Updated: Dec 29, 2019
One rule trumps all when you’re picking a new piece to adorn your living room or bathroom wall: It’s about what you like. Yet we know it’s still possible to end up with two pieces that tug your heart strings in different directions. When faced with a tough choice, it’s easy to forget that there are some things you can learn about a painting that aren’t visible on the piece—And those details can help you make the final call.
The first- And maybe most effective thing you can do- Is to ask your seller about the artist or piece.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes people can overlook paintings loaded with a deeper story or origin because the way it looks already tells us so much. Imagine, for example, if you ran into a portrait of a beautiful young man with curly hair. You turn to the artist, and say, “Oh, he looks very elegant,” to which the artist leans over and replies, “It was inspired by Dorian Gray before his fall.”
Now, we know that might be a stretch. But the point still stands that by learning about the artist’s intention more, you can either fall more in love with a painting (maybe you love Oscar Wilde), or, just pass on it because of its associations. Which brings us to another great consideration before you buy a painting: Think of how it can start a conversation.
That rule especially applies if the piece will end up in your hallway or family room. An art piece can be more than decoration; it can help bring your guests out of their shells. A painting showing the silhouette of a London landscape can help a shy guest decide to ask you if you’ve been there. If you find a piece with a humorous edge or story, you can share it with visitors to feel cultured and like a good host.
For areas that are more personal like the powder or bedroom, look to paintings that make you feel more relaxed. It’s also why kitchen decorations have such a kitschy, niche style: Companies know that people like to match the warm, familial feeling in their kitchens with pieces of cartoonishly chubby men happily taking another pizza slice.
You can also find guidance for a final choice based on your house’s aesthetics if it follows a specific time-period. For example, if you want your house to look Classical, you might want to go for the painting of a Greek goddess over the Romantic depiction of French lovers frolicking in the garden.
If all else fails, the only thing left to do is go with your gut. Ultimately, your home is a place where you should feel comfortable first. Just as artists bend the rules, you’re allowed as a buyer to build new rules of curation for yourself. Just as long as you remember to ask about the artist’s intent to avoid doubts down the line!