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How to Choose Artwork for Your Home

by Magnolia
Published on February 22, 2024

A landscape painting hangs on a stone wall above a styled wooden cabinet.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

We tend to believe this adage rings true for mediums of any kind. An impressionistic painting you found in a vintage store. A landscape tapestry that fills the space between. The sketch your little one drew at school. And the list goes on….

Bringing artwork into your home can be an opportunity to express creative freedom while nodding to unique, meaningful moments of your life. Below, we’re sharing a few things to consider when curating art in the spaces you love.

Style, Space, and Scale

Style, space, and scale each play a role when choosing art for your home. It can be helpful to approach art curation like you would a puzzle—first taking note of the full picture, then bringing your vision together one piece at a time. Let’s look at each of these three elements below.

Two art pieces hang above a green sofa from Magnolia.

Step One: Determine Your Style

Art is personal, an intuitive part of who you are. As you begin to curate a collection of your own, remember there are no rules about what you should or shouldn’t like. Look up, down, and all around—paying attention to what your eye is naturally drawn to and how it may give you pause or open a new line of thought. Ask yourself, What sparks joy?...then follow that feeling.

Although there are many, here are a few common art styles you might come across while exploring:

Botanical: This genre reflects pressed and preserved plants or botanical illustrations in a scientific way—often including notations of study, names, or classifications.

Graphic: Typically two dimensional, this art form commonly consists of repeating patterns and traditional prints, reflecting simplified line work that creates a sense of intrigue and dimension.

Figurative: A representational art form, figurative works depict a subject, such as human or easily recognizable object, in a clear way.

Still Life: Typically highlighting an inanimate subject matter, still life pieces are often ethereal, emotive, and capture the story of a moment frozen in time.

Architectural: Just as the name suggests, architectural art highlights architecture through portrayals of blueprints, diagrams, and structure sketches.

Abstract: Achieving technique through an intentional use of shapes, form, and color, abstract art is subjective by nature and typically doesn't appeal to visual reality.

Landscape: Landscape pieces reflect wide views of realistic scenery and are often created through a variety of fine art mediums.

Kids: Art is for any age, so this genre features pieces that appeal to the littles in your life—like animal sketches, construction diagrams, and colorful illustrations.

A landscape painting hangs above a bed layered in bedding from Magnolia.

Step Two: Consider Your Space

At its best, art isn’t forced—it naturally flows and supports the spaces of home. It can be helpful to work with the walls you’re wanting to style. Before finding things to fill them, ask How much surface area do I have to cover? What story do I want to tell here? Then, search for pieces that feel right for that specific space.

Say you’re styling a living room. Maybe you’d consider centering a blank wall with a statement-making tapestry that sparks conversation. Or, if you’re decorating a bedroom, it might be best to look for pieces with muted colors that pair back to your bedding for a cohesive, relaxing atmosphere. Each room has a different function—and shows a different side of who you are. It’s helpful to view art the same way.

A figurative art piece hangs on patterned wallpaper above a wooden bench. Two light pillows and a stack of books sit on the bench.

Step Three: Scale Your Pieces

Walls are a one-dimensional surface, and when you dress them with art, you’re creating a composition of varying shapes and sizes to fill the space between. Whether you’re styling with a flat wall plane or with a shelf, remember this: Furniture is on the floor. In other words, hang art lower than you might think.

Anything you place above the ground is closer to eye level, and it’s important to keep wall decor feeling cohesive and connected to the furniture that grounds a space. Art shouldn’t be so low that it lacks breathing room, but it also shouldn’t be so high that it feels disjointed. Tip: As a general rule of thumb, we usually try to keep large statement pieces (like a tapestry) about 6 inches above furniture.

Once you’ve taken inventory of how much real estate you have to fill, it’s time to decide which approach to take. There are three layouts our team commonly uses to dress large, blank walls with art: tapestry, grid, or gallery.

Tapestry

Oversized Vintage Spring Blooms Tapestry from Magnolia.

Sometimes, one piece is all you need. A large-scale tapestry is a beautiful, charming statement piece to center a room and give the eye a focal point. Commonly made from textiles or vintage-inspired paper secured between two wooden rods, tapestries are easy to hang and lend a minimal, yet finished, feel to a wall or space.

Grid

A room scene by Magnolia features an area rug, a white sofa, styled shelving, and three wall decor pieces in a grid.

You’ve probably heard it said, good things come in threes. A trio is naturally satisfying to the eye, and when evenly sized and spaced, it can be a simple way to span a large wall. You can style a set of similar-looking pieces, mix and match different mediums, stack vertically or horizontally, or incorporate more than three pieces (use however many you want!). The possibilities are endless, so follow your gut. To ensure a precise layout, try using a ruler or measuring tape to keep the spacing uniform between each piece.

Note: The photo above is from Episode 1 of Fixer Upper: Welcome Home—the next photo (below) is of the same wall, styled differently for our 2023 fall collection. A great example of how different art approaches can suit the same wall!

Gallery

A styled gallery wall hangs above a red sofa in a living room scene designed by Magnolia.

Other times, you may want to create a mixed media moment with a gallery wall. In this case, it’s best to designate an anchor piece (usually the largest), frame the perimeter with mid-sized pieces, then fill in the gaps with smalls—like mini prints, photos, scones, or mirrors. For specific how-tos, read our blog on gallery walls.

A small art piece hangs above a green plant in a bathroom.
Two small art pieces hang in the corner of a bedroom.

An Unexpected Approach

It’s easy to look for the obvious places to add art, like a big wall, but there are opportunities everywhere. Placing art in unexpected places, or taking it beyond walls, creates small moments that feel extra special. Oftentimes, the places that you’d least expect to see art are where you need it most.

A landscape art piece sits on a wooden kitchen shelf above pots and pans. It's surrounded by a green plant, a stack of two cookbooks, and a black pitcher.
A black cabinet is filled with decor—like faux tulips, trays, vases, and art pieces—from Magnolia.

For example, layering art atop books and daily essentials on a shelf or placing it inside cabinet doors with see-through panes are both great ways to add a storied feel to more utilitarian spaces.

A Note on Pairing

When pairing pieces together, let it be an opportunity to experiment with mixing and matching. This approach helps provide dimension and variety. Try pairing abstract pieces with more literal ones, oils with watercolors, sketches with photographs, etc. Choosing styles that balance each other can naturally guide the eye from piece to piece.

Three art pieces are hanging on a white wall above a cascading, green plant in a clay pot.

It’s also helpful to look for pieces that speak to each other with one (or two) coordinating hues. An easy win is finding a connective tie to the room. For example, you could choose a dominant color in the space—like a green sofa—then find art that hints at green with a secondary color. Pairing dominant and secondary colors helps keep the palette connected, without feeling too saturated or overdone.

Why Art?

Walls are a significant amount of real estate in a home. Walking into a room, the four planes that surround you are what you’ll see first because they’re at eye level. Whether it’s sourcing work from a local artist you connect with or finding vintage reproductions online, one small piece, when chosen with intention, has the power to personalize a room.

Which brings us to this: There’s always space for art. Whether it’s centerstage on a living room wall or tucked on a shelf in a utilitarian space, artwork is worth the investment because it adds moments of delight to the most important place on Earth…home.

A framed poem by Magnolia.
Still Life Fruit Study from Magnolia.
Oversized Daybreak Vintage Tapestry from Magnolia.
EXPLORE ALL ART