We are back with another offensive design mistake – and when I say ‘offensive’ I mean that when it’s bad (really bad) it can be hard on the eye, sure. but, i’m also warning that this post may offend many. Our last 4 design mistakes have caused quite the controversy, occasionally making people regret recent purchases for their homes, but we are reviving our opinions and hoping that our expertise is worth the stress of the debate. If you haven’t already be sure to check out the other design mistake posts: The Generic Sofa Roundup | Rugs That Are Too Small | Painting A Small, Dark Room White | Bad Wood Finishes | How To Hang Curtains | How To Hang Art Correctly | Not Having A Plan | Who Pays For Design Mistakes | My Biggest Design Mistakes -And What You Can Learn From Them | When to Hire vs. DIY
Here’s to hoping no hard feelings. And now, the worst design mistake is … (drum-roll…) Generic or bad art.
What does that mean, specifically? I’m glad you asked. In this post we will tally what are the most commonly hung generic bad art that you can easily avoid, and then will give you a great alternative for that same style.
First up? Generic prints of famous works. We all love the Mona Lisa, but calm down about it in your own home.
Sure, it was once a great work (and the original still is). I know that we hang prints of paintings now, but there is something extra cheesy about a print of a masterpiece that everyone knows is a print. It’s a phone-it-in-piece, and we are officially hanging it up (God, so many puns in one sentence).
Exceptions – if you have a vintage poster of a gallery opening or one of a famous work being re-shown – like Calder in the 70’s in a Spanish museum or something of that kind… then that’s ok. But if it’s just a cheap print of a old-world master? Kiss it, dramatically, goodbye.
Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE me some serious old paintings or portraits as you can see:
So much so that I put them under windows.
That nude is ridiculously good (I believe from Dekor).
And these original paintings were by our client’s grandfather and oh so lovely.
So what do you buy instead? Hone in on what you loved about that particular piece – that could mean that it’s a pretty landscape, a calming floral or an interesting portrait. A print of a super famous work feels redundant and reductive, whereas a print of a lovely contemporary painting feels fresh and respectful. Here are some we love that can be ordered and framed online (pricing depends on the size):
1. Tzealim | 2. Ruth | 3. Mornings Away | 4. Weather Beaten | 5. Verdant | 6. Mediterranean Landscape | 7. Asian Woman | 8. Beach Days in Positano | 9. Bath | 10. Broad Shoulders | 11. Andrew | 12. Blue Hills | 13. Joshua Tree #5 | 14. Long Island Sound – Calm Water | 15. Beach Health Class 1933 | 16. Orange Lake | 17. Chasing Light | 18. Day’s End | 19. Sahara Trek | 20. Road Trip 2 | 21. Model9 | 22. Big Sky Country | 23. Evening Shore | 24. Spiced Cider
We get virtually all our original paintings from the flea market, ebay, etsy or chairish (mostly because original work by contemporary artist can be expensive – albeit absolutely worth it).
If you are anti-print or reproduction then here is a roundup of a lot of original one of a kind paintings that you can buy online in which we love:
1. Winter Sun | 2. Devoto Apples in French Primary Yellow and Grenade Red | 3. Untitled. | 4. Melancholy Winter Frozen | 5. Color Study I | 6. A great day for a walk Painting | 7. Nocturne | 8. Muizenberg 16 | 9. Cool Zone | 10. Modern Three Pears | 11. To the sea | 12. Baltic Sea
Culprit #2 – Mass Produced Abstract prints and photography. It’s hard to explain why a piece of art isn’t successful in our minds, but after tearing the internet apart one of the things we noted was that they didn’t have a strong point of view; that it wasn’t saying anything in particular, and was meant to feel like a “filler” piece. Think how stagers fill a house – art for the masses, taking no risk, and provoking no particular feeling.
This kind of stuff is what you want to avoid because it will dumb down your house and your personality.
There are many retailers producing good art now, sure, but many are still doing a bad 90’s version of “ART”. You have options now. Etsy, Ebay, Minted, Target, Saatchi, Society 6 … all exist. Also there are these:
I love Max Wanger and his beautiful beach photography (Gray Malin has such pretty versions, too). These have limited editions, ensuring that they won’t be ubiquitous within weeks.
We used a variety of abstract prints and photography above from Minted which were then framed by Framebridge, or buy something totally original like I did in Portland (for $80) and have it shipped down (for $200). It’s a huge piece and a bit of a risk for $280, but I love it so it was worth it.
Here is a selection of abstracts and beautiful photography that we love and endorse. These are not generic, they are beautiful, provoke an emotion (a good one or even full of tension) and can be purchased online:
1. Little League | 2. Fleury | 3. Nike | 4. Neutral Labyrinth | 5. Roll With Me | 6. Framed Strokes Abstract | 7. Southern Cotton Series 4 | 8. Knox | 9. Going for a Swim | 10. Study 19 | 11. Framed Watercolor Abstract Blue | 12. Beast Coast | 13. Sealed Memories | 14. Banana’s Ripening | 15. Flora in B + W | 16. Emotion | 17. Winter Sky | 18. Seventy Tree Tropical | 19. Color Horizon | 20. Zodiac Tokyo Chum | 21. Troubled Waters | 22. Self Service | 23. Sushi | 24. Oxford Phenomenon 1
Generic art #3 to avoid: I know this was a huge trend but we are ready to send almost all of it to bed – BAD AND OR CHEESY TYPOGRAPHY:
I also like to remind myself to brush, floss and watch the sunset, but are these worthy words to don your walls? Nay. I like some typography so how do you do it right? First off – avoid the placard and just have a print like a normal person.
We have used good typography before in the following projects:
‘California Girl’ and ‘The Best is Yet to Come’ were both quotes that spoke to the client and we thought they were sweet in this girl’s room. I wouldn’t make them a huge feature in a room, but in the the shelves they are adorable.
Sara used this quote in her bedroom, which I love:
I think they can be a lovely way to remind yourself of something – as long as it’s poignant, funny or compelling in SOME WAY. Mine could say something like ‘YOU ARE A NOT A BAD MOM IT’S JUST THAT YOU HAVE A 3 YEAR OLD AND THAT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. A good rule of thumb would be if it makes you smile or makes you think, then it’s worthy for the walls. But if it’s just a random quote or word … maybe skip it.
