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industrial dining room with bright yellow anstract art united interiors and black leather dining chairs

How to Choose Art for Your Home: A No-Regret Buying Guide

Today I want to walk you through how to choose art for your home. The biggest issue I find my clients doing is overthinking the process. So let’s make it a cinch!

Choosing art for a room in your home, in my experience, is laboured over when it doesn’t need to be. Time and time again I see people being paralysed by the idea of locking a piece in. There’s this idea that art needs to mean something. But I don’t design by those rules. Art doesn’t need to mean anything more than your sofa does. Or anything more than a cushion does.

You never hear people say that their dining table needs to speak to them. Or that they’ll know the right bedside table when they see it. So I’ve always been a bit baffled by this idea that art has to be meaningful. For me, a designed room is a sum of many parts. The art is no more important than the curtains, the carpet, the paint or the coffee table.

I truly appreciate the work an artist puts into a painting. But I also appreciate the work a woodworker puts into a table. So, honestly, choosing art is no different than choosing anything else. You heard it here first!

On the flip side, I also find homes with art on walls that just doesn’t work. And so below I’m going to walk you through the steps you can take to find the perfect piece. It’s going to clear everything up.

dark bedroom wall ideas from metricon hampshire display home in essendon

1. How to Choose Art for Your Home: Style First

The first thing you need to work out is what style you have going on in your home. Perhaps you don’t even know what your style is. Never fear, because I wrote this post on finding your interior design style, and it has a list of the most popular looks. Once you know what your style is, it will dictate the kind of art you’ll want to look for.

Imagine, for example, you have a Hamptons home like this one I put together recently for my Camberwell client. Hamptons style automatically dictates a colour palette. We know Hamptons is wonderfully white, with pops of blue, some greys, occasionally black and sometimes even accents of gold. It’s soft, it’s serene, it’s sophisticated. It would be weird to bring in a bright red painting with a street art influence, right?

The same goes for an industrial interior design scheme. You’ve got exposed brick, you’ve got metal chairs, you’ve got concrete and maybe even a fair amount of black on walls. It would be just as weird, then, to pop up an artwork featuring pink roses in a white frame. It’s just going to fight with the scheme you’ve got going on.

So, always assess the style of your space first. That’ll help you choose art for your home much more easily. Sometimes you might see art you love, but you’ll know in your hear that it won’t work with your style. So back away slowly 😉

master bedroom with dark carpet and white bedding by metricon

2. Now, Decide if you Want Art to be the Focal Point

Every rooms needs a focal point. When you walk into your living room, for example, what’s the first thing you notice? That’s your room’s focal point. Now, sometimes not all focal points are good. It could be that your eye goes right to an aircon vent on the wall. If that’s the case, you need to change the focal point.

Now, art can be an amazing focal point. So can a rug. A focal point is usually one of the two in a living zone, but it could also be stunning lighting. Perhaps you have a pendant as a feature in your space. Or it could be a quilt cover set in your bedroom.

The moral of the story is this: your room should only have one focal point. So if you already have one, choose art that’s less imposing. If you don’t have a focal point yet (and the room feels a bit flat or boring) then you know you can choose art for your home that feels more visually striking.

When I say less imposing, by the way, I don’t mean that the art has to be small. I just mean it won’t be bright, or heavily patterned. Size really matters when it comes to art, and that brings me onto my next point.

modern master bedroom with grey wallpaper design and white bedding from metricon

3. Then Figure out the Right Size

Honestly, the biggest art issue I see when I walk into a home has to do with scale. There will be a huge wall with a tiny piece of art on it. Or a huge wall with three small frames spaced miles apart. I know that larger art is naturally more expensive, but it’s worth the splurge to save your space from looking off-kilter.

It’s actually a bit difficult to tell you exactly what size art you should get for your room without seeing it. If you want to come join my Facebook group you can ask in there and I can give you some advice (or drop a comment below). It’s rare though that I see someone with art on a wall where I think it’s too big. So rare. It’s usually quite small.

