Artwork can be the truest form of self-expression in our homes, giving way to our likes and dislikes, favourite colours, passions, interests, and paths we’ve travelled. When something is so laced with meaning, it can be difficult to know where to start. Our walls, after all, are finite, and so we thought we’d look to someone who has extensive knowledge of working with art and interiors to offer some advice on what to look for when choosing art for our homes and making sure that our interiors complement our choices.

Specialising in creating meticulously well-considered, comfortable and high-quality interiors, HÁM is a family-run architecture, build and interior design practice, established in 2011 by Nick Cox, wife Pamela and son Tom. Kate Cox – Nick and Pamela’s daughter – joined the business shortly after as Partner and Creative Director. “Our style is an updated take on the country house aesthetic,” she says, “we create timeless interiors filled with art, antiques, and intriguing objects”. Kate is also the Co-Founder and Creative Director at Studio HÁM, an eclectic home store where “we create and curate,” she says, “bringing together the elegant and the eccentric in a mix of old and custom-made pieces”. Her current projects include a busy colourful family home in Hammersmith, a Cornish Fisherman’s cottage retreat and an exciting long-term project of a small country estate in the west country.

Sourcing Artwork

For Kate, artwork is a key element in her interior design schemes, "we source from a wide variety of places for our store, it's always fun mixing these pieces with our client's existing collections". She advises not to limit yourself to paintings, but also to look out for interesting artefacts, textile fragments, embroideries, flags, sketches, old signs and sculptures. “We go with our gut and often don’t take things too seriously, having fun with pieces is a huge part of what we do. [Tom and me] are both drawn to outsider and folk art and items with a naïve or whimsical touch.” Likewise, there are certain things they can’t resist, and keep an eye out for; Kate loves a great dog painting and for Tom, it’s mounted fishing trophies. Everyone has their distinct passions, and wall displays are the perfect place to showcase those. 

Some of Kate’s favourite places to hunt for accessories are online auctions, French antique markets and junk shops, as well as visiting favourite dealers, “[it’s] always a huge pleasure and something we spend most of our free time doing. We have a Lakehouse collection coming up this summer, and focusing our efforts towards this has given things more direction and focus. We also work with some fantastic artists with whom we collaborate or commission for the store, which means the opportunities are endless.”

Finding Inspiration and Beginning an Art Collection

Though it may be obvious, a great piece of advice for starting is simply to buy what you love: “pick up pieces on your travels so they will hold extra meaning for you.” She iterates that not everything has to be a showstopper, but that mixing sizes, textures and styles can have a great effect. “A favourite little piece of mine was a pair of old photographs of an officer in India with his horse, picked up for a couple of pounds on eBay and framed with a lovely big mount and slim tortoiseshell frame.” She also loves to mix something with depth into collections and picture walls to give them a 3D element, such as an old shadow box with a shell in it, an antique wooden sign, a ceramic plate or a folky diorama. “Wall sconce shelves are a great way to display ceramics or sculptures, too.” It is sensible, when looking for art to fill an existing space to consider scale first, as a piece that is too small for a space can become lost, “however,” says Kate, “I would encourage buying a piece because you love it and finding a home for it afterwards.” And we quite agree.

Perhaps the most elusive question is where to find your inspiration when choosing art? Kate and her family are all great lovers and collectors of design books, “[we often raid] each other’s bookcases and libraries,” she says. Other inspiration comes from their travels and interests, as mentioned above. “A recent Cornish Net Loft project was so easy to get on board with as we were able to indulge our love of the coast, folk art antiques and paint techniques.”

Telling a Story with Art

There are no limits to the tales you can tell with your artwork, whether you want to showcase your own travels or pay homage to a particular theme or style. “[Art] can tell a story, bring your interests alive, and echo your personality.” Kate surrounds herself with collections and art that make her happy, which in turn brings joy to the home. “I have a beautiful folky ship diorama, placed in perfect view to enjoy every time I eat at our dining table.” Placement is also key for garnering enjoyment from your pieces, and it is good to consider where you spend most of your time, what part of your home you are looking at when carrying out particular tasks which can be made all the more pleasant with an endorphin-inducing view. “The first piece my husband and I bought together is a large oil painting of a room scene; aside from its glorious colour and subject matter, it reminds me of a great time trawling through French markets with the sun on our faces.” In this way, your painting choices can mean so much more than what sits on the surface of the canvas, bringing back memories of the discovery process. “My brother, Tom, loves to fish, and his bedroom is covered in oil paintings of fish, framed flies and mounted trophies. I think art, collections and antiques can be very personal, and I love nothing more than visiting a collector’s home to see their treasures.”

Framing your Art 

The effect that framing your art can have on the overall appearance and feel of it in the room should not be underestimated, “it is a hugely creative art in itself, and there is so much room to add punch or character to a piece and have some fun,” says Kate. Anything can become art if framed well, Kate gives the examples of a humble postcard, photograph or invitation which can be “elevated to new heights with considered framing”. She suggests that while slim modern frames have their place, she would advise thinking about adding weight to a piece with an interesting or textured profile, adding depth with a tray frame or a pop of colour with a hand-painted frame. “This can also be a great way to weave a piece back into your interior scheme. One great way to find frames is to pick up antique and vintage frames on your travels and then find or commission pieces to go in them; “sometimes, it’s hard to beat the charm of a time-worn piece”.