Here are some that we like over at EHD, some are classics – and #10 will be in Charlie’s room because I love it so much)
1. Ask More Questions | 2. HA Print | 3. California Girl | 4. Love Print | 5. Keep Calm and Carry On | 6. Framed Seasonal Fruit Vegetable Print | 7. Bien Venido | 8. It’s OK Banner | 9. Stewarts Drive In | 10. Work Hard & Be Nice To People | 11. Keep It Real | 12. Artisan | 13. Wherever You Are Is My Home | 14. I Did Not Join The Struggle To Be Poor | 15. Vancouver #5 (Smile) | 16. Oui Oui | 17. Los Angeles Elevations | 18. Play Typography A | 19. Zuma Beach Malibu no. 7 | 20. A Smile Is The Prettiest Thing You Can Wear | 21. Get In Loser
Next culprit? Bad diptychs and triptychs. I love two pieces that go together, but when the image is stretched over multiple canvas – separate yourself from it immediately (get it?).
Additionally make sure that you like the pieces individually, and that they can stand alone as their own pretty piece of art. Finding these bad diptychs online and making sure it’s not someone’s actual work (instead manufactured by a store) proved to be super challenging because we didn’t want to call out an individual artist. But generally if it says ‘dyptich’ or ‘triptych’ then shy away from it, instead opt for two pieces that you like on their own, but that have a similar framing and a similar color palette and style.
Brady used these two original and graphic abstract pieces here in his living room, which help to pepper around the black that he has in his beams and elsewhere in the space:
Mel and her boyfriend bought these together, which I think are stunning. But again, although they work together they are pretty enough to stand alone:
We used Jaime Derringer’s prints in Nicolette’s makeover, and I loved how they filled out the space, worked together but were great standalone pieces.
Just when I thought that I had a rule for Diptychs and Triptychs I found Orlando’s bedroom which had one photo, over four different frames and it looked AMAZING.
So there you go – it really depends on the piece/s and the styling of it.
The following roundup has some pieces that are sold together and some that are individually sold, that we paired with pieces. Usually the reason you do a pair or a trio is to fill out a wall without having to go all gallery wall with like 15 different pieces. These do simplify your life and can help make a room look really pulled together.
1. Sea Stones | 2. Three Again (top) / B & W Ode 4 (left) / Stones (right) | 3. Framed Print Mask III & IV | 4. Dotted Geo Framed Prints | 5. Framed Nautical Flags | 6. Framed Watercolor Blue Abstracts | 7. Study 13 (left) / Untitled 2 (right) | 8. 3 Piece Shape up Collage Set | 9. Framed Blue Textile Art | 10. Framed Pattern Abstract Blue | 11. SGRAFFITO No. 422 (left) / SGRAFFITO No. 317 (right) | 12. Silver Cloud | 13. A Little Taste of Your Soul (left) / Close on White (right) | 14. 2 Piece Pink Stripes Painting Set | 15. Untitled 1 (left) / Untitled 1b (right).
Last one …. which will probably bum the most people out but everyone in the office agreed with this mistake, so we grew a collective pair and decided to make it public.
Stay away from Canvas Wrapped PRINTS. Like these:
Yes, this does even include family photos. The reason is that by wrapping them around the back they are trying to look like canvas paintings, and they are not. I understand that many an online company sell, and will upload and “frame” your photos like this and it can be more affordable than getting something framed (although these days what with Framebridge and Simply Framed we have so many more affordable options). You can buy a painting with the canvas wrapped around the side – because that is often how the painter painted it, but if the printed image goes around the back, its a no-no in our book.
Don’t get me wrong, I like family photos displayed around the house:
And if you have a lot of canvas’ that need framing we get them done like this – all floating style, with no mat, glass or anything (Framebridge did these).
These frames of Sylvia’s family (below) were purchased at Target – there are a lot of ready made options out there. We even did an entire roundup of readymade frames.
Well, I hope you are still with me, that you still like us and that you aren’t staring at your walls realizing that you’ve lived with a canvas-wrapped-triptych of Mona Lisa this whole time. If Rachel Zoe told me to stop wearing scrunchies, I would thank her.
Ultimately if it makes you happy in any way, then go for it. Don’t let us and our style rules dictate what makes you smile. We hope more people support artists or the companies that collaborate with artist, which is why we included not just a criticism, but also many, many good options.
*VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE: If you watched hometowns last night you’ll see EXACTLY what we are talking about. The houses were obviously just set apartments (except Corrine’s and Vanessa’s) and they put ‘cleared’ art on the wall. It’s art that is made to just be a ‘filler’ and its faux paintings, etc. So you are wondering specifically what we want you to avoid, watch last nights Bach.
If you want to shop for art but nothing above tickles your fancy, then head on over to our ultimate online art roundup (or get yourself to the flea market), and if you have a lot of family photos to frame then head to our best readymade frame roundup, or think about one of the new online framing companies for anything special or custom-sized (we use Framebridge a lot – see here and here, but we just ordered some from Simply Framed and we’ll let you know how they come when we receive them).
So are you mad or grateful? Do you agree or think we are just the most pretentious design snobs ever? In case you want to know what else we think everyone is doing wrong check out these design mistakes; The Generic Sofa Roundup | Rugs That Are Too Small | Painting A Small, Dark Room White | Bad Wood Finishes | How To Hang Curtains | How To Hang Art Correctly | Not Having A Plan | Who Pays For Design Mistakes | My Biggest Design Mistakes -And What You Can Learn From Them | When to Hire vs. DIY. And if you think there is a design mistake we need to cover on the blog or have questions about then let us know below.
Fun round up – and in keeping with the “spirit of new politics” – if I were to have a quote in a frame for 2017 is would be #resist
You also missed out buying hideous art from the pavements in global cities (London, Paris etc.) that is mass produced in China and trying to look like an original oil painting.
