Design Mistakes: Generic Art
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 “Too Small Rug,” The “Generic Sofa,” Hanging Curtains All Wrong, and Bad Wood Finishes.
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
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:
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.
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 | How To Hang Art Correctly | How to Hang Curtains | Bad Wood Finishes | Anything “Antiqued” or “Faux Old”. 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.