How to Choose Art Like a Designer

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How to Choose Art Like a Designer

Hello Design Lovers, I am covering all things art and wall decor, including my luxury designer tricks for choosing art, picking the perfect frame, and hanging art in your home. These are my tried and true tricks on how to choose art like a designer to create beautiful and sophisticated wall displays.

Ashley hanging gallery wall

Before we get into how to choose the right pieces of art for your home, I want to go through quickly the different types of art that you have to choose from.

There is canvas art, art prints, photography, sculptures, mirrors, and found objects. These can be original works of art by an artist, reproduction pieces, or even antique or vintage finds. My tip is to mix all of these different types of wall decor pieces together in your home for an exciting look.

How to frame and shop for art

M2 Gallery sign

Before I go over how I have hung art in my home, I want to shout out my favorite local framing shop M2 Gallery and explain the different types of frames, mats, and fillets. I will show you how I choose frames and mats for myself and my clients.

First, I always like to go for an 8-ply mat when it comes to custom framing. It is a larger thickness that gives a pretty beveled edge. It makes the artwork look a lot more sophisticated and high-end. There are so many options to choose from when it comes to colors, so take your piece of art to the frame shop to see what matches best.

I generally always lean toward white or a version of white when framing original artwork, but there are many colors you can choose from. You can also get a custom-wrapped linen mat that gives a stunning look to your artwork that I love. Another detail you can add to enhance your artwork is a liner and fillet. The liner fits into the frame, and then the fillet fits into the liner. It gives your artwork a very sophisticated layered look.

Choose art like a designer - M2 Gallery frames and mats

When selecting your frame, I like to choose a wooden frame rather than a composite because they are higher quality and will last a lifetime. Some decorative wood frames have a relief detail. To achieve that look, they use a wood frame with a slight bit of composite on top so that they can create detail on the face of the frame without having to hand carve into the wood. These frames are so beautiful, and I love using them when I can.

You can use the majority of frames for print art or canvas art, but there is one in particular called a floater frame that is used to get a floating effect to your art. You actually attach the piece to the back and have a little relief around the edge of the canvas. There are also metal frames. I usually don’t go with metal, but that is an option.

Now I want to give you a few tips on shopping for art and wall décor at your local vintage store. Always look for a good frame and an original piece of art. Find something that catches your eye and speaks to you.

Choose art like a designer - looking for art in a vintage shop

If your local antique or vintage store has bins of art in plastic sleeves, take a moment to look through them. They oftentimes will have the most precious pieces.

Art displayed in My Home and What Heights to Hang Them

I am now going to show you some of my personal favorite pieces of art and wall decor and how I have hung them. Let’s talk through a little art vignette I have in my entry. I want first to discuss how to hang art above a chest or buffet. The chest used in my entry is a part of my collection and is about 34″ high.

Choose art like a designer - entry art

No matter the height, our rule of thumb when hanging artwork or mirror over a piece of furniture is generally that the space between the top of the furniture and the bottom of the frame is anywhere between 6-10 inches.

This piece of art is on the high end of our measurement because I placed another piece on our tabletop frame. I wanted to ensure that the subject matter on the wall can be seen above the tabletop piece frame.

I love to display art unexpectedly, and I actually designed this tabletop easel. It’s part of my furniture and lighting collection. It gives another opportunity to display a piece of art that’s really unexpected.

The art displayed on the tabletop easel is actually an antique letter that I found by thumbing through the plastic sleeves I mentioned previously. I framed it in a way so you can see the ripped edges. It is such a unique piece that I love.

tabletop easel with art

One last thing I want to mention about this art display is that I took it really high. I stacked the second piece of art on top of the large piece because the ceiling in our entry is 10 feet. If I had left the butterflies alone, the wall would look a little naked, so I love stacking two pieces of art that are different but have some commonality to them. For instants, the color of the blue that is picked up by both.

Choose art like a designer - entry art display

On the other side of my foyer, I have a large piece of art hanging as you go up the stairs. This is commonly a difficult area to hang art because of the asymmetrical shape of this wall with the stairs. But because the piece I hung here is square, it works really well in this space.

framed scarf

This is also a unique piece of art because it ties into the butterflies and the original piece of art I have other the other wall because it picks up the colors that are in them. It is actually a scarf that I purchased on a trip with my daughter to London. It means a lot to me, and I love that I see it every day as I walk by.

I had it custom framed because they actually stitch the scarf onto a paper backing. So I definitely wanted a professional to do this. I chose a champagne color with a reverse bevel. The edges of the frame have a cerused oak wood finish that ties into some of the furniture pieces in our great room.

We have moved into our dining room. I want to show you some unique wall decor options that I have displayed in our dining room. The chains are one of the very best sellers in my collection. Usually, people display them on a tabletop, but I wanted to do something unique in this room.

So I purchased some vintage hooks and hung them on the wall, and it really makes a very modern statement. I love its look, so try to think outside the box and try new things when decorating your walls.

dining room wall décor

Sometimes I want some casualness of a propped piece of art. So that is precisely what I did above our buffet in the dining. I like that casual vibe it brings to our dining room. If I wanted to hang this art, I would need to go about it in a different way because there is raised moulding in this room.

Choose art like a designer - dining room wall art

I’ve gotten so many questions about how to hang artwork or a mirror on raised panel moulding. Here is the trick. Take into consideration the depth of the moulding. Then cut a piece of wood the same thickness as the highest point of your panel moulding. You attach the piece to the section of the wall where your art is going and then hang your art on the wood.

