If the client happens to be a millionaire finding something for the walls is not a problem. As the interior designer you can show pricey, investment-quality art. Clients in this arena can buy art for art's sake without a care as to whether it coordinates with its surroundings. Individuals in this category can redecorate a room to fit the art piece in which they've invested. For the rest of America, no matter how upwardly mobile, we typically select the furnishings first, then deal with wall hangings to coordinate.
With this in mind, consider the style of the room. If it is traditional, a wildly modern art piece will look very out of place in most instances. The same can be said in reverse. So first look for pieces that complement the theme or mood already created with the room's furnishings. Keep this in mind when selecting a frame as well. Coordinating wood types, colors and styles can go a long way toward enhancing the art and, therefore, the room.
Next, consider the color scheme. Again, the room will dictate what the majority of the colors should be in any wall hangings to go in the space. Of course, not every picture the clients like will have exactly the colors they desire, but as long as a few of the colors coordinate with the color scheme the picture should work. Using the dominant, secondary and accent colors the clients defined when planning their color scheme, mat the artwork accordingly to get the look desired.
It is not necessary to cover every inch of wall with art, though that can be done successfully if the clients desire. The purpose of artwork is to add interest and character to a room that should be inviting to the clients, their family and friends.
Having purchased a few pieces the clients feel they can live with, the next hurdle is hanging the pieces properly. Most people go by the general rule of hanging pictures at eye level. In fact, this is an excellent rule. However, most of us forget that our eye level changes depending on the function of each room.
In a hallway or foyer we are standing and walking. That makes eye level somewhere between 54 and 72 inches. The center or just above the center of the picture should be placed at that height. In the dining room we sit down to eat. This requires lowering the art pieces accordingly. Of course we now have furniture to contend with, so two appropriate rules include:
•Pictures should be no more than eight to 12 inches above the items they are hung over.
•A picture or wall grouping should take up approximately two-thirds of the space available over any piece of furniture. It can be wider, but try to avoid having the picture or wall grouping take up a space wider than the piece of furniture over which it hangs. This situation generates very bad proportions in almost all circumstances and is very difficult to pull off successfully.
The living room can be handled in the same way as the dining room. Keep pictures approximately eight to 12 inches over furniture surfaces. This distance keeps the art from looking as if it is floating toward the ceiling. And keep the ratio of art-to-wall space over a sofa or any piece of furniture at about two-thirds. These rules will work in any home or office.
Wall groupings are a challenge but add interest to a room that single art pieces cannot. Consider creating a grouping in the homes of clients who have a wall or two they don't know what to do with. But be cautious. Do not go too far and put a grouping on every wall. This can be overwhelming and extremely busy.
When planning a grouping keep the following concepts in mind:
•Hang the individual pieces from three to six inches apart. They shouldn't crowd each other, but if they are too far apart they will not look connected.
•Coordinate the mats and frames in a grouping. If everything is different the grouping will look like it was thrown on the wall with little or no forethought. By using only two or three frame styles and keeping to no more than four mat colors used interchangeably, the grouping will generate its own unity.
•The more the mats, frames and subject matter are the same within a grouping, the more formal or traditional it will feel. A symmetrical layout will enhance that feeling. For a more informal and contemporary look, vary the frames and mats a little more and consider an asymmetrical plan.
•Layout the grouping on the floor before nailing holes in the wall. Attempt to make the grouping into a geometrical shape. Usually squares and rectangles are easiest. Triangles really can lead the eye. Circles, ovals and semi-circles can be difficult but fabulous when completed.
•ALIGN the frames so there is one definite horizontal line and one definite vertical line in the grouping. With planning and effort the grouping will be a success and make a statement about the room.
No Limits to Creativity
If the clients are decorating on a really tight budget be creative with the wall hangings. Try mixing a picture or two within a collection of baskets. Fabric stores have beautiful prints that can be stretched and hung as art. Weavings also are available at craft fairs and hand-craft stores. Using a quilt for wall decor saves a lot of wear and tear on the fabric, adds insulation to the wall (for noisy neighbors, or cold exterior walls) and displays the prize for all to see. Use small tacks to attach the quilt to a frame on all four sides. This will take care of distributing its weight and protect the investment value of an antique quilt.
Do the clients have a collection of hats, buttons, baseball cards? Look into shadow boxes, painted peg boards and decorative cork boards. What is it that the clients have to display? What would be the best way to hang it? How can the clients make that display attractive and coordinate it with the space? There are no limits to what can be created.
If time is a problem in making the art selections, pick a Saturday and plan a day out with those who share the space. Check a number of art galleries, frame shops, flea markets or whatever resource that will fit the pocketbook. Mail order catalogs may have preframed art pieces, and one may be the perfect choice.
Look for companies that will allow you, the designer, to take catalogs, art pieces, mats and frames right into the home. This is convenient, an incredible savings of time and typically costs no more (and possibly less) than a frame shop. The plus: the clients will have the colors and furnishings around them while selecting the art, mats and frames.
As a last tip, consider quality when selecting art. If the clients spend $1,500 on a sofa, a poster with a mylar frame over it would greatly diminish the look of the sofa. When on a tight budget, make an art plan with the clients and do a little at a time knowing the walls will be completed properly and enhance the environment.
Pictures do not have to be expensive to reflect quality whether the clients use frame shops, garage sales or your shop-at-home services. Most people keep the pictures they buy indefinitely, often 10 years or more. Taking the time to purchase things the clients like and that work with their tastes even if they cost a little more now, will reward them with a smile every time they gaze upon them.
Editor's note: This is the fifth of a multi-part series in which Dudics-Dean explains the most important concepts decorators need to know to make each interior project a success.
Susan Dudics-Dean is owner of Celestial Designs and an interior designer who has worked in the San Francisco Bay area of California for more than 11 years. She also is a newspaper columnist and seminar speaker.