Tips for choosing art: Part 2— Art for Ambiance


Some art lovers build their home’s whole aesthetic around their art collection—choosing colors, furniture placement, textures and accessories that accentuate their works of art. But most people begin with a vision of how they want their house to look and feel, and then choose art that fits that goal. In our last post we defined “aesthetic” as the sum total of all the visual elements in a space that produce a certain ambiance (cheerful, cozy, sleek, etc.). And we explained that art is one of the most important visual elements, making our bold claim that art choices really do accentuate or mess with your home’s vibe. Having shared that inspiration (hopefully you were inspired and not daunted!), we want to break it down this week and offer some tips for choosing art that supports your ambiance goals.

The following are just 3 examples from an endless list of desired home-vibes, but hopefully these 3 will illustrate the principle of how art can be chosen to support your ambiance.


  1. Desired Vibe: Calm (Serene, Understated, Soothing)

To support this ambiance with art…

  • Choose:
    • Fewer pieces total
    • Colors coordinated with furnishings and accents
    • Large pieces with a narrow color palette
    • Tranquil scenery (sunsets, snow scenes, beach scenes, etc.)
    • Minimalist pieces (but make sure colors are soft and not bold)
    • Natural textures like wood or wool as opposed to metals
    • Gallery walls with all the same shape/size, same frame and matting to allow the eye to rest.
  • Avoid:
    • Busy patterns
    • bright colors
    • gallery walls with lots of variety
  • Beware of:
    • Art that looks “cheap”… simple palettes and scenes can look inexpensive if you aren’t careful. Limit the number of giclées (reproduced canvas prints) in your home and try to upgrade to originals (on canvas or paper) when possible
    • Being blah. This vibe can accidentally slip into feeling commonplace, so choose textures or colors or subject matters that distinguish your calm space from someone else’s.
  • Advantages:
    • Can be collected quickly because “matchy” helps with continuity
    • Less time spent choosing frames (go with one or two styles because sameness creates calm)
    • Large minimalist pieces can be more affordable than large art that is more complex or more figurative
  • Who it’s right for:
    • People who hate clutter, Simplicity-seekers, Nature lovers
    • Those who don’t want to fuss over décor or don’t feel they have a strong personal style (easy style to reproduce)
    • Owners of properties where the outside landscape is the real show-stopper (beach house, mountain house, pastoral setting)


  1. Desired Vibe: Whimsical (Feminine, Funky, Maximalist)

To support this ambiance with art…

  • Choose:
    • Lots of pieces from a variety of styles
    • Pieces that pop your chosen accent colors (and some that intentionally contrast or even clash)
    • Trendy things (e.g. antlers, painted catch phrases)
    • Collections of things you love (e.g. clocks or fashion prints)
    • Frames of all shapes, sizes and colors, but with some continuity
    • Formal or even old-fashioned pieces (definitely hang Granny’s Chinoiserie prints in gold frames)
    • Some wild or unexpected things (this style thrives on contrast, so also hang a funny animal portrait and a bold, drippy abstract)
  • Avoid:
    • Neutrals (you need some in a space, but probably not in the art itself)
    • Not much to avoid because anything goes with this one!
  • Beware of:
    • Overload (You will still need to edit carefully so your vibe doesn’t become too sloppy and random. If you start getting circus big-top vibes, you might need to tone it down).
    • Lacking individuality. (Sometimes all the color and pattern can start to look predictable when a lot of people shoot for the same vibe in their homes)
    • Too much trend-following. (Don’t set yourself up to look outdated by next season)
  • Advantages:
    • One of easiest aesthetics to pull off because it plays on randomness and rule-breaking
    • Easy to mix in trends (and rotate them out)
    • Doesn’t have to “match” –clashing can be done intentionally to create the dissonance that yields the “happy-go-lucky” element of this vibe
  • Who it’s right for:
    • Bubbly personalities, fun-seekers, optimists, rule breakers
    • People on a tight budget. $200 can go a long way if you are choosing things for fun rather than for value.
    • Trend-lovers and those who enjoy changing things up more often
    • People who aren’t stressed by a lot going on visually


  1. Desired Vibe: Cultured (Smart, Tasteful, Carefully Curated)

To support this ambiance with art…

  • Choose:
    • Historically relevant artists, periods, or styles.
    • Intriguing subject matters (e.g. portraits, room-scapes, a place you’ve traveled, intellectual abstracts, pieces that make you want to linger and stare).
    • High-quality (“fine”) art. (This doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, but often does). It should be obvious that the artist has a carefully honed technique that is unique and recognizable (not easily imitated), and that they have used high value materials (oil, pastel, bronze, wood).
    • Frames that accentuate the art and accentuate your other stylistic elements (e.g. midcentury modern or eclectic-traditional)
    • Gallery walls with a theme (content or style, not just color)
  • Avoid
    • Trends
    • Reproductions (Skip most prints. If using reproductions, look for signed, limited-edition prints and castings)
    • Trying to match the furniture
  • Beware of:
    • The Emperor’s New Clothes. (Just because a piece of art is famous or expensive, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. When all is said and done, you need to like it.)
    • Impatience.  (It takes time to acquire things that are valuable and meaningful. Don’t fret, just enjoy the evolution of your home, and resolve to choose art carefully no matter what stage of the game you’re in.)
    • Hoarding.  (When you get a new piece you may have to let something else go, which is hard when meaning and memories are concerned. But if you don’t edit and pare down from time to time you can accidentally create a vibe that’s hectic. Carefully curated means carefully edited.)
  • Advantages
    • Unique.  Because this style plays up a person’s experiences and interests it has a biographical element that is impossible to imitate.
    • Transcends time and trends. This kind of art collection will never go out of style, and your vibe will always be tasteful despite which way the trends go next year or the next.
    • Investment value. Fine art actually qualifies as an investment. Get your collection appraised periodically and make sure it is insured. Art is a wonderful thing to pass on to your children or give to dear friends.
  • Who it’s right for:
    • History and travel buffs, art lovers, academics, mature collectors
    • People with a strong sense of personal style (or with a decorator to help them choose)
    • People with a more sizeable budget and/or those willing to make art a priority investment

Let us know how you’re choosing art to create your #homevibes! And, as always, let us know if we can come alongside to help you in the process.

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Catherine Darling and Grace Pouch
Our mission at DIG is this: to make Greenville darling, one house at a time. Whether you are already convinced of your own personal style or need some guidance in finding it, we want your house to feel like a home that you can be proud of.
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  1. Thank you for all this great information about choosing art! One thing that really stood out to me is that you say to choose a variety of styles. It would be nice to know that you are going to get a few different looks for your room.

    • Thanks, Frank! I give credit to my art-loving parents for setting me on the path to appreciating a variety of art styles. I do have my favorite periods and artists, but I enjoy the way that contrast and variety allows individual pieces to shine more so than if you have a house full of just one kind of art. Check in next week for our new article about pinpointing styles that bring you joy!