What comes first, the chicken or the egg? The art or the room decor? You can go either way, but if you have a fantastic piece of art that you really love, I say build the rest of the room around the fabulous artwork. I always preferred to find something you really love, and then build around it. Good design is layer upon layer upon layer. There are many approaches, but these are the easiest ways to make it all click that I found.
#1) First, remove anything from the room that you do not intend to keep. Do this first so it won’t distract or impair you from the judgments you will be making later.
#2) Then I find the best place for the art to be situated so it is the main focal point in the room. For example, upon entering the room, where does your eye go to first? What wall do you see first? Secondly, where does your eye go to after becoming comfortable in the room such as being seated on the main sofa or on a chair? Will you be moving the location of your sofa or seating, or completely replace it for a different size? The art usually should be hung so it is at eye level when you are standing or sitting, and your spouse’s vantage points need to be considered also – find the balance point and secure the art well onto the wall. Plaster walls are bit more difficult because re-positioning the art can really chip and crack your walls, so check what the best methods of attachment are for your type of wall. I often found ways to temporarily prop the art up on the wall or have someone hold it up on the wall, so I could back up and see how it would look upon entering the room before permanently affixing the art. Then I mark the installation spot on the wall with a piece of painter’s blue tape after making adjustments for any wires or hooks already on the back of the art. Molly’s were usually installed in drywall to hold the weight of the art better. In the days of yore, paintings used to be hung on plaster walls with a ribbon attached from the crown moldings to the art. You can also install security screw in pins that secure your art to the wall so no one can easily remove the art, unless they know how to twist the pins. This is especially good for vacation rental properties, commercial projects, or for theft prevention anywhere. Of course if they really want your art they may take part of the wall with them.
#3) The next step is one that many people forget about…good lighting for the artwork. This is such an important step I’m always sorry when the budget isn’t enough to finish this part. Often you may need to address this step together with step #2 of placing the artwork correctly. An accent light shining directly on your artwork at night, and a diffuser to shape the light and direct it onto just the art, can really “pop” your artwork at night and make it stand out like a master piece. Some people prefer to use an art lamp that is hung on the wall directly above the art as a long tube shines light down on the artwork. If you do that, you will need to either use a unit that runs on batteries (which will constantly need to be replaced), or you will need to hard wire it into your walls. This gets to be trickier and more expensive if there are no electrical sources or outlets anywhere near the location you plan to hang your artwork. Sometimes I’ve had to go above into the attic space to add the electrical for the wall mount, and to drop the wiring down between the studs. An electrician can’t move the wiring too far over from where the wiring drops down inside the wall, because he’d have to drill through studs to move it over, which means more drywall repairs later. He may also have to add a junction box if this becomes a separate and new electrical line/circuit, requiring a permit and inspection for it to be legal. Use a licensed electrician if it’s a new circuit so he can get the inspection done for you. If you use an unlicensed electrician then you will have to get the permitting and inspection done. I recommend you check with your home owners insurance to be sure you will still be covered if needed. The other possibilities for specifically lighting your art is to: add a recessed can light in the ceiling with an eyeball you can adjust the light directly onto the art; or, add a ceiling mounted fixture that you can aim the light directly on the art; or, add a plug in flood light that sits on the floor and is hidden that shoots the light directly up and onto the artwork. Those floodlights look really cool shining up through a large plant because it casts the shadows across the entire room at night. Some people just use ambient lighting and don’t put a spot light on their artworks. It still looks nice, but not nearly as dramatic as it could look Also, be careful to know what type of glass is on your art. Some art glass will filter out UV rays that can prevent the colors in your art from fading, and some don’t. Museum quality glass is the best to use especially if the artwork is one of a kind or irreplaceable. It is still suggested that you do not hang your artwork where it will have direct sunlight on it, because sunlight can damage artwork. Don’t use a bulb that produces high heat such as a halogen lamp, because that can ruin your artwork over a period of time also. Use care in how close you position the light source also. The good news is, that if you do the lighting correctly, your art will shine like a “masterpiece” at night and be the centerpiece for the room. If your art has a great deal of texture you can wash the painting with a light by putting the light source as close to perpendicular to the surface of the painting as possible. When the light shines across the entire surface it will accent all the texture and create more shadows which can be very dynamic. Also look out for the different types of bulbs or lamps you use. Some bulbs accent just the warm colors of the spectrum, and some accent just the cool colors. Some bulbs are for daylight or both ends of the spectrum. I suggest you visit a lighting store and pick up a few different types of bulbs to use in the room, prior to selecting anything to match or accent your painting and decor. The difference between natural daylight showing the art vs. a bulb at night can be shocking to say the least because the colors can change so much. A red color during the daytime may turn to a rust color at night due to the light bulb you use. And other reds in the room may not change as much. So, know what type of glass is covering your artwork, know where your art will hang, know how you will light the artwork, know what type of fixture and what type of bulbs you will use, then you can move on to the next steps.
#4)Then, if you don’t already have wall to wall carpeted floors, find a great area rug that picks up at least two or three predominant colors in the artwork. Many carpet places will allow you to take an area rug to your home to try it out first. I’ve been known to load up three or four rugs to try out. That allows you to see how it will fit into your environment, with your lighting, and any other accent pieces that you can’t part with. Some rugs may seem too bold or too weak once they are on the floor of the room with your artwork. Or they might overpower the art or conflict with it. Or the bulbs at night might change the colors way too much, so they don’t match anymore. A soft gray might look green at night. Many colors look different when you put them next to other colors. Find the right rug first that works well day and night, as that is usually more difficult to find later. Paints and fabrics are typically more versatile and available from a broader spectrum of colors and prints than carpets. Carpets tell many interesting stories. Many of the hand woven wool carpets are incredible works of art by themselves, and have many stories behind them of who wove them, if it was from a specific region or tribe, how many people took part in weaving the rug, and how far it had to travel to get to your floor.
#5) With your artwork hung and your lighting and area rug squared away, if you will be using one, now you can look for paint colors, wall paper, and fabrics you want to use for upholstery or window coverings or bedding. I have always been a fan of doing a few paint swatches on the wall, big enough that you can see them from across the room. Many paint suppliers have much larger chips you can order with a color you like. Some also have tiny cans (about a pint of paint) you can buy, or have made; or have the paint custom made to match an exact shade in your painting or rug. Also, be sure to see how they look at night with your lighting. Stripes or checkers or linear looking patterns will go with most all over patterns with similar colors. Mixing and matching can really be fun and effective, so long as the artwork remains the focal point. Depending upon what room you are re-doing to make your art shine, remember that “contrast gives the punch”, so to speak. Conversely, monochrome rooms only punch up where there lies an anomaly. If the entire room is beige, and your artwork is colorful and bold, it will be the center of your focus. But if your entire room is beige it may be too bland, so you could punch it up with a bold color in the artwork for piping on the upholstery or drapery tie backs. You could go really bold in contrast with the drapery tie backs or edging or valances, like with patterns, or with fun fringe. Say the frame around the artwork is black in your beige room. Pick up a bolder color for accents, and include some black in the room also, such as in piping around the throw pillows. Maybe a few pillows in patterns that compliment the art. Just don’t over do the accent color, or it may turn into a predominant feature that drowns out the artwork.