David Crosson’s Interior Design Blog

A Tradition Of Artful Living

Or, How to Decorate with Art

When people ask me what DCDC is all about I usually respond with, “A tradition of artful living”. That phrase can mean different things to different people but for me it encapsulates the notion of living well by appreciating the exquisite things life has to offer. Please note that I said ‘exquisite’ as opposed to ‘costly’, as the two need not be the same thing. Savouring a beautifully made cappuccino is not the exclusive domain of the wealthy, nor is flopping your head down onto the perfect (for you) pillow at the end of a long day. This goes double for art.

The enhancement that art brings to life is a key factor for me, and not just because many of my clients have exceptional collections. The true meaning—and value—of art has been debated for centuries and it is likely one that will continue evermore without a definitive answer. In my mind, whether it’s a Chagall or a print from a student craft bazaar, the resonance of a piece is more critical to the delight of the viewer than its provenance or cost.

After trying several beautiful options, this richly toned impressionistic rug proved to be the painting’s perfect partner.

After trying several beautiful options, this richly toned impressionistic rug proved to be the painting’s perfect partner.

Oftentimes when I’m working with clients I’ll suggest that we do a re-set on their collection, particularly if they have been enjoying them in the same positions for some years. True, certain pieces will need to ‘live’ in certain places; in fact, many are even acquired with a defined spot in mind. These notwithstanding, I feel it’s important to shake things up a bit because leaving a hang status quo can often lead to viewer complacency, with the art being so familiar as to become invisible.

Repainting a space provides an excellent opportunity to remove all hanging works, fill in the holes and start anew with a figurative blank canvas (the painted ones come back into play soon enough). In the process of doing this, one thing that comes up frequently for both discussion and debate is the best colour to paint the walls.  Old-school wisdom dictates that only white is right where art is concerned and gives no latitude to other options. In my experience—and now that of my clients—picking a hue that complements the majority of your pieces is really the way to go. (For the record, I love C2’s “Hammered” for this, a soft grey-green that makes everything on it look fantastic.)

Once your walls are painted and dry (also properly cured, if you have the luxury of time) then you’re ready to play. Experimenting with new positions for favourite pieces is the key to this step, as the art that brings you the greatest pleasure should be most visible at some significant point in your daily routine (e.g. waking up, when you come in at night, when you’re eating, etc.). Always work with a second set of (trusted) hands and eyes so you can take turns holding and viewing pieces in their proposed new locations. Hang these first and then, still using the buddy system, start to fill in with other works that complement them in some way, such as by theme, colour palette, frame finish or scale.

It should go without saying that your art need not match your sofa—or anything else for that matter. Art is art. That said, a favoured painting can be an excellent jumping-off point for the overall scheme of a room, be it a minor or major piece in your collection. After all, if the trained eye of an artist selected a palette of colours that pleased your eye enough for you to buy his or her piece, there’s no reason why that same palette couldn’t work in the realm of interior design.  Naturally some modifications in proportion and saturation of colour will be necessary but, in my experience, art is always a solid starting point.

Though not a literal interpretation, the loopy, sketch-like quality of this Robert Allen textile made perfect sense for two chairs that would share space with the Godwin piece.

Though not a literal interpretation, the loopy, sketch-like quality of this Robert Allen textile made perfect sense for two chairs that would share space with the Godwin piece.

I know this from first-hand experience, as one of my clients has an exceptional Ted Godwin landscape that holds pride of place in her living room. However, the previous décor was not doing it any favours so when the time came to refresh the room her prime directive was to ensure that all roads led to Godwin. To accomplish this, we started with a stunning impressionistic rug that seemed to pay homage to the painter’s signature daub-y style. Although it was a strong presence in the room, the rug served to ground the space and lead the viewer’s eye right up to the painting.

Similarly, complementary tones were pulled from the painting in fabric and furnishings, again framing it in such a way that it became the unquestionable star of the room. I should point out, though, that it still formed part of a cohesive whole, with all elements playing off one another in harmony. To do otherwise would be to swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction and, in effect, reduce a room meant for comfort to a mere gallery space.

Decorating with art—around art, because of art, inspired by art—is a rewarding process, one with exceptionally pleasing results when you get it right. However, if you try the above and feel less than inspired, don’t hesitate to contact me…

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