Artwork and Accessories: The aesthetics of the puzzle

Sunday Signal

As the old saying goes, art is in the eye of the beholder. And how true this is. What is artwork? Artwork is something that speaks without words. It says something about emotions, about feelings, expressions and inspirations. About one’s love for something. It is an item that adds to the finished balance of an interior like that last piece of a puzzle.

Art is a means of personal expression between the artist, who created the item, and the viewer. Art is, and has been, an integral part of interior design going back to prehistoric times when artwork was painted on ceilings and walls.

People want to be surrounded by the things they enjoy. Pictures on walls or tables, a cherished item that serves as a memento of a person (mother, father, etc.), a time or a place. An item that has been passed on from one generation to another.

Artwork and accessories run a wide spectrum of decorative items and are a major part of decorating. It is that finishing touch that can make an interior come together. Accessorizing an interior is no easy task. There are literally thousands and thousands of items to choose from, but the question is, what’s right? The answer is: there is something for everyone.

When buying artwork and accessories there are two types on balance to think about. Do you want a formal or informal look? In most instances picking artwork and accessorizing for the home is a harder task than picking out furniture. I have found that artwork in the form of pictures and paintings, as personal as they are, is the hardest. Once the furniture is chosen along with the fabrics, window treatments and color, filling in with the artwork and accessories is next.

We’ll start with some basic questions. What are the right colors to look for? What is the mood I want to create? What is the right scale in relation to the furniture? Can I mix styles? What type of artwork and accessories do I want, where is the best place to buy them and is the cost fair?

Books are a great accessory that work just about anywhere and in almost any room. Books are not only a decorative item they are also appealing because of their warmth to a space. They come in and add a variety of colors, and can dignify a space. Art books on cocktail tables add distinction. A home library filled with books makes for an interesting room. Small groupings of books on bedroom night stands, cook books on a kitchen counter and books on end tables fill space and add balance.

Sculptures have a universal appeal. Sculptures show class and reflect a taste for art. No matter what your interior, sculptures from any country work. Carved pieces from the Ivory Coast of Africa, pre-Columbian pieces from Mexico or South America, works from the Orient or reproductions from Remington’s western bronzes, all work nicely.

Pictures and paintings are the first thing that come to mind when talking about artwork. They form an important eye catching visual form and can serve as a visionary feature of an area. Collecting artwork falls into two categories. The serious collector who knows the history of the artist and purchases as an investment, goes to art shows, consults a reputable art dealer or interior designer, and visits art galleries. They look for signed and numbered pieces, and know that the profit end is sometimes a long-term proposition for a meaningful appreciation. The other end of the spectrum are those who purchase with the idea that the item just has to work in the area, looks nice and is something they like.

Choosing a picture doesn’t just end there. The picture or painting now has to be highlighted with an important part of the total look as the framing, which will bring it to life. The type of frame plays an integral part of the overall beauty and effect of a picture or painting, and it will show the piece to its best advantage.

Generally, oil paintings are framed without glass with a fabric liner that is in a color from within the painting or a neutral color that separates the painting from the frame. Contemporary paintings are usually framed in a simple type of frame, and traditional period paintings are usually framed in a more elaborate carved wood frame either stained or gold leaf.

Watercolors, drawings, photographs and prints are usually framed behind glass with a mat that keeps the item from touching the glass. With this method, the type of glass is important. Clear glass is usually the preferable glass, however, this glass reflects everything particularly if placed near a window or a lamp. Nonglare glass cuts out any and all glare, but may not allow all the true colors to transmit.

Displaying family pictures is sometimes a chore. And yet there is a simple solution. Take a nondescriptive wall, such as a hallway or wall space leading to a second floor. Frame family pictures in different sizes and types of frames, wood, brass, silver, ceramic, some with mats and some without, and display them in these areas creating a wall gallery.

Other types of artwork and accessories are mirrors, which add depth and a feeling of spaciousness. Many other items fall into the category of artwork and accessories, such as silk arrangements, lamps, cloisonné vases, pillows, etc.

Remember that artwork/accessories need to be a part of the composition of a room. Whether you view an entire room, or one small area, artwork and accessories should catch and hold the eye, and foremost should reflect you.
Ken Dean is an award-winning professional interior designer, interior design teacher and writer for 40 years. His website is He can be reached at (661) 251-0170.

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