Hang Time

Selecting Artwork for the Home Doesn't Have to be Intimidating

By Marita Stup Loose | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 03.28.17 – Diversions, Lifestyles, People & Places

Let’s say you have just moved into a new house. Or maybe you’ve redecorated a room in your present home. Furniture and light fixtures are installed. The perfect hue covers the walls. Curtains grace the windows. An area rug anchors everything. Now it’s time to make the space truly personal with a few pieces of artwork. Where does one begin?

When her clients want to introduce new art into their homes, interior designer Meredith Ericksen of Tuscan Blue Design typically sends them on a field trip, with smartphone in hand to capture pictures of possibilities for Ericksen’s feedback. Given the number of art galleries in the area, especially in Downtown Frederick, they could easily find several appealing originals—oils, watercolors, acrylics, pastels—or signed prints within a few blocks.

Another approach is to conduct an online search, which will inevitably lead to a vast assortment that can be categorized by size, style, subject matter and more. That’s how Tuscan Blue Design client Judy McShea found the statement piece above the mantel and the botanical reproductions in her redesigned dining room. She then turned to Frederick-based Bravura Arts & Framing to customize the frames for the setting.

Before the hunt commences, “we’ll talk about color, size and style,” Ericksen says. “But art is very personal, so it’s important for [the clients] to be in love with the pieces. Usually, they really enjoy the process.”

How will you absolutely know that a painting or print is the one for you? Follow your heart, says Urbana homeowner Lauren Hoch. “For me, the art needs to be uplifting … or represent farm life, nature and the past.” She cites a monochromatic watercolor of an aging barn by Vermont artist Charlie Hunter as one she “had to have” for those very reasons.

As a member of TAG (The Artists Gallery), local artist Shelley Stevens often works in the group’s Downtown Frederick location. When customers ask her opinion about a piece, she tries to “act as a sounding board,” rather than offer advice. She recalls a twentysomething customer who had never before bought original art and was captivated by a painting but vacillated about making the investment. Shelley suggested the young woman grab some lunch, think it over and come back if she decided to buy. (She did.)

Does art have to match or harmonize with your décor? Meredith says “a common tie or thread of some sort, maybe color or style” can help pull the room together. Even so, she likes the juxtaposition of abstract or contemporary art with traditional furnishings and vice versa.

Over years of collecting, Carolyn and Jack Greiner have transformed their Ijamsville home into what could qualify as a private art gallery. The couple isn’t at all inclined to buy a painting because it coordinates with the home’s interior or is perfect for a specific spot. They acquire it because it calls to them—and then adjust as necessary.

“Sometimes bringing a new painting into the house causes a cascade of paintings being moved. … It’s a little bit of work, but it’s pleasure, too, to see anew all the elements of a painting you’ve owned for some time,” says Carolyn Greiner. She points out a plein air work by Baltimore artist Tim Kelly that “told me where it wanted to be hung” and another favorite painting that has been repeatedly shifted around “but still isn’t comfortable.”

Most of us have at least one piece of art that we no longer fancy. But there it hangs, taking up valuable wall space. Take it down and move on, Carolyn recommends. “We tend to be comfortable with the idea that our taste in furniture, cars and clothing may change over the years. Is there a law that requires us to keep a piece of art on the wall permanently if our taste changes, or if we find a piece we like even more?”

Replacing an outdated or unattractive frame can be a game-changer. David McGuire, owner of McGuire Fine Arts Gallery in Downtown, asks customers leading questions: Where will this hang? What color is the wall? Are there size restrictions? Then he and the customer begin placing sample mat and frame corners against the art and playing with a variety of combinations. He typically starts with three samples and hones in on the customer’s preferences from there. He has noticed a trend toward black, metal, industrial chic and distressed wood frames. Ultimately, however, he finds the art itself suggests the frame.

Should the cost to frame reflect the image’s price? McGuire’s objective for pieces that are original or have sentimental value is to “preserve and honor them,” which may call for conservation glass and mat board. Alternatively, a significant frame treatment can turn a bargain into a scene stealer, such as the lowly fragment of burlap he recently surrounded in handsome reclaimed wood. Another customer so impressively framed her postcards that her friends always assumed they were important art.

No need for hammer and nails to show off your art. For a casual look, lean or stack it against a wall, says Ericksen. Or place it on a floating ledge or shelf along with other art, a plant or small sculpture.

Ultimately, personal preference seems to guide the art of buying, framing and displaying art. The decisive factor, says Stevens, should be that your choices “speak to you.”