Find the right space for the art or find the right art for the space? I have sold art in-person to dozens and dozens of collectors over the past 13 years, so I have had the privilege of helping both new and experienced art buyers choose the right piece.
Two approaches to buying art
I have observed that there are two main ways people approach buying art. Some people take the “I need a piece for over my couch…it’s this size and these colors…” approach. Some people prioritize the art; they find the piece that is their absolute most favorite and commit to making it work somewhere in their house.
Both approaches are totally fine, and perhaps the first is more practical, but I personally advocate for the second; you might move, paint your walls, rearrange or replace your furniture, etc., over the coming decades, but a piece of art you love will last through that all. The art has more staying power, so I recommend letting the art, rather than the space, lead your decision.
With both approaches, strive for symmetry
Regardless of which approach you’re going with, you’re going to want to think about visual symmetry. It’s something I instinctively gravitate toward and try to achieve, but didn’t even have a name for until I started thinking about how to write this blog post.
Turns out, it's not just me and there is some (light) science behind it. As Homes and Gardens said, "Symmetry is a technique used by interior designers to create a space that looks incredibly tidy and smart – and therefore calming and relaxing." I can get behind that.
So what is symmetry and how do you create it?
In case you need a little refresher, Merriam-Webster describes symmetry as "beauty of form arising from balanced proportions."
A couple options for creating symmetry in your home with your art:
1. Symmetry with the wall: Think about the shape of the wall space that you are trying to fill – this could be an entire wall, or a portion of a wall, with “borders” created by furniture or other décor. Generally speaking, you want the shape and proportion of the art to be similar to the space you are trying to fill. This creates symmetry and is naturally attractive.
2. Symmetry with architectural features or furniture: If you have a very large wall and/or prominent architectural features or furniture, you might want to create symmetry with those features (I'll show you examples with a fireplace and a bath tub).
Let's study the beautiful living room above. There is a lot of symmetry going on.
In the left side of the photo above, the larger pink rectangle shows the wall space we are trying to fill -- above the chair and to the left of the lamp. We can see that the art on the wall is the same proportions as the space we are trying to fill. In this way, the wall creates a natural frame for the art and the painting is a repeating shape. Second, as shown on the right side, the art is a very similar size and shape to the chair below it. This is a second instance of symmetry.
What happens if we don't create symmetry?
Look at the mock-up below on the right, showing a horizontal version of the painting instead. Which shape art do you think is better for the space?
Let's look at some more examples. In the photo below on the left, there is symmetry between the painting and the bath tub. On the right, the similar size and shape of the painting and fireplace create symmetry on a large wall.
Congrats to my collectors on their top-notch decorating skills! And a big thank you to them for purchasing my art and letting me use photos of their homes.
I hope this was helpful. In the next post, I'll talk about specific sizes of paintings and which are a good fit for which types of spaces.