Nat-Coalson-New-Century-Room-800px-1My wife Ruth and I are staying at the Hotel Nikko New Century in Beijing.

Since we arrived at the hotel, we’ve been living with this hideous monstrosity staring at us from high on the wall!

This is such a perfect example of design fail that I just had to write about it.

And I’m inspired… this will be the first in my new blog series, eye [ sore ].

We’ll look at, laugh at and learn from some of the dubious decisions made by hotel designers.

Sounds fun? We think so.

Bad art abounds in hotels

Anyone who has stayed in a few hotels can surely relate:

You close the door, drop your bags, kick back on the bed and have a good look around the room.

And then… WTF is that?

Seriously, it’s astounding how the typical art in hospitality properties is really, REALLY bad. Horrible imagery is found in hotels around the globe, in properties of all styles and at all price points.

I find it perplexing… how could this be allowed to happen so often?

After all, guests pay good money to stay in these places.

Gobs of money was spent building and furnishing the property.

And lots of guests spend lots of time in these rooms… night after night, throughout every single year.

Can it be that whomever chooses this lame art really doesn’t care what the guests think?

Or does someone really like the stuff?

Admittedly, there’s a distinct possibility worth considering:

Someone NOT a qualified interior designer picked the art.

Unfortunately, this happens all too often—property owners, general managers, future-ex-wives and second-cousins-twice-removed are sometimes asked to choose the art for hotels.

Maybe the budget ran out and there was a discount vendor selling these for pennies on the dollar? (This is China, after all.)

But c’mon. Really?!

Done correctly, good art isn’t harder to find, or necessarily more expensive, than is bad art.

Nat-Coalson-New-Century-Room-800px-2What’s wrong with this picture?

This artwork is a great case study for what NOT to do when choosing (and hanging) art in any room—not just hotels.

Here are a few of the obvious faux pas at work here.

1. The choice of subject matter and style is curious, to the point of being confusing.

Why are we presented with a strange, somewhat disturbing caricature of a man?

Sure, the original was (supposedly) made by Picasso, maybe during one of his ‘important’ periods.

But by what stretch of the imagination would this make pleasant decor for a hotel room that’s supposed to be comfortable?

Good art for hospitality connects the viewer to something meaningful, matches the decor and/or strengthens a mood or emotion.

In this case, the simple solution of using a scenic image depicting the local area would be a better choice.

2. The color palette doesn’t correlate with any other element in the design scheme.

I love using color contrasts as much as anyone and, actually, this slightly blue monochrome does complement the warm, ruddy, earth tones in the scheme. But there’s not a speck of blue anywhere else in the room.

This drastic contrast makes the art stand out as a strong focal point, if only based purely on color.

As a general guideline, pick art with at least a few accent colors found in other places in the room. (There’s a purplish-red chair in this room; a bit of this in the art would tie together nicely.)

3. The picture is much too small for the wall it’s on.

This is a more appropriate size for art to be hung in a bathroom or hallway.

The relatively large wall, with no other features except the thermostat control and fire sprinkler, is made even more stark by the diminutive artwork.

Had the designer opted for something, say, just 50% larger, the art would have fit the wall better and had a more commanding presence in the overall space.

TIP: the size of a work of art, along with the aspect ratio, is one of the two most fundamental attributes to consider. Rooms with walls of varying sizes should also use pictures of different sizes.

4. It’s hung too high.

Granted, not by a lot, but just enough to make it look like whomever hung this picture might have been doing it for the first time. Or maybe they are very tall.

The height at which any picture is hung can have a huge impact on how the art ‘feels’ in the space.

Obviously, all people are not the same height. But there is a correct height to hang a picture on any wall, and it’s mainly determined by the height of the wall and the other elements that surround the space where the picture hangs.

In general, you want the focal point of the artwork to be at the eye level of the ‘average’ person. When people are standing in a room, they will most strongly notice things at this height.

[BTW—the name of my blog refers to this very principle!]

For this picture, hanging just an inch or two lower would feel significantly better.

Reminder of the basics: Why art matters

Every detail in a hotel room contributes to the overall feeling the guest will have.

And actually, art plays a more significant role than many other design elements, because it’s something that people are supposed to look at.

(A guest might not notice the carpet, drapes or tacky vinyl wall covering, but who could miss this eye sore?)

Granted, many guests are resigned to the fact that most of the places we stay will have bad art.

But people also notice when a hotel presents really great art.

Hanging good art communicates to the guest one crucial thing: This hotel cares about me.

This impression translates to the guest feeling good in the space, which results in repeat stays and recommendations.

Put simply: Good art = more revenue for the hotel.

Conversely, hanging bad art shows the guest that the people running the hotel really don’t care what she wants, what she thinks, or, ultimately, how she feels in the room.

Bottom line

In the end, just because this quirky print shows a signature by Picasso doesn’t make it OK to use it in a hotel room.

(Maybe the person who chose this art imagined guests would be impressed enough to tell their friends “the hotel room had art by Picasso?”)

Truth be told, I actually do like this picture. And it might be nice used in another room… in a different property… with a corresponding design scheme.

It simply doesn’t work in this space.

“Work with me here, people…”

You probably know I love partnering with designers to provide exceptional art for hotel projects.

Going forward, you can count on hearing in more detail what exactly this entails. I’m publishing lots more how-to content to help designers and private collectors make better art and design decisions… and make the whole process easier and more fun.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts—and stories—about bad art in hotels. Please leave your comments below.

And here’s another idea: email me pictures/stories and I’ll consider them for future articles.

Here and now, we’re launching a new campaign to Banish Bad Art!

Will you join us?

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