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The First Rule To Decorating With Art: There Are No Rules

April 22nd, 2011 · 5 Comments

I recently received an email from a young collector who wanted to get some advice on how to think about home design and art. This is one of those question that comes up time and again so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share my thoughts on the topic.

Devon wrote, “I’m moving into my first ‘grown up’ apartment and as I accumulate furniture and everyday detritus I also want to start collecting art… I’ve noticed that a lot of pictures of interiors feature art that matches the decor… that seems kind of trite to me, but I’m new to this. I also noticed on your blog that you talk a lot about how certain art ‘goes together’ because of color, use of space, form, etc…so I guess my question is, are there rules to follow when accumulating/placing art? Does it have to or should it ‘match’ decor? Should I look for commonalities?

A very ‘matchy’ but still very modern bedroom

The answer to this question starts with the vision you hold of your ideal home. Knowing what you’d like to accomplish with your home is perhaps the biggest challenge, but once tackled really informs every subsequent decision you make. Below I answer the three big questions Devon is tackling:

No. 1.

To match or not to match? Well, do you want to live in a space that looks like it’s right out of a glossy magazine or do you prefer a more lived-in or bohemian feel? In other words, how much do you want your things to match?

To draw a comparison, the bedroom above is a very modern, minimalist-leaning bedroom with a lot of matching. By contrast the bedroom below has a very eclectic look, mixing what looks like flea market finds with a few modern drawings and some very bold prints. They both work really well and show there’s no “right” answer when it comes to matching; it’s really a matter of personal preference.

A lived-in, eclectic bedroom via The Selby

If you’re going for a very specific or “done” look then that will likely influence what kind of art you collect. You will want to ask yourself if the bright-red painting you fell in love with will really work in your very Scandinavian white and wood living room. However, if you’re taking a more laid-back approach of mixing and matching then by all means buy art as it strikes you. With this kind of organic decorating part of the fun is experimenting and seeing what works with what.

A mix of small drawings framed as a group via design*sponge.

No. 2:

What role should art play in a space? This may sound opaque but really what it means is this: do you want your art to blend in with your space and give it a little warmth? Or do you want your art to be really bold and grab your attention? Bold can mean big and graphic (like in the black and white bedroom), it can mean lots of contrast (color or stylistic) and it can also mean bold as a collective (like in the second bedroom).

Smaller, more subtle art accents the room via Apartment Therapy.


Bright, graphic art sets off modern furniture via Apartment Therapy.

No. 3.

Should an art collection all “go together?” Your art does not need to have a common thread, and you shouldn’t be weighted down by the worry of how each new piece will “go” with the others. Quite simply art is special because it’s unique so it’s important to keep that in mind. On the other hand themes or commonalities across art create structure and really help a space look more polished and put-together. Themes can be much more subtle than an artist or a medium; a theme could be a mood, geography, era, influence, etc. It can be anything you conceive of and can be as wild or conceptual as you want.

A series of stark landscapes creates a clean look. Elle Decor via Stephmodo.


A grouping of simple, graphic art that plays off of the graphic textiles via design*sponge.


Just one example of being creative with mixing and matching art. via whitetapestry.

Note: What to avoid: art that really, truly doesn’t go in your space will scream out at you. If it’s way too big or too small, too contrasting or too stylized you will probably sense as much. If you question your judgement, invite some honest friends over to give you an opinion.

Visualizing Art In Your Home… Digitally

December 17th, 2010 · 7 Comments

Sometimes you come across a piece of art and just know you have to have it. You may not have a place for it but you know you’ll find one. Other times you go looking for artwork for a specific space in your home. Lately I’ve been in the latter category looking for a third mid-sized piece for the exposed brick wall in my living room. Groupings are hard, especially with bigger work and although I like the current look, I plan to swap out the small piece on the bottom left with a (larger) photograph. To visualize how the wall would look and help me choose a piece, I digitally framed the potential photographs here like so…

…and photoshopped them onto the wall. Any guesses which one I chose?

