Off the Wall
Off the Wall

Adorn your four walls with striking works of art for an instant style update, says Sarah Marshall

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Decorating a house in style now means more than choosing a pretty wallpaper pattern or selecting a striking colour palette. More and more people are turning to ‘wall art’
as a quick, hassle-free and sometimes more affordable alternative.

From hanging an original canvas to sticking adhesive panels, there are numerous ways to update a wall space. What’s more, wall art can be easily removed to change the feel of a room, making it a versatile design tool.

Where to start?

There are two main approaches to choosing wall art: either select a piece to fit with an existing colour theme or work with the two in tandem. Celebrity chef Raymond Blanc even admits to basing the design of rooms in his five-star hotel, Le Manoir, on a single work of art.

“A lot of people don’t realise art should be bought not after you have decorated your rooms, but at the same time while designing,” says VJ from Degree Art, a dealer
specialising in the sale of work by recent graduates and emerging designers.

“As any stylist or interior designer will say, art chosen for your wall is as important as the colour you have chosen for them and the curtains you have picked for the windows.” Different styles of artwork can be used for varying effects. “To create light and sense of space, pick light colours and moving subjects,” says VJ. “Landscape paintings, maps and photography bring the outside in and create an illusion of open spaces. These would look good in a living room, corridor or staircase.

“To induce glamour and style, pick darker shades and rich colours. Just as dimmed and candlelight create a romantic and intimate atmosphere, these paintings add style and a sense of richness to the walls. These would look great in a bedroom or dining room.”

Pick out the right piece of wall art and it will lift both your spirits and your room. “Wall art is one of the easiest ways to refresh and transform a room,” says Emma Howard, Development Manager at Graham & Brown. “It’s the finishing touch which, although often bought on impulse, becomes the main feature of the room.”

Location, Location

Along with choosing the right piece to fit the mood of a particular room, it’s also important to decide exactly where to hang the work.

“Location makes a big difference,” says Louise Baltrop, Head of Marketing at Dunelm Mill. “Don’t hang pictures at eye level; consider the proportions of the wall as well as the surrounding furniture. If the picture is hung too high, it will appear disconnected from everything around it; too low and it will interfere with the use of the furniture and not be viewed properly.”

She suggests hanging large pictures in a prominent position for visual impact, and grouping smaller pieces together to create a more cohesive look.

Weird and Wonderful

For something a little different, try ‘living walls’. The designs in the 3D ‘Math’ Collection from Corian are inspired by the theories of famous mathematicians and their formulae, many of which were inspired or revealed by nature. All are made using living plants.

As well as looking good, the artwork has environmental benefits; the foliage is excellent at putting moisture back in the air.

Icons

Iconic pictures and paintings add instant atmosphere to a room. If you can’t afford the original prints, a number of companies can now provide replicas.

Pictures from celebrity photographer Richard Young are now available through the Richard Young gallery’s Pret-a-Photo service. Framed prints are priced between £50 and £2,500.

Fabulous Masterpieces is a company specialising in bespoke art and fine art replica oil paintings of people’s favourite paintings. They will either hand paint replicas onto canvas or create bespoke pieces according to design. Average price for a 60cm x 76cm Impressionist oil painting is from £250 plus vat.

Rugs

Once used for underfoot comfort, decorative rugs are now enjoying pride of place on the wall.

“Hanging rugs or tapestries on a wall has been a popular feature of interior design for hundreds of years,” says Andrew Frith from FrithRugs, the UK’s leading supplier of imported rugs and carpets.

“We have noticed a resurgence of rug wall hanging and when you are buying an expensive rug – or one with an intricate design - putting it on a wall rather than the floor is a great way to show the rug to its full potential.”

Rugs should be hung with strong tapestry rods. Brackets are also required to lift the rug from the wall slightly and prevent the dye from marking the wall. This will allow air to circulate around the rug. For the best results, hang a rug in a large room on a wall to itself.

Personalise

For a really individual look, design your own piece of artwork using a favourite photograph. Online retailer CafePress offer an affordable service. Prices for canvas art start from £30.

Buying Art

Original paintings look fabulous in houses and you don’t need to spend a fortune to own a piece of art. Nicky Wheeler, fair director of the Affordable Art Fair, shares her top tips on how to make the most of your art buying experience:

1. PREPARATION

Preparation is key to anything, and shopping at an art fair is no exception. If you have a space in mind, have a think about what you’re looking for before you arrive at the fair and take a note of any practicalities such as size or lighting levels. But don’t buy something just to match the sofa. Hopefully your art will have a longer shelf life than your soft furnishings.

2. GO WITH AN OPEN MIND

Don’t follow the crowd – just because lots of people put a landscape or a still life over the mantelpiece, it doesn’t mean you have to. Bold, contemporary, even urban works can look amazing in a more traditional setting. Why not consider fine art photography or even a stunning piece of sculpture instead?

3. BUDGET

Go with a budget in mind, but be prepared to blow the budget if you see a piece that you just can’t live without. You’ll only regret what you don’t buy, not what you do!

Remember, many galleries now offer interest-free instalments through the Own Art scheme. If you’re just starting out buying art and your pockets aren’t very deep, consider original prints, such as screenprints and etchings, which are a great entry-level option.

4. LOOK

When you get to the fair, pick up a stand plan or catalogue, take your time to look around, making notes on galleries and pieces you like, and the essentials, including artist, size and price.

5. ASK

Looking at and buying art should be an enjoyable experience, not an intimidating one. Don’t be afraid to ask questions - art dealers are only too keen to talk about their artists’ work! Ask about the artist’s history.

Is their work included in any major collections? Have they won any public art prizes? Some galleries will allow you to take work home on approval – it often helps to see the work in situ, although of course it will then be hard to hand back!

6. FOLLOW YOUR HEART

First and foremost, choose something you love, not something you think you should buy. Art is a reflection of you and your personality, and you're likely to hang on to it for a lot longer if you feel a connection with the work. Don’t hesitate too long though - original art is unique and you don’t want to be left broken-hearted if you return to find the piece that caught your eye has been taken by someone else!

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