Link here to what I mean http://l7.alamy.com/zooms/5fa9e8ba3f6f4cee99c7a41b5f7002fb/paintings-for-sale-on-the-railings-of-green-park-along-piccadilly-dcgney.jpg
Maybe I should have also added that I have art in my home that I enjoy looking at because it reminds me of people I love and places I have been. Some are antique, some are contemporary, some are local artists and some are mass produced posters. I rotate them regularly as it gives me joy to see them in different settings. I have bought a lot of art from my brother-in-law, Erwan Bezie, who is based in France. He is a website designer by day but art is his passion and he also sells on-line. Website here http://www.sketchpowder.com/
I couldn’t agree more!
I think you should surround yourself with things that mean something to you — if you’ve been into Monet all your life, why not? If something speaks to you, if it reflects part of your personality, then that is the right thing. For me, good artwork reveals something new each time I look, it doesn’t grow tired or predictable.
And really — “Keep calm and carry on”?
BRILLIANT article. Your best ‘design mistakes’ one yet I think. I agree with all of them… and amazingly, don’t think I’ve been a culprit to any in my own house. Result!
PS The line about the scrunchie made me fall off my chair laughing.
How can I send this to my family members without them knowing it came from me?
Also you missed one. It’s hard to describe but those kind of generic landscapes or florals with overly fancy frames that scream “look how much money and how fancy I am” without having any taste or charm. Think: Thomas Kincaid.
I don’t know… I quite like this one 😉
That’s a hoot! I love it! I wouldn’t hang it in my house, but it’s good for a laugh.
omg that is amazing
Yes! I was thinking the same, like oops I shared this on Facebook, please read it family 🙂
Yessssss! The worst
Seems silly to get upset. Rules are made to be broken, and I’m sure everyone would agree that if it’s working for you and makes you happy in your home, then it’s a definite “do.”
But it’s important to know which rules you might be breaking…especially when your gut is telling you something isn’t working for you or making you happy in your home, but you aren’t sure what’s wrong. I’m down with these posts.
I love this! Thanks for the advice. I’m guilty of two of these but not at all offended… that’s why I consult the expert. Thank you for all of the fabulous art recommendations!
Yes! Guilty on a couple of them, but SO glad I got the advice. (I was proud of myself for being “on board” already with most of them, thanks to all my exposure to style on this website – I used to be guilty of many more.) Grateful – Not offended at all!
Do you always leave the glass in picture frames?
Yes yes yes! You are doing the right thing here! Thank you!!!
Does it make you feel something? That to me is the reason to surround yourself with art. Not because it’s trendy. Not because you saw it on a blog. I don’t feel anything when I look at abstract paintings. They just don’t speak to me. I do think this roundup does a great job of showing that art doesn’t have to be just one thing. It is and should be personal. To me that’s the difference between good and bad. If it’s personal to you — reminds you of a vacation or a travel goal or a sunset or whatever — then go for it.
Beauty and emotion are always in the eye of the beholder.
I love the tips here but I’m not so hard on prints of famous artwork. If it means something to you…if it moves you…then I think prints are just fine. Just put it in a nice frame 🙂
Same. I am not feelin’ modern art.
Do you mean contemporary art? Abstract or non-objective? Because almost nothing in this post constitutes modern art, it’s all contemporary.
Thanks for this excellent post! I have two pieces of Ikea art (both Klimt re-prints, the ubiquitous oblong wrapped canvas and a new copy they sell of the Virgin) and they drive me nuts mixed in with my nicer art, but they’re v. huge and go with the rest of my stuff and I just can’t afford better for now… someday!
So I am guilty of a couple of these. I have a few prints of famous works…but I only buy them at the museum after I have seen them in person and speaks to me, so it’s my souvenir of the visit, is that allowed? Also, I took some of my own photographs of my husband’s ancestral home that I then photoshopped into a triptych and gallery wrapped, so I’m calling it my own work of art and leaving it as such.
In general, great roundup – I’d say do what brings you joy and speaks to you personally.
I was going to say something similar. I have famous art prints that remind me of a visit to a particular museum or place e.g. Monet’s Versailles because I’ve been there and the print reminded me of the place.
Also some prints or framed postcards because I love that particular painting and the print acts as a reminder of how I felt standing in front of the original. In that sense it’s no different to the coffee table book.
Although I remember the Buffy goes to college episode where the vampires killing students took bets on whether it would be Monet or Klimt in the dorm room ?
I think that this can be done well, and I think that if you can have the name of the museum or gallery where you bought it then it says something different. – its not trying to equate to be the original, its an important souvineer! Also coffee table book from that museum or artist is also a good substitute!
I was in the Monet camp–Monet and Renoir in my dorm room! I was so thrilled to buy those posters in the student center, having grown up in a small town with no exposure to fine art!
ABSOLUTELY agree to all of these, even though I had a lot of bad art in my apartment when I first got married! Thankfully, my taste has matured over the years and I really take my time when looking for art for my walls. I will say that your design mistakes posts have helped with that, so thank you!
Snobs everywhere, rejoice! One more thing to look down your noses at when you are in someone’s home.
You’re on the wrong blog, girl (& being a snob yourself…).
I’m picky, not snobby and there is a huge difference. There are so many good affordable options out there – so why buy a mass produced faux painting that provokes no emotion just to fill your wall? Its our intent to help, not offend (as I stated over and over and over in the post). And it is also our job to be picky, thorough and a respected resource of good design. So glad so many people are responding so positively!
I love this! “Picky, not snobby”. It’s going to be my new line! My pet peeve is photo collage frames with sayings like, best friends or family written on them. Ugh! BTW Emily, please keep doing these posts! 😉
I do think it’s snobby because how can you know what provokes emotions in others? Maybe Van Goghs do it for many and that’s why they’re reproduced so much. I know some of your thrift store art finds and old flags provoke emotions in me that are negative, but they make you happy, I presume, so whatever.
It’s not being helpful to criticize others’ taste in art. It’s insulting.
I’m just being picky about my blog content and trying to be helpful, though! (Doesn’t that kind of make it worse? LOL)
So why are you looking at a design blog if you don’t want to listen to a professional weigh in on what makes for design-worthy art?
Not a criticism, but just not following one area that you’re speaking to: in the area of “mass produced” I get that (side eye at world market) What confuses me is that you’re also showing/recommending selections from Target, pottery barn, etc…. Can you clarify your message? Are you basically saying “massed produced=bad, unless I like it”? (cheekiness unintended)
Although I appreciate the intent of this post, this exact thought/question entered my mind as well.