The art needs to speak and relate to the furniture around it. For example:

  • Art should span almost the entire width of your bed’s headboard
  • It should also run almost the full width of your sideboard or dining table
  • If it’s above an entry table, same rules: span almost the full length, but never over
  • If it’s in an area with no furniture below it, it should take up a large amount of that wall

Look to the images in this post that show you how art takes up a space size-wise.

And the golden rule before you shop: always measure your bed, or sideboard, or table before you buy art. Always go to a store armed with the measurements and don’t be swayed by the wrong piece.

formal sitting room with blue velvet armchairs and rectangle marble table globrwest

4. Deciding on One Large Piece, or Two Smaller Ones

Often, in a spot like above a bed, you’re left wondering if you buy one large piece of art, or two smaller ones. It actually doesn’t matter, as long as the two artworks will still almost span the width of the headboard. Ensure you factor in that you’ll need 10 to 20cm of space between the two artworks when they’re hung though.

Whether you buy one artwork or two also depends on what else is going on in the room. In a living room, for example, with two walls across from each other, I would always vary the art. So I’d do one large piece of art on one wall, and then two smaller artworks on the other wall. If you do one piece of art the same size directly across from one another, it looks like a weird mirror image.

You can see this rule at play above in my Camberwell project. Notice how there’s one piece of art on the left wall, but two pieces on the right? Imagine if it was two pieces and then two pieces again on the opposite wall. It would just look like a mistake.

You can also do a grid of art, or a trio of art on some walls too. It’s all about figuring out the size of wall you need to fill, and then filling it with something. That something can be one piece, two pieces, a four grid, and so on.

dark bedroom wall ideas light grey bedroom feature wall from metricon display home

5. To Buy Canvas Art or Framed Art?

I wouldn’t get too caught up on this one. What I will say though is that unframed canvas art can look more relaxed. Most of the budget chains that sell canvas art unframed sell it this way because it’s so cheap to produce. And because of that, it can feel cheaper on your walls.

The exception to this rule is original art, where an actual artist has put their heart and soul into something on a quality canvas. You can tell the difference between that and something a budget chain is selling for $15. I love to support local artists doing amazing work, so if you do to, check out this post on amazing local abstract artists.

Framed canvas art can look a bit more upmarket. I tend to put this in a lot of my client homes. Having a black frame around a canvas artwork often gives it a bit more presence in a space. And then framed art behind a panel of glass can look the most high-end. Depending on what art sits inside it, of course.

Word of warning about glass art: think about light coming into the room when it comes to art behind glass. Often, if you’re in a room flooded with light, the glare on the glass can be so great that you barely see what’s behind it. And so you defeat the whole purpose of hanging a gorg piece of art on your walls.

coastal living room with grey sofa and blue and tan cushions from metricon

6. Lastly, Hunt Down a Piece you Love

You should have a good idea of how to choose art for your home now. You’ve figured out your home’s style. You know if you want the art to be a focal point. You’ve got your sizing sorted. And you’re across the configuration. The last piece of the puzzle is to find art that ticks all of those boxes and is something you genuinely love.

But truly, don’t get stuck in the love mindset. You can like it. You don’t have to be falling head over heels for it. It’s really about how the room looks as a whole, and the art is one piece of that puzzle.

If you follow all of the guidelines above I’m certain you’ll know how to buy art for your home when you’re in-store. Or even online. It’s funny to think that the design itself is almost the least important part to get right, but it’s true. All those other factors are crucial, then you finally get down the the design in the last leg of the race!

dark grey living room wall with floor tiles in living room from metricon

Hit me up with your Art Buying Questions Below

If you have any additional questions on how to buy art for your home, pop a comment below.

If you want all of my decorating advice sent to your inbox each week, click here to grab my Tuesday newsletter. It shows you all of the articles those pesky social media platforms keeping blocking you from seeing.

Happy styling at your place!

All images in this post (besides image five – which is of my Camberwell design project) come courtesy of Metricon.


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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20 Responses

  1. Hi Chris,

    Does the artwork in a house all have to be the same, ie, all canvas prints or all art behind glass, or can it be a mix, ie, art behind glass in a family room and canvas art in the entry hall?

    Thanks Rosie

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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