The Ultimate Designer Guide For Choosing Unique, Beautiful Artwork (Including Favorite Sources)

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY The Havenly Team

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Published on April 9, 2022

Artwork may be the most impactful design element in any space, from homes and apartments to offices and retail environments. No matter your chosen aesthetic, paintings and photography really tie the overall design together and add personality and charm in spades.

But unfortunately, artwork is often overlooked, underestimated, or forgotten altogether. Because it can be so difficult and time-consuming to find the perfect pieces worthy of your walls, many homes are left blank for far longer than planned. Plus, high-quality artwork can quickly get expensive, and artwork will always come second to furniture and seating when drafting a design budget.

But, we’re here to tell you that choosing artwork for your home doesn’t have to be painstaking, stressful, or exorbitantly overpriced.  Thanks to our design known-how and curated list of affordable online resources, you can fill your home with impactful, beautiful artwork in matter of weeks (not years). Ahead, find our designers’ eight tips for sourcing, hanging, styling, and placing artwork in your space:

1. Consider scale and proportion

How to choose art

If you have a specific location in mind for artwork, scale and proportion are two key principles you’ll want to remember. You want to make sure that your artwork feels proportional to the wall size — too big, and it will feel cluttered, and too small, it will feel unfinished. 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 real estate. Typically, horizontal or square pieces fare well over a bed or sofa, while vertical pieces work nicely on tall, thin wall swatches, like between windows or in a powder room.

2. Embrace unexpected placements

How to choose art

While a dead-center mantel or over-the-bed piece will never get old, don’t be afraid of asymmetry when it comes to art placement. Embracing the less obvious spot or hanging artwork in an unexpected nook can add a lot of visual intrigue and make spaces feel offbeat in the best way. You can also balance artwork asymmetry with matching accents on either side, like wall sconces, table lamps, or nightstands (in a bedroom, of course). Our only hard-and-fast rule when it comes to art placement? Make sure you don’t hang it too high. All artwork should be at eye level or about six to nine inches above a major piece of furniture. This ensures that the artwork remains attached to the rest of the design.

3. Mix different mats and frames

How to choose art

Artwork framing and matting should never be overlooked – your choices here will strongly impact the finished aesthetic. Generally speaking, you should select frames that suit your overall design style. Simple black or white frames lean modern and contemporary, while more ornate gold, brushed brass, or wooden frames will lend a traditional, old-world feel to your space. You always want the frame to complement and accentuate the art, not compete with it, so don’t go overboard if your art is more minimalist. Matted art is perfect for a polished, classic look, while full-bleed pieces complement modern design styles. Personally, we love mixing different mats and frame styles, especially in a gallery wall — it lends a more collected, natural feel.

4. Get personal

How to choose art

Here’s where things get personal. Your chosen artwork should reflect your interests, design style, travels, and even your family history — hand-me-down heirlooms or gems thrifted abroad are some of the most memorable in any collection. We recommend steering clear of any cliche word art or ubiquitous Starry Night prints — the more meaningful and unique to you, the better! As far as overall style goes, feel free to complements your homes’ architecture or go in the complete opposite aesthetic direction. For example, a historic home with ornate moulding paired with bold modern photography always feels unique and interesting.

5. Be mindful of color palette

How to choose art

While art can certainly add an unexpected pop of color to your space, it should still harmonize with its surroundings. Always consider your overall color palette when selecting artwork and try to pick up on similar hues in your rug, throw pillows, furniture, or florals. If all else fails, consult the color wheel and select a complementary, adjacent, or tonal colors for your artwork to ensure a cohesive palette. 

6. Play with layering

How to choose art

Rather than hanging artwork on the walls, skip the hammering and consider layering collected pieces on a shelf, mantel, desk, or dresser. We especially love a mirror paired with a smaller piece of artwork, as pictured above. This trick makes your space feel a touch more effortless and design-forward; like you’re not trying too hard.

7. Embrace blank space

How to choose art

Remember, not every wall needs art or wall decor in general. There’s something undeniably serene and calming about a clean, blank wall, particularly if the rest of the space is cozy and well-decorated. Learn to embrace negative space and allow it to shed a light on the carefully-selected art and furniture that you do have. What your space lacks in artwork you can make up for in texture — the above bedroom is a perfect example. 

8. Don’t sleep on online artwork

How to choose art

Of course, buying a piece of art in-person will always be superior to interpreting quality, canvas, and color palette through a screen. But with that said, there are so many great online resources these days, including digital marketplaces for vintage and locally-sourced artwork. Below, find our designers’ favorite vendors for sourcing unique, statement artwork online: 

  • Artfully Walls: wide variety of sizes, frames, and styles at every price point. Also has a great wall designer tool that allows you to visualize each piece.
  • Anthropologie: great selection of colorful, whimsical, and oversized artwork. 
  • Soicher Marin: beautiful avant-garde pieces that will make your home feel like an art museum. 
  • McGee & Co: great selection of dreamy landscapes, vintage-inspired portraitures, and modern abstracts. 
  • Wander Print Co: Wide selection of fun and playful graphics with a free-spirited feel at a very affordable price point — perfect for boho spaces. 
  • Lulu & Georgia: impressive selection ranging from breathtaking photography of far-flung locales to rich, evocative paintings.
  • CB2: great curation of modern black and white photography (particularly of pop culture moments) and minimalist abstracts.
  • The Citizenry: breathtaking photography of distant cities — perfect resource for the well traveled home!

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.