True. I was confused,too, by the buy this mass produced stuff (from my sponsors?), but not that mass produced stuff from (not my sponsors?).
My mass produced print of typography is better than your mass produced print of typography. It is the tone of the post that is snobby. I love your blog Emily and read it every day, but this one is a little tone deaf.
No, you’re a snob pretending not to be one.
I suppose you could always add that every rule can be broken in the right circumstances. The Thomas Mangelsen gallery in Park City has one of his winter Birch tree photos on canvas and huge inside the vestibule. When you first walk in, it feels like you walked through a portal to the forest. No framed print would ever achieve that feeling that you are immersed in the actual piece. Of course if you can take photos like him, you can do whatever you want.
I don’t think this is about going into someone else’s house and criticizing their choices. It’s about honing in on your own choices and helping you make some decisions for your personal style. Take it or leave it.
Great post. I am in total agreement.
shill shill shill
The art in your own home looks both cheap and unattractive so you doing a whole post about art, which clearly you know very little about, is rather amusing.
Stick with what you know: mid century
Shill shill shill
Is your genre underground chambers with inky black water because you stick with what you know? #trollwatch
EXACTLY. People who don’t like her opinions don’t read her blog…
Can we include hanging dozens of badly posed family snapshots in mismatched overly fancy frames on every wall of your home as “bad art” because it’s certainly tasteless. My MIL has ruined her home with such things.
Don’t call anyone who is not a yes-man a troll. It makes you look like a toadie.
Well that is your opinion. As an art student I think Emily has a lovely taste in art as she does in interior design, fashion etc. Some people just have it.
There is no reason to get offended (and you clearly did) by this post. She is just helping people make their homes even lovelier (and that is her JOB). I think it is great that someone points these things out and makes you look at your home, art, furniture, curtains etc. different way, and realize if something was wrong all along.
Thanks Emily, such a great post!
I have an MFA so I do know a bit about art. But then Emily does have a degree in History and a blog so I guess she knows more about art than most. This post ( like most ) is about page clicks and not much else.
If you feel like you have to leave comments like that in someone else’s blog post, you should at least justify your words. What was wrong with Emily’s opinions? What would you think is “the right kind of art” and what isn’t? Why is that? Honestly your comments seem angry and offended.
i’m seriously asking this–it’s clear that you view emily, her brand, her blog, or just her views in such a vile manner. so, why are you on her page? i only read blogs i enjoy, so i’m always curious when someone comments with something so nasty on a blog page that they don’t need to read.
Then why are you reading her blog? No one forced you to click through and read the entire post, or to come here at all. Having an MFA doesn’t make you more qualified than anyone else to give an OPINION about art as a form of decoration for your home. Are you disagreeing with her OPINION because you think framed prints of the Mona Lisa or generic wrapped canvases are great? Or are you disagreeing to be contrary?
Ooh someone’s mad!
Hope you’re doing OK with your student loan debt and very kind of you to give Emily those page clicks you think she wants so badly.
Yikes. Manners please. This is her blog, her opinion. No need to be nasty.
the best part is that the time-stamp on your comment shows that you commented a mere 54 minutes after it was posted, which means you were on the lookout for emily’s post. so why read if you hate her so much?
Thanks, Everyone. Seriously. Publishing these posts is always nausea inducing, and we reread through them so many times to make sure that we are not just saying ‘that is bad and that is bad and that is tacky’ but instead saying ‘avoid’ and giving so many, many, many options. Options that are actually GREAT for the art world. We are promoting real artists, and companies that are partnering with real artists to help people’s homes look pretty (and on a budget). I have never ever ever said that i’m an art expert, but I do know a design mistake when I see one. And every now and again I get the guts to tell you all about it. Thanks so much for the support!!
Jennifer – it is obvious you are particular about art because it is your area of expertise. Where I think you may have gone wrong is that Emily’s post is about avoiding “generic” art. There is good art, bad art, and generic art. I think Emily can and would make the argument that even if art is bad, its still better than generic. You know how sometimes you see a furniture piece that is so ugly, its fascinating and you just have to bring it home? Art can be that way, too.
For art aficionado’s for whom great art is a passion, I’m sure it can grate on your nerves when you see cheap art. Emily’s post isn’t about what makes a piece of art good or bad – its what makes a piece of art generic. There is a difference. In the interior design world – generic is bad, whereas bad (ugly) can sometimes be good. For example – my friend has this floor lamp with a shotgun for its base that most would deem absolutely hideous. However, in her mid-century, tastefully decorated home – its actually quite fabulous.
That’s a great point: avoid the generic. Emily likes a healthy dose of whimsy and/or “weird.”
Having an MFA means you DO know more about art, so yeah, what you choose for your own home will be different from what Emily chooses.
My husband has an MFA and is a fine artist. He does not read this blog. He would not appreciate Emily’s taste in flea market portraits. I honestly don’t care for them either, but it’s Emily’s house and she enjoys those paintings. It’s just one point on which Emily and I differ, but I respect her opinion. I value her work, but I don’t have to like every single thing she does or agree with everything she says. I wouldn’t want to.
By the way, check out my husband’s site (shameless promotion): chaomasart.com
Emily doesn’t like “generic” art work and yet shills for target.
Lol! Its a decent point, but personally I think there is a difference between mass market and generic. The pieces that she chose for this section are certainly at risk of being ubiquitous depending on their popularity, but the Target pieces will still feel less generic than a Thomas Kincaide or Starry night print because these prints will eventually be discontinued and new ones brought out and will never reach the level of exposure those examples have. Emily’s job is provide a wide range of options that will suit a wide variety of lifestyles and budgets – including someone who prefers shopping from a place with a decent return policy, a limited budget, and who cares or knows nothing about art. Personally, I’ve avoided art from Target, though, because I majored in Art in college and its something I’m more picky and passionate about. But, I’m not going to fault Emily for recommending it because I know there are people who want a cute home, who could care less about art ,and are appreciative of having cheap options out there that they can run out and buy from a store 10 minutes away. Maybe I can appreciate this post a… Read more »
Can I just “like” the above comment.
