gallery-wrap option. This is neutral. It literally embraces any circumstance and always tries hard to fit in. This isn’t an excuse or an apology for not taking the trouble to select a frame. It’s just saying “look at this, see what you see, have you actually noticed that there is no frame?”.
Do we go portrait or landscape? This really depends on the wall area that’s available. If you have a wide expanse that’s inviting enough, then landscape is usually the best option especially if there is much furniture near the walls. Portrait will usually only work where there is a narrow length of wall and nothing intervening between the floor and the ceiling. The perceived wisdom is that which ever orientation you adopt, ensure that the centre of the piece is at eye-level. My view on this is that it’s better to go just above centre on this. A slightly more elevated position will always give it the dominion that it most likely deserves.
Think about lighting. You have a choice over where your art is displayed but the lighting may not be ideal. There is a remedy for this. Set up spot lights to illuminate the piece but don’t get carried away. It’s possible to over do it. Too much light and you run the risk of unwanted shadows. Go for soft lighting that offers little more than a hint. This will be enough to pull the eye. A small amount of extra lighting will give the effect of a cherished visual oasis.
There is an argument that involves scaling. The art-piece behind a piece of central furniture may cause a conflict. Will it? Who’s the connoisseur? Will it really matter? Placing the piece at eye level for either sitting or standing and leaving enough of marginal space around it will suffice. It’s your living space, if it looks and feels right for you, why tie yourself down to ‘the laws of hanging artwork’ for no good reason?
If you have a wall expanse and a selection of smaller pieces available to you that you really want to display, a gallery display can work. But do make an effort to arrange them methodically. The aim must be to place the largest piece in the middle and fan out with the smallest being at the periphery of the micro-display. Insist that the marginal spaces between the artworks are equal. This will indicate the collective relationship of the group.
Don’t mount the pieces of a collection straight away. Cut out mock shapes of each piece in paper, name or reference each in some way, then pin these to the wall. Then go away and leave it for a while, take a walk or something. Then when you look at the proposed arrangement you can decide if you are happy with it. You may want to expand the marginal spaces between each piece, adjust the whole collection to be offset in one direction or recalculate the eye-level position.
Setting out your carefully chosen art is an art in itself. Only you can curate in your own living space. If you don’t feel comfortable about your initial attempt at displaying your choice, you can rearrange until you find something that works. Don’t let it challenge you too much.
The Gratton art virtual gallery
The Gratton art virtual gallery is an immersive experience where you can view artworks in a gallery setting. This goes beyond scrolling a page and just looking at images of art.
To take a look at the virtual gallery go to Grattonart.com, click or press on the orange spot to gain entry. When you arrive in the gallery, simply drag or swipe left, right, up or down to look around. To move to a new position click or press the orange spots on the floor.
There is an ever-increasing number of Halls to visit within the gallery. To move to another Hall take notice of the direction instructions on the walls at the gallery exit areas. Click or press on the relevant orange spot for the hall that you want to visit next. You can visit the Grattonart virtual gallery again and again.