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Design Mistake #6: Not Having Art

Art is not a four-letter word, but it might as well be.

People get so tripped up on art, and a romanticized notion surrounds it. It goes something like this: you and your partner are walking down the streets of Paris and come across the most amazing artist. You both fall in love with a piece that is the exact right size for over your mantle and in your budget. The vibe and colors are just perfect. That, my friend, is a unicorn. It may exist, but it is tough to find.

Or it can be just that you and your partner have very different tastes and can’t agree on anything.

Or you just don’t know where to look for art.

And how do you know if the price is appropriate? What if you’re overpaying? What if it doesn’t appreciate in value? Is the right size? Does it match our room?

And on and on until you stare at blank walls for years. I’ve been there. My husband and I have very different tastes, especially in art, and we stared at blank walls for way too long!

How to fix this? You just need to move forward and start.

If you want original art, start with a small piece you love.

Suppose you don’t care about original art. In that case, there are places selling amazing reproduction art—not hotel art from days gone by. I’m talking about talented artists offering prints of their paintings.

This is a great place to begin because you have many options to select from. The sites are searchable, which makes finding your piece easier. You also can choose your size so you don’t have the issue of falling in love with something and not having it fit in your space. And price points are very reasonable.

Another option to get some interest on your walls is a gallery wall of family photos.

There are many options for gallery frames from various places—even Amazon! The best and easiest way to hang a gallery wall is to select your frames, note their sizes, and make some templates. You can cut them out of kraft paper or newspaper, whatever works. You’ll want to cut out the overall size of the frames and create multiples of each so you can play around with the layout.

Then tape them on the wall to see how you want them laid out. It’s easy to move around the paper to get the configuration you like—part of the beauty of a galley wall is the layout itself making the focal point of a wall. Once the configuration is set, you’ll know the size and quantity of frames you need. And you will also know what photos you need in what orientation—horizontal vs. vertical.

A very budget-friendly option is to use handmade paper, wrapping paper, or fabric as art.

I recently designed a beach house that is a rental property, and we used Ikea frames and wrapping paper for our art. The net result is amazing, and no one would ever guess that the largest piece of art hanging in that house cost a total of $25.

The options are there, so just start.

Get something on the walls, and you’ll feel more comfortable each time you select a piece.

Art finishes the space, gives it its interest, and can bring you so much joy.

And about that unicorn, we were in Paris last spring, came across the perfect pieces that we both loved and they are now hanging in our home. I know that if we hadn’t started putting art up, we would have stared in paralysis instead of purchasing 2 pieces that we love. Unicorns exist, but you have to be open to them and believe.  


You’ve just read Design Mistake #6, don’t miss out on the rest of the series:

#1 Keeping Things You Don’t Love

#2 Designing with Fear

#3 Not Designing for Real Life

#4 Not Knowing Your Budget

#5 Picking Paint First

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Molly Hirsch interior designer Ridgefield, Connecticut

Hi, I’m Molly Hirsch, and I help women founders, executives, and entrepreneurs translate their highly effective work approach to their home design, creating a space that rises up to meet their needs while enhancing the warmth and style of their family home. Discover all the ways we can work together to create a home of your dreams.

You’re one step away from a well-designed life.