Jennifer, who employs you.. who do you shill for? Furthermore are you brave enough to publicly defend your decisions, career, expertise to the entire internet and it’s trolls?
I disagree with Emily, I believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it is a personal choice. But! Emily is always respectful even to those who love to bring others down. She is entitled to her voice the same as you are, Our opinions can be expressed but please do it in a kind and respectful way.
I work for myself. Don’t need a blog; don’t want a blog. I’m not desperate, Bottom line: emily dislikes ‘generic’ yet shills for Target. The life ins urance post was bulkhead too. BTW, I paid off my school loans long time ago.
I am glad you work for yourself Jennifer since no employer would want to hire a resource with the manners and attitude you have. This is a polite, well-written article expressing the views of the blogger. You can agree or disagree with them but truly, it is none of your business who Emily works with and how she makes her money and for you to judge her on it. You clearly spent time reading this article and commented MULTIPLE times, so you clearly can’t seem to walk away.
Fantastic article! I appreciate articles like this that allow for design mistakes to be highlighted, but you also provide instances where your critique is exemplified noting where it does and does not work well.
As a follow-up what are your thoughts on self-produced art? I tend to produce more paintings than I know what to do with. Your part about applying trim to the wrapped canvas is particularly interesting since that would apply to the art pieces I generate.
But as a challenge to that point, there are some paintings where the wrapped canvas that isn’t fully painted has a particularly meaningful touch to it. It remains “unfinished” and it aids to the interpretation of the work. Would you say that the artwork should still have a border applied to it, which could take away from the message of the art?
Nick, my un-asked-for opinion is that un-framed original canvas paintings are cool as they are, as long as they look finished…no staples showing or what-not.
It just depends on the look you’re going for and where it will hang in relation to other things…but the canvas on it’s own is cool in the same way that leaning, rather than hung, art is cool.
Nick and Anon, you are right! As long as its not a PRINT but is a painting then you can wrap, and show the wrap – whether there is a painting on the side or not. Its just when it is a mass manufactured print (copy) trying to be a painting that we take issue. Does that help?
Finished reading this thinking I’m okay and then really thought about it.
In my living room I have:
1) A framed Kandinsky print (hand me down from Mom). The frame is gorgeous and goes really well with the print and I have loved it for over 15 years.
2) An abstract diptych canvas set (Ebay purchase – not mass produced) – This was my first art purchase as an adult. I do like them individually and I’ve hung them side by side and vertically over the years.
3) Framed Typography “Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken”. That’s in my bookshelf and I think words in a bookshelf work, plus my bookshelves are somewhat crammed with books so it breaks things up a bit.
Lol – maybe other people read them as bad/tacky, but I love them so they stay.
There are exceptions to every rule!!! Its just a guideline and to provoke thought while shopping but don’t worry!!!
I think you are actually clearing all of Emily’s suggestions:
1) She said famous art prints are ok if they are meaningful to you – so check;
2) diptichs are ok if they work individually – so check;
3) Typography is ok if if speaks to you and is poignant/funny – so check.
Relax, you guys, and read the whole post, not just bullet points ^_^
I promise I was not upset at all. I thought it was funny that I read through the post agreeing with Emily and then realize that I hit several of the items in 1 room. It’s not a coincidence that I’ve had my “offenders” 10+ years. I’ve gotten rid of others over time and now I do a lot more on Craigslist. Also, I haven’t seen the app Vango mentioned here. It has original works by artists and I’m kind of obsessed. I haven’t made a purchase partly because I’m afraid it will be addictive any I’ll go overboard.
Haha! Amen to ALL of it. I was chuckling to myself while reading. THANK YOU for setting the record straight! The world needs more posts like this. ? My favorite line, “I also like to remind myself to brush, floss, and watch the sunset, but are these worthy words to don your walls? Nay.” ??? I had to screen shot it so I could remember that line forever.
Great tips, great resources, and great post. You guys do such a good job!
Enjoyed this very much. I did too much of the no’s in my 20’s and early 30’s. Took awhile but I got it now. Thanks!
I had a friend that hang the Monalisa in her bathroom and it was a hoot to find. So maybe that’s another exception. If it’s done in a cheeky way;)
I thing so too.
Totally agree 🙂
Isn’t there something in the original Annie movie where Daddy Warbucks hangs The Mona Lisa in the bathroom? And Annie says something along the lines of, “if you like me…could you hang me in the bathroom?” Your comment brought back that very, very vague memory…
I love, love, love the idea of using world-famous artworks in a cheeky way !
I’ve lost a lot of family members these past years, and have been emptying homes of their belongings, and one thing struck me: everyone had a version of The Last Supper. I have a huge 50’s print, a black-and-white version, a very small metal plaque, all representing that famous artwork. I’ve been thinking about reuniting those long-lost siblings and creating a “Wall of Tacky Suppers as collected by my extended Family across at least five Decades”.
I wanted to add my own version, maybe a cross-stiched one to add some more kitsch (because I feel the more the better in this case).
Anyway, I do love these articles. I understand while they can be controversial, but I love them anyway, way better than some sponsored posts. It’s refreshing to get such an opinionated point of view. Love it !
That reminds me of the George Washington joke from the Lincoln movie!
I think we’ve broken most of these rules at home but feel confident enough we’ve broken them in cool ways 😀
I have seen a fabulous cabin in a rural garden, with sliding glass doors all across the front of the building, and the entire back wall inside is a giant Mona Lisa mural. Amazing seeing the enormous image looming through the trees 🙂 And I think the instant recognisability is what makes it work
I have a friend who had a portrait of King Louis XVII in her bathroom. Hilarious.
Love this! I wasn’t familiar with Saatchi art, so I’ll check them out. I’m guilty of having canvas photos of our kiddos in the playroom… However, all other art in the house is original; I love finding pieces at estate sales and think original art adds so much to a room. Also, this post is timely because did you see the bad art on hometown visits on The Bachelor last night? 🙂
OMG SARAH!!! I was going to update the post with the exact same thing – the art on hometowns was the exact art that I’m talking about. It was obviously just filler art that could be “cleared” but it was devoid of ANY personality and was just hideous. I’m going to update the post now!
