Beautiful artwork injects visual impact and brings excitement into a room. But "designing with art" is itself an art form, and if you're not careful, things can get messy.
This was very apparent during a recent project for my clients, Sandi and Rob, who live in a colorful home sporting several vibrant hues. The couple are not only crazy for colorful rooms, they're also wild about colorful art, but they're the first to admit that the two don't always work together very well.
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Their real problem area is the long, narrow living and dining space that had been left unadorned, rather like a blank canvas. Sandi and Rob wanted to turn this uninspiring room into a fun, playful "parlor" and a place to showcase some of their paintings.
With that in mind I gathered my own team of artistes and geared up to create a vibrant, adult lounge that would unite the couple's love of color and their love of art.
Some of their most colorful paintings were works created by artist Jeremy Bortz. I decided to visit Bortz's home studio to see how he prefers to display his work for optimal impact. Not surprisingly, all of the walls in his studio were painted in light, neutral shades. Bortz says leaving the walls white allows his art to really "speak for itself."
While visiting, I also noticed a series of 12-by-12-inch colorful, floral paintings. Immediately I imagined how gorgeous a large-scale arrangement of these tiles would look in my clients' space, and before I knew it I was heading back to Sandi and Rob's with 15 of these beauties in my car.
I kicked off the redesign by installing beautiful new plaster crown moldings. These inject a sense of character and elegance to the space. Then we freshened up the walls of the entire space with a bright neutral cream color. I divided up space into two functional areas: a large, comfortable lounge, and a smaller games area. I used floral linen drapery panels with accents in red, teal, gold and green to define and separate the two areas.
I decided the new floral-art installation should go in the lounge, where it can be seen the moment you walk in. One rule of thumb when hanging artwork is to first position your furniture. So in came a red velvet chair, a funky patterned chair and ottoman, along with a mirrored coffee table. But the real wow factor was the 8-foot, tufted-back teal sofa that I placed below the floral tiles, which I hung in a rectangular configuration.
In the games area I put up a fluted fan-shaped plaster ceiling medallion inside two larger ceiling rings to anchor a stunning chandelier. Next, I painted the back wall a rich teal (inspired by the sofa) and placed a mirrored-back shelving unit against it. Finally, I painted the couple's existing chairs the same teal as the wall, recovered the seats in a vibrant striped fabric and set them in the center of the space around a new white pedestal table.
There was still a lot of art that I had to work into the space. Some we hung up on the walls, while others we just casually leaned here and there on the furniture for a more casual, playful effect.
Another vital aspect of designing with art is having proper lighting. I chose halogen for the recessed lights on the ceiling because they give off a bright white light, which renders the true colors of the artwork best. I then added a funky bird cage pendant and several table lamps for additional ambient lighting.
After including several final accents, the space was complete. By blending bold colors, bright artwork and a superfun style, I gave Sandi and Rob the ultimate party parlor.
It's a real work of art, if I do say so myself!
• Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV's "Candice Tells All."