The selection of artwork for interior walls has a major impact on how occupants of the space think, feel and behave. Artwork is a key element of any interior decor scheme.

People love art for many different reasons, and most of us enjoy being surrounded by interesting, beautiful or visually stimulating objects. From the earliest days of the human race, people have put art on walls. But not all art is well-suited for decor, nor is it even meant to be. Certainly, not all art is designed to be visually attractive. Around the world, and throughout history, art has served a wide variety of purposes.

Origins of art

Prehistoric cave dwellers drew art not to make their walls look pretty, but to communicate and create historical records. Early Egyptians created wall art as a way to elevate their dead closer to the gods. Religious buildings have always used art to depict important prophecies and events. More recently, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, art has been used extensively as propaganda, intended to convey strong political messages and influence public thinking, often through shock and controversy. Contemporary fine art is often horrifically ugly, on purpose, with a clear aim to make us stop and wonder — but not necessarily to feel good.

Art as decor

Still, with myriad potential applications for visual imagery as communication, probably the most accessible and common way we humans employ art is to decorate the spaces in which we we live, work and play. Used as decor, art helps us create environments that convey moods, tastes, styles and emotions. Whether you want to make a strong statement or impart a harmonious, comfortable feel to a space, art is an essential element in the design of any room.

Important choices for art

When you’re incorporating wall art into an overall design for a room, hallway or other interior volume, you have infinite choices with regard to both the artwork itself and how it integrates with other elements in the design. Ideally, you’ll want to balance the effect of the wall art with that of other decor accessories, such as wall covering and paint, carpet and rugs, drapes and other window coverings, furniture and case goods, etc. And certainly, the lighting scheme will have a huge impact, and also be influenced by, the art you place on the walls or as free-standing room dividers.

Art can be used as the main focal point in a design, and/or can play a supporting role in emphasizing other elements within the design. You can use the colors, textures and motifs contained in artwork to inform the selection of other design elements, and vice versa. In other words, you could choose a remarkable piece of art and build a room design around it, or generate the bulk of the room design and then find artwork that integrates well into the design.

It doesn’t matter if the art is a valuable original painting or a cheap printed poster, the choices you make in what you put on your walls reflect not only your taste and style but can also contribute to creating the ideal environment to match your desire for each particular space.

Contents of this series

In this series of articles, I invite you to join me as we delve into the specifics of using wall-hanging art in a coordinated design scheme. With so many variables to consider, I’ll split up this topic into a series of multiple installments.

Each article will focus on one or more of the following topics:

  • Fundamentals of specifying art
  • Subject matter and themes
  • Mediums and formats
  • Using color effectively
  • Key principles of design
  • Framing and other finishing methods
  • Hanging methods
  • Lighting
  • Protecting and cleaning artwork
  • Psychology and physiology of art
  • Trends in wall art genres and styles
  • Budgeting for artwork
  • … and much more

Whether you’re a professional interior designer or a homeowner with a passion for creating your own environment, my goal for this series to to simplify and demystify the entire process of finding, choosing, installing and enjoying wall-hanging artworks as interior decor.

Stay tuned to this blog for Part 2: Fundamentals of Specifying Art

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