WAIT WAIT WAIT…..you’re telling me the hometowns are fake set apartments? I feel like my world is crumbling (kind of like when I learned that people on House Hunters had decided pre-taping. Everything is a lie.
AGREED! WHAT? Do you mean that those are their houses/apartments but they switched out the real art/family photos for generic filler? Or they really use some random house for the visit? I need more info on this!
Oh my. Is this someone’s home your speaking of? I don’t watch that show. Are you sure this is the same Emily Henderson blog I have been reading for years? (The Emily Henderson who started out so sweet and humble) Has someone else taken over your blog? Who is this person? I don’t recognize you anymore. The art was hideous? Really?
“For Like Ever” is from WWII??? Please tell me you meant to write that about “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Just doesn’t sound “greatest generation” to me.
Yeah, I was surprised by that too. I bought that print after I saw it in Domino (in 2006?) and my mom’s reaction was, “WTF is this? Can I throw it away?” I think it was from a graphic designer, not history.
Equally confused by the WWII reference on the “For Like Ever” print.
Oh dear god it was supposed to be Keep Calm and Carry On. You are totally right. I literally couldn’t scramble to edit that faster. Thank god for commenters. I like ‘for like ever’ and I do think it has a place, but I’m an absolute idiot and was writing to fast and in my mind it was Keep Calm and Carry On (which I do think is a classic, despite its HUGE uptick in trend 10 years ago). Thanks for point that out and i’m so sorry about the confusion!!
This was a great post and very helpful – if for no other reason than providing great resources! It did inspire me to rethink my art choices, so thanks!
However, I have to respectfully disagree with the selection of “Keep Calm & Carry On” as a classic – I think it is EXACTLY the kind of generic statement art that we should avoid, given its ubiquity. I feel like I can’t look at a design blog, Pinterest page, or Instagram account without seeing it at least ten times a day!
1 million percent agree with you Helen. I can’t think of a more generic typography poster than the “Keep Calm & Carry On” ones.
Pretty sure she was joking
This is an amazing post and I agree with everything! My question is what to do when you love art but have a small cape cod style house that doesn’t have a lot of walls for hanging said art. Is there a rule about how much to pepper around so you don’t look like you live in a museum. I like gallery walls and art ledges but is there a rule about having one of those in a room and then how much other art you can hang in the same room on other walls? Help!
Such a good question. Over the weekend I was looking at Thomas O’brien’s book that is mostly on the east coast with insanely beautiful classic-meets-modern homes and there is salon gallery walls from floor to ceiling in every room. I say if you have good art, you can’t go wrong how you style it. However, generally what we do is do multiple pieces next to one big piece. We just hung a ton of art in the clients living room last week and we have one huge gallery wall, one wall with a big photograph on it, and a big beautiful mirror above the mantle. But like I said, if you have gorgeous art don’t let it sit on the floor because you are worried about hanging too much. It will make your room look busier which can make it look smaller, but I also find it totally inviting and full of soul. xx
I was just reading this comment and thinking I would LOVE to see a post about your favorite coffee table / design books! I’m always checking out what’s on the shelves in tours.
I agree! I was just noticing that with the pink Alexa Chung book on the vignette of her dresser. Books are so tough because I don’t want to buy a book just because it’s the right color but obviously want to buy a book to read, too. It would be awesome to have a “pinks and corals”, “blues and greens”, “blacks and whites”, “neutrals” roundup of pretty coffee table books!
Agreed! Another vote for this, if the team is taking requests!
I think it’s 100% fine to throw some Mona Lisa post cards into frames to fill out a gallery wall or fill a small space – especially if you purchased said post cards from a famous museum/on a memorable study abroad trip (post cards are such an affordable souvenir). I would rather display them than pack them away to be forgotten. Love the round up though – off to spend some $ on new art I definitely need!
Right on! Couldn’t agree more with your take on art. Keep it original and interesting.
Great post! I have my own ‘rules’ for art in my house: I think if it makes your “heart sing” then it’s a keeper 🙂 That doesn’t mean it has to be a “happy” artwork, just something that makes you feel something. I commissioned an original painting from a (now very) popular artist a few years ago at a very reasonable price. But it just never made me happy to look at. In hindsight I shouldn’t have gone ahead with the purchase. I ended up selling the artwork for the price I paid, and now her prints are the same price as what I got an original for! But I don’t regret selling it, because the piece didn’t make my “heart sing”.
Yes! If you see it and it speaks to you and you want to tear it off the walls and hold it on your arms to assure nobody else steals it away… by all means buy that baby, hang it in your foyer and let your heart rejoice everytime you view it!
“For Like Ever” is definitely not from WWII. I think you’re thinking of “Keep Calm and Carry On”.
And how keep calm and carry on has been co-opted for quote prints is the absolute worst! England’s chin up attitude during active WAR is inspiring (and the design of the slogan is lovely!) but pretending it relates to our “chaotic” modern life (or need for coffee, shopping etc. etc.) is just, no. This one gets my goat every time!
YES. I may have yelled that at my screen. 🙂
Trying to define what is “good” art as opposed to “bad” art reminds me of the line, ” I can’t define pornography but I know it when I see it!” But hats off to the attempt! Mostly agreed with your observations and love your blog!
Wonderful post and could be retitled How to Buy Art You Will Love. This topic is near to my heart. I am an artist and I am regularly asked by friends and those who purchase my work to help with selecting art for their homes. Buying art is clearly intimidating to many people and brings up insecurities about the very topics you discuss — no one wants generic art, no ones understands how much to pay to for art, no one wants to buy work and then regret their choice.
My advice always centers on trust and connection: trust what you like (there is no right and wrong) and chose things you have a connection with (whether it be by subject or emotion). Every house looks better with art on the walls and shelves. I would argue it even looks better with generic art than no art at all.
So agree with the bit about having a connection with the art! When I see a piece that I like, I know in an instant! There are times when I pass on something and then it nags at me until I finally return to the shop to purchase it, but more times than not, I know in an instant!
