Happy New Year!
Art can make or break a space. It is intimately linked with the success of the design of an interior, but it is also something so separate, so personal, that it becomes a thing of itself.
So where do we start with art? Where do we finish? How do we reconcile the need for art to relate to a space and also keep the integrity of its role as a means of personal expression and individuality for a homeowner, regardless of the color of the sofa or the style of the rug?
I enlisted my friend, fellow entrepreneur, and art adviser, Katharine Earnhardt, of Mason Lane Art, to walk me through her own thoughts on integrating art in an interior, and more. Below is our interview.
First things first: If you are someone new to the art world and want to think about art for your home, where do you start?
The first step that I take is having a conversation, preferably in that person’s home. This way, I can get a sense of their space, taste, and needs. I usually identify 1) whether they have any existing art that can be re-framed or hung in a better way, 2) which walls need new art, and 3) what their overall design goals are (and how art relates to those). Understanding these points lets me develop a game plan for the client and provide a proposal for cost, next steps and deliverables.
After that, do you have a process you suggest for serious clients who are interested in art who want to begin to collect? Do you have suggestions for ways to educate one’s self that isn’t overwhelming?
Yes, I aim to save people time and money while increasing art market transparency, so I definitely have a process: I actually advise against just searching for galleries or fairs and the Internet hoping to find that perfectly priced, sized and styled piece — that can be a long process and yield less than ideal results. Instead, I come to clients with an edited list of what works for them. I show them images and tell them what makes each piece interesting, investment-worthy, or whatever is most interesting to that client, then we choose which piece to see in person. From there, I arrange gallery viewings so the art is out and ready when we arrive at the gallery. The client can take time to think about it, and ultimately, I negotiate sale price and handle all transport and install logistics on the client’s behalf. This process allows clients to focus on works appropriate for them while learning what they need to know to feel confident about a first art purchase.
In your opinion, what is the correlation between price and quality in the art world?
Price is correlated with quality, but like any other market, there are a LOT of outliers. You can always buy some undervalued or overpriced works, but ultimately the market for each artist and work levels out so price meets demand. The trick is to do your research (or consult an art advisor) so you can more likely buy something that’s undervalued.
How do you know if a piece of art is “good”?
Seeing a lot of art helps train your eye and assess art on a relative basis. It’s the same in the design world… I’m 100% sure that Brooke can pick out cheap hardware from the fancy stuff, whereas I would be lost.
I also think considering how art is interesting (rather than good or bad) allows you to assess art with more depth. Specifically, I suggest considering: 1) aesthetics (how it looks); 2) mechanics (materials used and process executed); 3) philosophy (what prompted the artist to make it) when evaluating if/how that piece interests you.
If I want a collection of art that feels collected/varied but I still want my home to feel “put together” when the interior design is finished, how would you suggest reconciling these potentially diverging interests?
One simple tip is to hang art in your home so the centers are the same distance from the floor (likely around 57”). This helps the hung art look more coherent. There are some exceptions to this, but it’s helpful to consider. Secondly, consider that the more colors, textures and forms you add to a space, the more energy it has. I go for somewhere between low energy (everything being the same and boring) and high energy (extreme/unlivable situation). Placing art that has some elements in common with the surrounding design and some elements that are distinct from it tends to create a visually interesting and still balanced look.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
They’re pretty different, but that’s my list.
What is your perspective about how art shapes a home?
Art gives a home a personalized character that few other items can…. While I get that people need furnishings more than art, I don’t completely see art as purely a “nice to have”… it’s a critical part of making a home that has very real and strong emotional benefits. I recently did a blog post related to this topic.
Do you prefer advising on art before or after the interior design is complete?
The best time to think about art is when the interior design is coming together but not totally complete… this way I can make sure that the art furthers the design vision, and the art will likely clarify that vision, providing direction with various accessories.
Katharine Earnhardt is the President and Founder of Mason Lane Art, a Brooklyn-based art advisory firm that helps style walls nationwide. Mason Lane finds art, crafty finds and creative solutions to finish your walls and give your space some soul.
In good design,