This is how: to design a scheme around a piece of art

Art is such an integral part to a home, because it is one of the groups of possessions that carry a great deal of emotion and meaning. A client’s art may encompass pieces brought home from a holiday, captured memories of places they love, portraits of people known or admired, or they might be passionate about a particular country pursuit and would like to reference that on their walls. It has quite a big influence on how the interior design should be shaped and developed. 

This being said, it is very rare that we define an entire scheme around art, it rather informs. Should I be working on a home that had a collection of Victorian landscapes, they would most certainly reflect the style and tone of the interior. Equally, if a client wanted to hang a series of old abstracts, then everything that is put into that room needs to show consideration to those paintings. It is important to respect that it is a symbiotic relationship where all the elements of the room respond to one another to achieve balance. 

I remember one project where we positioned a huge oil over the fireplace in the drawing room. All of the other downstairs rooms fed off from it in a roundabout sort of way, and so I felt it was right to allow the artwork to determine the tone for the entire house.

Clients may not necessarily have their own art though. And while this might sound close to a blank canvas, I do not approach it with this mindset, because they will always have a leaning towards a particular movement. And if not, even that is not free reign, because it means that I will help them to discover art to locate their unknown love, or conversely it means they may prefer a more minimalist, neutral scheme. Sometimes we buy artwork to help fill walls in more of a secondary supportive role too. Imagery of local areas is a good way of doing this. We will commission landscape photographers to shoot the locality of the client’s home. This is a way to create totally bespoke art for that family.  

When identifying key pieces of art for a project, I will mix scenes, styles and areas of art, because they exchange with one another in a harmonious way with some consideration. I do not like to be too prescriptive as it can make a scheme feel regimented. Traditionalist en plein air artists such as Ken Howard are very easy to mix in with any period or palette. As do the works of the Scottish Colourist, a movement that very much complements our style of interior. We have had three clients who owned work by the British oil and watercolourist, Edward Seago. His landscapes are super collectable, incredibly beautiful and meld wonderfully with oeuvres from other artists. 

Being the right amount of eclectic is what makes it feel like a home that has grown and evolved as opposed to being staged. In one home, a beautiful tapisserie was the first thing that I found at an antiques shop in Tetbury. Painters would create these initial pieces for them to be later turned into a rug tapestry. Everything in this room then related back to this hanging from the sumptuous velvet chair, to the mirror that was purposefully hung to reflect the tapestry at different angles.

I like to think of interior design as being a form of art. Each element that we bring into the home is another brushstroke to our overall work. Layer upon layer of art helps to create true depth, grounding and to tell the most captivating story of not just the artists, but the story of that very home and those who reside within it. 

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