Buy what you love, no matter how original or copied or vintage or trendy it is. Your love for it will be reflected in your style. I think the key is to avoid buying “fill in” pieces that you buy just to take up space and don’t speak to you. Thanks for these tips, EHD!
Agree!!! One thing I don’t know if I will ever understand, though, is a painting that is gorgeous but covered by a vignette on a table, like that lovely boat painting by your client’s grandfather. I’m glad to see the top one and I want to move all of the stuff on the table to see the bottom.
Amen and thank you to the no-no on typography. If I see one more “House Rules” screaming at me I am going to scream back!
I have not been able to get on board with quote and phrase prints of any kind. Even the “OK” ones here leave me feeling “meh”–like they are trying too hard for a look or mood. (Quote prints also remind me of the early Pinterest days). If your home is saying loudest what you tell it to say with a quote, I think you’ve missed something special about interior design–space and color and texture do the talking, that’s what makes it magical!
I totally get your line of thought – and I especially like what you said about letting the space and color and texture do the talking. But there’s something about lettering prints that really draws me. There’s something about FONTS, even, that draws me. I actually can spend hours on sites like “fonts.com” looking at the different fonts people are coming up with. I know too much about different artists who have made a living developing beautiful/interesting fonts, what their different ‘releases’ are, etc.!! Since I’m drawn to lettering so much, that lends itself to having some simple phrase prints.
Original art at auction goes for insanely low prices, even if it is a listed artist. I have gotten stuff for 10 bucks that would make you swoon. The trick is to go to your local auction often. You will meet some new people, have some fun, and eventually get some deals of a lifetime. Avoid auctions that have online bidders.
The best part is I can sell it off on Ebay when I lose interest. I recently sold a 10 dollar acquisition for $480.
I’m very fortunate because my husband is an extremely talented contemporary artist (oil on canvas / originals only) and our home is filled with his creations, so I haven’t had to struggle with these issues since before we met. Although now I think that if I really had to fill my walls and had no budget for it – I would purchase a large canvas and let loose with some paint! Just that real artist grade canvas frame makes a good start I think.
PS – is it shameless promotion if I include his website here 😉
Tell us! 🙂
Rebecca, beautiful work and I love that he is a Canadian artist. Is his work only available via Gallery?
I am an art history professor and agree with everything you suggest, but please add to your list no “copycats”. Itzu Rimmer’s is “highly reminscent” of Ori Reisman’s work, and to any Israeli, such as my self, his work would look cheap.
See Reisman’s work here:
I agree. Those beach photographs are fairly derivative of http://www.massimovitali.com too. I am sure Massimo wasn’t the first to photograph people at the beach either, but he did bring a different perspective. I do love these, but this style seems to have saturated the interiors market a bit at this point.
I feel like dismissing someone’s art is because it is “highy reminiscent” of someone else’s is questionable. As an artist and art history major myself, I’d like to make the case that all artists are influenced by others. No one makes work in a vacuum. Can anyone make anything truly new? I’m sure that Reisman was influenced by a ton of artists who made similar work. Maybe Rimmer considers Reisman a major influence! And maybe he has never even seen Reisman’s work and no idea who he even is. How is that a copycat?
I definitely understand not supporting something that is true rip off or entirely derivative, but this is such a grey area, especially for proplr who are not art experts.
I have a question that’s been plaguing me for a while now. Can you buy art that depicts places you’ve never been or have no real connection to? Is that weird? For example, if I find a really cute vintage painting of Tokyo and I’ve never been or have any real connection to Tokyo, would it be weird if I bought it? It feel inauthentic to just say, “oh, I saw this painting and I just loved it. No other real reason for me to have a painting of Tokyo.” Or am I over thinking it?
Of course not! If you love it, buy it, and dream of maybe visiting there one day.
You’re definitely overthinking it! Most people have never seen wild geometric shapes hanging in the sky, or the particular mountains or lake an artist painted… or met the person in a vintage 1960s portrait… if you had to have “been there” to buy art then the museums would be empty. 🙂
Art is such a personal choice I don’t think there should be any rules. If it makes you happy that’s what matters.
It’s funny to me that the “For Like Ever” print is on the good list, considering how completely overused it is. There was a while where you couldn’t look at a post on any design blog without seeing a print of that. I’m so tired of it.
Right now, I mostly buy prints because of monetary concerns, but I buy them direct from the artist when I can and only get what speaks to me. I also hang a lot of my own photography, especially photos taken on vacation. Sitting at my desk, I can look to my right and see a lovely photo of Catalina Island that I took and that reminds me of being much more relaxed.
I have to agree about some of the prints like the “For Like Ever” one. I had the same thought about the ready made abstracts from Target. Like, yeah they are cute but the fact that zillions of people can just go pick them up at Target kind of makes them the same as some of the uglier stuff that they warned against.
And the beach pictures … they are cool … but they are EVERYWHERE! Or at least it feels like everyone in the “design” world has them or uses them (blogs, magazines, books, insgtagram, pinterest). That’s one bad thing about all the “sharing”; things seem so old and overdone so quickly.
lol I was coming in to say just that. “For Like Ever” should be on the bad list for sure. A girl in one of my college painting classes painted a knock-off version of it IN OIL PAINT and it’s been a joke to me ever since. Haha.
I love these posts! You are making us all better people! It’s good that you remind us all of these design missteps AND provide alternatives. Sometimes when you are decorating your house it feels easier or safer to make these generic choices that we know millions of other people make, even if we know it’s not reeeeally the best thing to do. Please keep these coming!
I absolutely agree! My husband, father-in-law, and myself are all artists and bad art is genuinely offensive to us. (see my FIL’s work here: http://davidmichaelslonim.com/) Art is one of my favorite things to choose in any room and it is tempting to go for the cheapest versions. Thanks for all the awesome alternatives!
I used to get ads on my Facebook for “art shows” at local hotels selling “sofa sized art.” Because gosh darn it, who cares if it’s ad, ugly art?? As long as it’s the length of your sofa. LOL!!!
If there’s such a thing, I’m an unpretentious art snob and am really trying to rein in the judgement when friends snap their gold foil “live laugh love” poster. Can we not?
Love this so much!
THANK YOU. Someone needed to say it and I’m glad it was you. If I have to see one more black and white NYC scene with a yellow cab driving down the street…..
