The Black & White Abode Part 4: Choosing Artwork

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY The Havenly Team

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Published on March 9, 2017

Havenly Head Designer Shelby Girard is decorating her new home in her favorite style: Black and white glam! In part 4, watch Shelby’s black and white home design come together as she tackles one of her favorite questions of home design: how to choose art!

Art is the part of home design that adds the most character to a space but, unfortunately, it is also most often overlooked. I’ve worked with many clients at Havenly that don’t incorporate art in their budget, so while they are able to buy the furniture pieces they need, their walls are left blank and their rooms feel unfinished and impersonal.

I get it, art is pricey and extremely personal, so it’s often hard to choose art pieces that feel worthy of your walls. However, it makes all the difference. Art adds soul to a home and can help tell the story of it’s inhabitants. It’s also a great opportunity to incorporate meaningful pieces you’ve collected through family, friends or travels. My grandfather was an artist, so I’ve been lucky to always have a couple of his pieces in my home, including a painted portrait of my grandmother that will hang above our sofa.

When it came time to choose art for my new house, I went a bit rogue and decided to buy all of the pieces I love and have been coveting, without a particular place in mind for each. It’s been fun “trying them on” around the house and leaning different pieces against various walls for a couple of days before deciding whether it’s the perfect fit. This method seems to work for me, but most clients I work with need a clear plan if they are investing a good chunk of their budget on artwork. So, if you’re wondering how to choose art, I’m here to help.

How To Choose Art

Scale & Proportion

If you have a specific location where you need art in your home, size and orientation are two key characteristics you’ll want to keep in mind. If you need something above your sofa and can’t splurge on an oversized piece, try using a diptych, triptych or gallery wall to take up some wall real estate. Typically horizontal or square pieces fare well over a bed or sofa, while vertical pieces work nicely on tall walls without as much width, like between windows or in a powder room.

That being said, not every wall needs to be filled with a large piece of art, and in my new home, I’ve learned to embrace negative space. A little blank space can help emphasize the art and furniture you do have.


If you’re wondering how to choose art for an odd place, it’s ok to get creative! A smaller piece off-centered above a sofa is a unique way to highlight a piece without overwhelming the room, and it can create a simple, minimal feel. Using symmetry in art by mirroring two similar pieces on either side of a fireplace or above your bed creates a more formal, sophisticated vibe. I also love leaning art over dressers, desks or layered over a mirror on a fireplace. It’s one of those tricks that makes your space feel a bit more design-forward, like you’re not trying too hard to be so effortlessly cool (it’s also great if you aren’t so handy with the hammer).

My only hard and fast rule when it comes to placing art on your walls is to make sure you’re not hanging it too high. Hang your art at eye level or about 6-9 inches above a major piece of furniture. This helps your art stay attached to the rest of the room’s design and a part of the natural visual flow of your space.

Framing and Matting

When choosing art, framing and matting is one aspect not to overlook. If the frame is an afterthought, it can leave your art feeling the same. I don’t think there are a ton of rules when it comes to framing, other than choosing something that fits with your personal taste. Matted art is perfect for a polished, old-world look, while un-matted pieces are great for a more modern design.

For frames, I have everything from modern white to distressed gold and polished brass. If you’re on the fence about a frame, you can never go wrong with a simple white frame. Personally, I’m partial to using gold whenever possible as I think it helps elevate the artwork. I also happen to love mixing mats and frames in a gallery wall, and think this creates the feeling that you’ve collected pieces over time (it’s also handy if you have indeed collected pieces that might not all match).

My go-to art vendor, especially when it comes to frames I love, is Artfully Walls. They have a huge range of mediums, frames, sizes and affordability, so I tend to always find something that fits whatever project I’m working on.

They also have pre-curated gallery walls and a wall designer, a visual tool that allows you to see their art to-scale on a wall before buying. I’ve used this tool for many gallery walls I’ve designed for clients and love that it gives them an accurate blueprint for implementation.


Here’s where things get personal. The hardest part of choosing art is deciding on the style and subject. My personal taste is pretty eclectic when it comes to art styles. I love vintage painted portraits, modern abstracts, moody florals and edgy fashion photography. To me, artwork is the best opportunity in a home to take a risk, try something different and showcase your personality, so I never advocate for playing it safe here. Some of my favorite homes have art that starkly contrasts the style of a space, making it all the more interesting. For example, a historic home with ornate moulding and bold modern photography gets me every time.

I’m not saying art shouldn’t fit with the rest of your home, but I do think it’s the best opportunity to take a risk and try something a bit outside of the box, which is what I’m hoping to achieve in my house.

Stay tuned for the reveal photos that showcase how I used art throughout my home, including a handful of beauties from Artfully Walls. If you’re looking for more help on how to choose art for your space, or would like to create a gallery wall, check out Havenly Mini and work one-on-one with your own interior designer for just $79.