N/A, Toa Heftiba, 2018, unsplash.net
An art-centric room lets your visitor know that you care – you care not only about the aesthetic quality of your space but also about the meaning behind your interior design. Art-centric rooms, whether in your home, your office building, or anywhere else, provide a window into your values and what makes you unique.
Since even the humblest space likely contains some art, the question arises, what makes a room “art-centric”? There are two key components to keep in mind during your design process:
The art speaks the loudest.
The first consideration when designing an art-centric room is curation. Choose pieces that have enough depth to merit being the focal point of your place of work or living area. If your art-centric room comprises multiple pieces, then they should exist in conversation with one another through their aesthetics and themes.
Other items, such as furniture and appliances, should be relatively mute in comparison with the art. Contrast is your friend here. If you collect glossy contemporary art, consider a color palette of earth tones with matte finishes. If your artwork is classical in nature, think about pairing it with more modern furniture to clearly distinguish your pieces. Always be sure to have your lights arranged in a way that emphasizes the aesthetic strengths of the room.
The room serves the art.
If your art is relegated to a corner of your living area, for example, that space could hardly be considered art-centric. Instead, many of the most effective art-centric rooms maintain large floor plans with carefully placed creations. Consider for a minute the lobby of an art-centric hotel or large corporation. These spaces have long known the value of a well-placed work of art accompanied by space to walk around and enjoy it.
Small rooms can also be art-centric. Consider treating your small space like a jewel box, highlighting a thought-out collection of small artworks. You could capitalize on a lack of space by creating a more exciting experience that caters itself to close viewings.
To further focus attention, light your artwork to differentiate it from the rest of the room. By thoughtfully lighting your art collection, you help visitors appreciate your artwork and signal that the art is a primary focus of the room and not an afterthought.
How do I start creating an art-centric room?
Your first concern when designing an art-centric room should be the art itself. Think about the pieces that you already have and which ones might work best to design a room around. At the beginning stages of curating your space, you should pay particular attention to a specific color palette or theme that will tie your pieces together into a coherent experience. The key to a successful art-centric room is that the curation seems intentional.
Once you’ve landed on a piece or two that you own (or that you plan on acquiring), you should consider how your collection may expand in the future and where you will fit those pieces. Of course, not all art-centric rooms follow the same principles in terms of their layout. Below a few ideas for how you can curate a beautiful room that showcases your collection.
N/A, Chuttersnap, 2020, unsplash.com
You're probably already familiar with the bold, minimalist approach to art-centric room design. Interior designers often employ this technique when envisioning lobbies for hotels and major office buildings. The idea is to craft a room around one centralized piece of art that is engaging enough to energize the entire space.
Pick a piece of artwork that is not only large but also draws attention to itself. For example, Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog is often used in lobbies in part because of its shiny metallic surface that creates a natural glow. The image above features a chandelier that could equally be described as sculpture – the light it emits draws attention to its own beauty while its cast shadows form an impressionistic pattern around the ceiling fixture. In contrast, the rest of the room is relatively subdued.
N/A, Ciel Chang, 2019, unsplash.com
An industrial loft or any other kind of minimalist space can help keep attention on the creation. Keep your furniture simple and your appliances to a minimum to ensure that the power of your selection is felt at its full potential. Industrial design often pairs well with smooth, geometric art. In the image above, the irregularities of the art gallery’s wall emphasize the perfection and intentional quality of the piece.
N/A, Isaac Quesada, 2019, unsplash.com
When you have several “loud” art pieces, an effective approach can be to let them all exist together in the same space. Let their contrasts be the main attraction.
In an art gallery-style space, your artwork can highlight your eclectic curatorial leanings. The more the merrier. Consider pairing sculptures with paintings and interesting furniture. In this kind of room, the art can be allowed to overwhelm a little bit.
Thematically, it is important that the Eclectic Gallery draw from many different sources. The idea is to visually excite and intellectually stimulate – let your visitors draw their own conclusions when comparing disparate pieces of art.
The living room above accomplishes this feat by placing portraits besides graphic design and abstract art while the furniture ranges from contemporary to midcentury modern.
N/A, Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu, 2020, unsplash.com
The more subdued sibling of the eclectic gallery is the thoughtful archive. The idea here is to outfit your room with a well curated collection of related artworks. Unlike the eclectic gallery, a thoughtful archive should contain strong, coherent themes and color palettes that tie the room together in a unified experience.
Great approaches to the Thoughtful Archive method of lighting interior design include collecting several pieces from a single source of origin, such as a place you might visit regularly. Another impetus for an archive-like, art-centric room might be a particular area of study on which you focus.
Like the Eclectic Gallery, the Thoughtful Archive often benefits from a degree of disorganization. In a way, your arrangement of the artwork may be considered a work of art in and of itself. Moreover, both interior design styles can be particularly useful in small spaces where your audience is forced to examine each piece up close.
N/A, Jean-Philippe Delberghe, 2020, unsplash.com
A sculpture garden is traditionally an outdoor park space comprised of works by various artists. Visitors are encouraged to stroll through and enjoy the art, not treating it quite as preciously as a museum might.
That same concept can be domesticated. In the interior shown above, each piece of furniture maintains a sculptural quality. The geometric sofa fits seamlessly into the gridded area rug, while the lamp in the background morphs from angularity into curvature, transitioning the room vertically.
Here, the furniture is the art, and the painting in the background is almost a reinforcement of the themes being explored in three-dimensional space.
The Furniture Garden-style is great for the home, from the dining room to the bedroom. The key to this kind of décor is to keep your theme very strong so the furniture is unmistakably curated. Additionally, your furniture should tell a unique story. Whether in person or on-screen, we have all seen the ubiquitous midcentury modern corporate lobby with black leather chairs designed by Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. What story do you have to tell that is specific to you?
How much do I need to spend to build an art-centric room?
One common misconception that should be dispelled is that you need to be a wealthy collector to design an art-centric room. The truth is that any budget will suffice. Perhaps you are an artist yourself, and you build your room to showcase your own creativity. If your passion is curation, then seek out artists who haven’t yet hit the peaks of their careers.
Your art is as precious as you treat it. If you place a piece by a fledgling local painter on an otherwise bare wall, illuminated from above, you are signifying to your visitors that you recognize greatness where others have yet to. Surround that painting with other local creations, and you signify to your audience that you not only appreciate art, but also value and support your community.
Trust your gut
The key to any meaningful art-centric room is to trust your gut. Art is personal, and a room built around your favorite pieces should feel like a sanctuary, a place where others may visit and get a little more insight into who you are. The ideas listed above are simply there for you to consider, but ultimately the way you build your room will be completely unique to your sensibilities and curatorial personality.
Still, some rules will always apply
- Art should be placed safely and lit appropriately to preserve its quality
- Furniture and appliances should never distract from the art, but should instead highlight it
- Maintain a strategy for adding to your collection if you think that is a possibility
- Do not shy away from professional help
With that in mind, go and design the art-centric room of your dreams. Do so with purpose and joy.
Wyatt Dalton is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in several media outlets including Governing Magazine, Statescoop, and several blogs for Harvard University. He began his career conducting architectural research and continues to write about the built environment.