Thank YOUUUUUU! As a rule I look at something and ask myself “Would this be at home in a hotel?” or “Is this something my friend or family member would look at and recognize as being popular?” Is so then it’s a big no no.
I’ve never liked the canvas wrapped prints, especially not of someone’s family. But I always kinda thought that was mostly just because I was cynical and mean about my good taste. So thank you for confirming that it’s just not my cold black heart that thinks they are a no go.
Straight up – no disagreement with this, at all.
However, I’d go further: this should not only apply to art but to everything decorative in your home. There is no excuse for decorative things that are simply bought to fill a space with the right shape or color ( except flowers.) When you do acquire something, it should have meaning or interest for you – it should attract or move you in some way – as well as being beautiful or useful.
It’s harder and it takes longer to do it this way. In the end, though. it is more personally satisfying to live surrounded by things that you’ve chosen because they move you – rather than a bunch of things acquired in a single shopping spree at HomeGoods or Ikea or Target.
I completely agree. I have empty walls and a few empty corners in my home despite having lived here for almost two years, because I refuse to buy anything if I don’t love it just to fill a space. That doesn’t mean everything I buy is expensive…I legit love Target finds, like a gorgeous openwork shaker basket or a pretty striped blanket.
Anyways, love this post and want to see more of them… also feel free to anon email this to my MIL 😀
That typography rule is EVERYTHING and I am so happy you included it on this list. I really don’t like word art, as I call it. It’s so rare in which word art is artistically done, not mass produced or looks like it’s in the middle of a trend AND, most importantly, is actually really personal and has true meaning to the owner.
I agree about generic typography vs. personal. I sell custom typography prints–so people can display the words that are important to them. Custom quotes have ranged widely… from Grandma’s (funny) last words, to a poem about lost opportunities.
That’s a big exception to the typography rule–a custom quote print that says whatever you want, however obscure. It means something to you; that’s what matters.
Love this post. Thank you, Emily!
P.S. My shameless plug–Custom Typography Prints can be found here:
Hear hear! Awesome post. As a struggling artist, I so appreciate the plug for buying original art. Another tip – don’t be afraid to haggle and make offers on original art. Most of us are willing to cut deals – BOGO, bulk discounts, etc. Also, say you like some of the work, but it isn’t the right color or size, ask if you can commission! We’ll cut deals on that too. And with this advice, I must shamelessly plug my own artwork. https://www.saatchiart.com/account/artworks/763448 🙂
I respectfully have to disagree. Haggling with artists is not classy. It devalues what they do. Haggling to me means that the buyer doesn’t value an artist’s skills, expertise, or time. Would you haggle with your doctor, with your hairdresser, with your babysitter?
You said you’re an artist: my advice is to not haggle with customers, but to offer art at varying price points.
Wow, that’s a really unhelpful, overly critical comment. It’s not like I come down thousands on the price. I’m in control of what I will or won’t accept and I am certainly not going to kill a deal on say, three paintings because someone comes down a bit on the offer. The reality of not dealing with the needs of your customers, particularly interior designers, means that you’re probably not going to make a living. I personally haggle on almost any purchase – cars, houses, furniture, etc. – I even went the distance on a jacket at Club Monaco! If someone gets me down 10% on a piece that isn’t selling, I’m not exactly crying about it. If a particular piece was technically difficult and took me 25 hours to complete, I’ll probably stand firm. I’m not selling a service like a hairdresser, it’s a product and I want to make a sale. So my advice to you is to let me use my excellent sales skills to it’s end result – a SALE. p.s. Galleries haggle too.
Thank you for clarifying, Sarah. I’ve wondered if I should and now I know. Your explanation was detailed and well explained. Please post your website so we can see your work!!
Hi Jeanne – my work is here: https://www.saatchiart.com/account/artworks/763448
I agree with your assessment! And shy away from those types of art myself (especially the obvious copies of famous works of art). But I can’t help but feel like this partly falls into the realm of personal preference and that today’s styles may easily be included in a round-up 10 years down the road. Maybe not… But it would be interesting to address, for sure!
This. While I agree with the post, I think that some of this is just a matter of what looks dated now vs. what will look dated in the future. Art – real art – can stand the test of time, but decorative “art” can become unfashionable pretty quickly.
What a wonderful article! And a big YES to all of these rules.
I’m curious to know your thoughts on Audubon prints, Obviously they more suited to traditional rooms but I’ve seen them used by many designers. Do they fall under this category in your opinion?
Love these! I think they are classic and timeless. You can often find other naturalists and botanicals as well. Often cutting out prints from a book and framing them as a group can be nice. You can download high resolution prints from the Audubon website for free by the way.
I think in 5 years these will be interesting again, but I think they are overdone right now. Just two cents. Nothing official! 🙂
This was a fantastic article, and I’m glad you wrote it. It gives me a concrete reference point for more abstract ideas that I’ve had floating around in my head and will help me make good decisions as I invest in my home decor because good design is meaningful to me.
I think what some comments have missed is that good design is not meaningful to everyone. My mother-in-law, for example, finds so much joy in looking at her canvas prints of family photos, there’s no way I’ll ever have the conversation with her about how they “break the rules.” For the most part, she doesn’t care about design rules. They don’t bring her joy.
Good design brings me joy, though. So thanks, Emily. 🙂
this is a great point. same with my mom—she loves canvas prints of family photos and decor items from hobby lobby (i’m not knocking hobby lobby overall–i have seen some nice vases, frames, and baskets in there, but she will get those “cheeky” things like key holders with sayings on them etc.). anyways, i know she does not get joy out of good design, whereas i do. so, i would never consider questioning the way she has decorated her home or the things she buys, because i know that she is happy with all of that. she doesn’t look around her home like i do and feel that something is “off,” nor does she browse home decor online or dream about what her home COULD look like if she had the right budget, etc. so, i totally understand your point, and i think it pointed out a great differentiation–while i would not, unsolicited, tell my mom all my thoughts on her home decor choices, because that might offend her, i have GLADLY given my very direct opinion on my little sister’s decor questions and selections because she has ASKED me to give them. she is decorating a new apartment and… Read more »