An art collection is a reflection of what we love and how we feel connected to the world and to ourselves. In a time when we are bombarded with design options, don’t be tempted to fill a house full of things that don’t bring you joy or speak to your personal aesthetic. Life experiences, aspirations, and our personal history and habitat are the guiding forces behind how we want to live in our homes and, subsequently, the art we surround ourselves with. There are several approaches to incorporating art into a well-designed home; the more personal the approach, the better!

One of the easiest ways to add art to your home is through what we call elevating the ordinary. Basically, this means if there is an object you love, frame it or display it in an elevated way! A pin you wore in the fifth grade? Put it in a shadow box. A collection of matches from a trip to Europe? Frame them together in one large display. A curated mix of personal items is beautiful and interesting. When people come to visit they want to know more about who you are and where you have been, and the depth and variety of collected items can be great conversation starters! Being surrounded by things and experiences you hold dear is what makes a home inviting and special.

Photography is another resourceful and meaningful way to incorporate art into the home. Often the problem with photography in homes lies in the scale: too many small photos cluttering up side tables and shelves. Edit, edit, edit! Choose a few stunning images of the people you love and create large prints to mix in with other art. Or choose one image and create an oversized print as the focal point of your room. Done in black and white, this approach can be stunning. Also, investing in photographic prints through a local artist, whether abstracts, landscapes, or portraits, works well with almost any art collection. Seeing the world through the lens of a photographer can give us a whole new perspective on the subject at hand.

Often people wonder: At what point during the design of my home is it best to start thinking about art? If you have an art collection and will be adding to it once your new home is finished, then start collecting additional pieces right away! Early in the planning stages of a new home, start thinking about your lighting, locations, and approximate size of the pieces to be used. Consider designated art lights for larger works, or a cable track system that is adjustable for an entire wall of art. With the current design of homes focused on open floor plans and large windows, wall space is at a premium, but there are still creative spots where art can be displayed. For example, a focal point at the end of a hall, the walls of a stairwell, or in the kitchen resting on the range hood above the stove.

A nice thing about art is that it does not have to exactly match the colors in your home. It can be much more interesting to contrast the rest of the room and bring in another point of view. The combination of furniture, architecture, and art can be carefully designed to create a home with a variety of design perspectives, making it much more personal and interesting. Also, it does not lock you into one style of art, so as your taste changes or the home gets redesigned, the art can flow with it into a new design era!

Watercolor, oil, pastel, or acrylic paintings bring a whole new vibrancy and dimension to a home. Artists’ subjects, processes, and styles vary widely, and beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Find a subject and process that speaks to you and connect with the artists doing work in that realm. Think of yourself as not just a consumer of art but a partner with the artists in their journey to create. If you are able to connect with artists and understand what drives them, every piece you collect will have more meaning and depth.

The types of art to collect are vast: sculpture, printmaking, photography, textiles, paintings, memorabilia, etc. Collect what you love, buy a variety, and engage with the artist whenever you can. Your home will be richer and warmer with a personal collection of handmade items. What happens if you have too much art? Rotate your collection after a few years; homes are meant to evolve and grow, just as the people inside them do.