1. Grey Waves by Karen Iwachow


2. Fog and Ice by Stanislav Ginzburg


3. Baby Deer by Sharon Montrose


4. Owl by Sharon Montrose


Other artwork shown are Stacked Upon by Jaclyn Mednicov and Pores by Anastasia Ugorskaya.

Enormous Tiny Art Show 9

September 13th, 2010 · 5 Comments

I’m admittedly a little late to the party… but can you believe Nahcotta is on its ninth show? Time flies! Here are a few of my favs and, like always, everything is available online. Enjoy!

What Comes First – Art Or A Blank Wall?

August 11th, 2010 · No Comments

Source: Home & Decor via desire to inspire

This question comes up a lot when I’m working with clients. Is it OK to look for art for a particular empty space in your home? Or should you only seek out art that you love regardless of not having a spot for it?

Hardcore art aficionados definitely poo-poo the former strategy. They see the acquisition of art as a thing apart (and above) from trivial matters such as wall space and layouts. But the opinions of the art elite need not apply to the rest of us! I’d argue that both strategies are legitimate; both work for different people in different situations. And to illustrate the point I’ll share a recent purchase with you all.

If you saw our house tour on Apartment Therapy, you probably saw a large, white painting above the couch in our living room. My confession: I bought the painting specifically for that space! Kind of scandalous? Not really.

As you can see in the photo above (via Apartment Therapy), our living room has one very long, exposed brick wall. It brings lots of visual interest and texture to the space but it’s also very dark and kind of busy. We had hung a collection of artwork above the couch but it felt a bit messy, not clean and stream-lined like I had hoped. I ended up moving the artwork to the opposite wall (see below) which has turned out great! As a result the wall space above the couch sat empty like a big hole screaming out for some interesting art.

Artwork (clockwise from right): Charles Tersolo, Shane Neufeld, EMA, Jennifer Davis, Cate Woolner.

Then I thought about the beautiful work of artist Jaclyn Mednicov, which I wrote about back in May, and how well one of her pieces would go above our couch. Her work was the right size, had the right vibe (calming, ethereal) and would be a departure thematically from our other artwork.  Lucky for me, one of my favorite paintings, Stacked Up, was still available and now looks great in our living room!

I’m sharing this story to prove the point that searching for art for a specific space (i.e. behind your couch) does not necessarily spell trouble. As long as you put in the effort to find something you love and remember to be patient, you’re going about it the right way.

See Kate & Cameron’s art collection here.

Apartment Therapy House Tour!

August 4th, 2010 · 10 Comments

Pssst… Want to take a peak at our Brooklyn apartment? Curious to see the art that I live with? You’re in luck! I’m beyond stoked to have our apartment featured on Apartment Therapy, so come take a look!

I began collecting affordable art five years ago and it’s grown to be the defining element of our home. It’s what gives our space the most personality and it’s what friends comment on when they come over. Since I finished school and started collecting five years ago, I’ve lived in two cities, moved seven times, and acquired and sold plenty of furniture. The one constant (albeit growing) element is the art that we surround ourselves with.

Questions? Here’s a detailed tour of our art collection.


Related Posts: Basics: Where to Look For Art?Collector Interview: Little Glowing LightsThe Big Debate: Prints vs. Originals

The Big Debate Revisited: Original Art vs. Prints

March 16th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Back in September I wrote about the debate over prints versus original art and listed what I perceive to be the most compelling arguments for prints. Now I’m revisiting this question but taking on the other side, original art.

Ian Carpenter


– When you find art you love, you feel a strong connection to the work and want to own it outright.

– The artistic process is important to you and you want to own what the artist physically created. You want to be able to see the actual brushstrokes, etc. and relate back to the artist.

– You value uniqueness over ubiquity; you don’t want art that many others have.

– The future value of the work of art is important to you. You view it as an investment.

– You want to forge a strong relationship with the artist. By purchasing an original piece of their work you are linking yourself to the artist.


These are a few of the many reasons some people choose original art over prints, but I want to make the point that originals and prints are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact many art lovers, myself included, collect a mixture of both. While I have explored both sides of this debate, it’s my opinion that neither original art nor prints trumps the other.