Nothing makes a house a home quite like what you choose to hang on your walls. Whether it’s treasured photos of family and friends, foraged sketches from antiques fairs or a standout painting by a favorite artist, the message is the same: they’re items that reflect your life and personal taste. Choosing can be the simple part, but once you’ve found your “perfect” piece there are many other hoops to jump through, such as getting the arrangement just right. If this is the conundrum you find yourself in, let our Co-Founder and Creative Director Sue Jones pass on her tried-and-tested tips in this wall art buying guide—she’s no stranger to letting her walls do the talking.
“In my opinion, anything can go on the wall; I’ve been known to hang beautiful rugs up, just because I love them, and why not?” says Sue. This underpins her most salient piece of advice: if you’re wondering how to choose wall art, remember to make sure you really like the content. There are so many art styles out there so if, like Sue, you’re more drawn to watercolors and oil paintings, go with your gut rather than be led by trends. That said, try not to close yourself off to anything that’s a little out-of-the-ordinary; “I’ve been taken by surprise by pieces that I didn’t think would work, and did,” explains Sue. Don’t be afraid to mix different styles of art in one room, either—when choosing wall art that will go together, just make sure there’s a cohesive element between them and the rest of the space, be that the color palette (in the pieces themselves and the frames) or motifs, to ensure they work in harmony.
Wall art can mean such different things to different people and homes. “For me, art (and books) are how I brighten a room, for others, it can be the starting point of a whole look—it’s very personal,” muses Sue. So, have you got a huge blank wall that you simply want to cover or are you trying to set a mood? “A single piece of art can add real impact, but you can spend a fortune on—and a lifetime searching for—one perfect piece to fill a wall space,” she laughs. If you can’t find “the one,” look to a collection of prints instead. Besides offering “a lot of bang for your buck,” a coordinated set is an easy way to add color and interest in a cohesive way.
Another option could be a polyptych, a four-piece artwork made up of one design that’s spread across different panels—this is a great way to incorporate an image you love over a larger surface area. Alternatively, gallery walls are ideal for incorporating art into your home without having to settle on one specific style. Choose a variety of sizes, from larger pieces to smaller designs, to create a really eclectic feel.
If you love a piece and it’s not looking how you hoped, chances are the frame isn’t quite right—they can completely make or break a picture. According to Sue, “an expert framer is your best friend and can offer lots of advice for finding the perfect match.” Sometimes a contemporary picture will call for a traditional frame, or one you might never have thought to choose, so having a specialist lend their eye can be extremely helpful.
How wall art is lit can make a huge difference, too. To avoid the glare from the glass of a framed picture, which completely ruins it, directional lighting is best—Sue recommends using recessed ceiling lights.
“It’s not just the piece itself, but where you choose to hang it,” says Sue. The proper placement of pictures on a wall should be at eye level, but the position will also be influenced by the type and amount of furniture in the room, as well as the lighting. If you’re hanging a gallery wall, begin with one central image and spread it out from there. Getting the arrangement right can be tricky, so Sue always lays everything on the floor in front of the wall first before starting to hang, which allows you to get the positioning and spacing right more easily. If you have lots of different textures in your home, take that into account and experiment from room to room. “We have exposed stone, wood and plaster [in my home]—and the different background surfaces change how items look,” explains Sue.
If you’ve tried positioning artwork in the usual focal points—such as above the bed or at the top of the stairs—and it’s still not looking quite right, don’t be afraid to test the water in more weird and wonderful places. “There’s something delightful about throwing things on their head a little, like the surprise of finding a really beautiful picture in the downstairs bathroom—the best things don’t necessarily have to be in ‘prime’ position,” says Sue. “I had a portrait of me done years ago and I’d rather fly to the moon than hang it right over the fireplace.” So, play around, but wherever you do choose to hang your pieces, remember: “A spirit level is essential, as are good quality pins and wire, and, sometimes, a trusty bit of Sticky Tack!”