The next space I am showing you is the wall of our family room. This is where we hang out and watch tv. This is an excellent example of how to dress up your tv wall.

I always suggest doing an art grid or gallery wall if your tv is out in the open. I painted this watercolor series and loved how they looked hanging together.

To make our tv wall look artful and sophisticated, I decided to hang them around the TV; it was so easy to do.

Let’s take a minute to discuss large-scale artwork. This art print over this buffet that I purchased six or so years ago is so beautiful. It’s a photograph, and I love the colors of it. I want to talk about scale. If you’re going to do large artwork over furniture. I suggest always going at least 2/3 the width of a buffet, credenza, or sofa.

large wall art over buffet

If you go a lot smaller than that in comparison to the piece of furniture, it can look a little bit dinky. Before I hung this piece of art, I had a much more narrow mirror. I flanked it with four pieces of art on each side so it filled the space.

Let’s discuss how high I hung it off this buffet. So as I spoke to earlier, usually my range is anywhere between 6-10 inches. It depends on what is being displayed on the tabletop. Step back and take a look at what feels right to you.

Next to the buffet, I have a piece of wall decor that is probably my very favorite piece that I own. I found it at an antique store and audibly gasped when I saw it. I could not take it up to the register fast enough.

vintage wall décor

It is copper and has a beautiful patina. It looks like it is floating on the wall in our great room. This piece adds so much interest to our home.

The next space I’m sharing is the art in my primary bedroom. I want to explain how to choose and hang art on darker walls. My walls are a mocha color, and I chose these pieces of art for this room because they have this large white mat. I love how they pop off of these deep-colored walls.

Choose art like a designer - primary bedroom art

When you are hanging art or multiple pieces of art on a wall that doesn’t have any furniture underneath it, a good rule of thumb is to hang the center of the art of the center of the two pieces of art around 60 inches off the floor. A lot of times, I see people make the mistake of hanging artwork too low or too high. 60 inches from the ground is a great place to start.

I want to discuss how to source artwork for your home. My choice is always to purchase original artwork. I love supporting local artists and buying original artwork when I travel. I think original artwork adds so much soul to a room. It also adds a layer of personal touch to your spaces. So always choose the original when you can. A great way to find affordable original artwork is in vintage stores and antique shops.

We’ve talked about how to choose framing and how to source artwork. I’ve also shown you the wall decor and artwork I have in my home. I now want to talk about gallery walls and some do-it-yourself projects to bring beautiful artwork to your home.

Choose art like a designer - gallery wall

I know artwork can be expensive at times. Especially if you are wanting to fill a whole wall in a gallery style. But you can find pretty affordable frames and mats at local shops to create your own piece of work. Plus, the majority of the art in the plastic sleeves is typically between $2 to $20, not bad at all!

Once you have sourced your materials and art, use archival tape when taping your artwork to the mat because it won’t have any acid on it and will keep your art preserved. In our How to Choose Art Like a Design YouTube video, you can watch me create my framed art piece for under $20.

Now let’s discuss a couple of tips to hang artwork and make it easier for yourself. I like to make a little paper template of the piece of artwork. I use black paper, but anything will work, take your pencil, mark around the artwork, and cut it out.

Choose art like a designer - making the templates for the gallery wall

Now you have the exact size of the frame. Then take your art, turn it over, and mark where the hanging mechanism is. So when you go to hang the paper up on the wall, you’ll know exactly where to hammer the nail.

Another little tip, put the name of the artwork on the template. That way, you don’t forget what sheet goes with which piece. This is especially handy when doing a gallery wall. To hang art, you’ll need: a little level, a hammer, of course, painters tape, a pencil, and a container of different types of art hangers.

Shop the essentials for hanging art:

Choose art like a designer - hanging the gallery wall template

My Favorite thing to do when creating a gallery wall is to first lay everything out on the floor so I can see what all I have. This helps to get an idea of what goes best together and space things out correctly. On the gallery wall I did, I used a collection of landscapes and florals. I like the cohesiveness of the subject matter, and the pieces look really good together. I am also adding in a few little antique mirrors. Plus, a mirror from my collection because I don’t want everything to be framed art.

Once you have an idea of how you want to group your art together, take your pieces of paper and start to place them on the wall using the painters tape. That way, you can move them around if needed. You want to start with the largest piece first and then go off of it.

Choose art like a designer - gallery wall template

After you get all the templates in the spots you like, reline the artwork on the floor to match the templates to ensure everything looks nice together. If you are using multiple colored frames, make sure they are evenly spread throughout your gallery.

Choose art like a designer - gallery wall

Since all the templates are marked with where the nails need to go, you can nail on top of the paper and then tear the paper off under the nail. You’ll have a perfect placement every time. And there you have it, a beautiful gallery wall. Simply by mixing in multiple mediums, different colored frames, and some antique mirrors, you can create a gorgeous look for your home too.

Shop these links for all your artful needs:

I hope you have enjoyed today’s post. I hope it gets you inspired to find beautiful artwork and wall decor for your home. Please check out the entire YouTube Video How to Choose Art Like a Design to see all the details discussed.

As always, thank you for reading, and remember, good design is for everyone. So create a home that inspires you, have fun decorating your walls, and fall in love with where you live, one room at a time.

XO, Ashley

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