empty desk near curtain

How to tackle that expanse of blank wall in your home

empty desk near curtain

You may find that adding decor to a space is a slower process as you explore your personal style and make adjustments if you have other people living with you. My personal experience is that this is when the stress begins to set in. It seems like you always have that one blank wall you don’t know how to fill, especially if you rent a stark white rental without a lot of windows. It can be difficult to find art in its traditional form. You may also see dollar signs for larger pieces. You will need to plan your strategy if you want to go to gallery. The task is overwhelming, it’s obvious. We asked Bettina Huang (general manager at a new company that was backed by David Zwirner, as well as Sophie Ashby, interior designer, for some guidance.

The biggest takeaway? Do not put too much pressure upon yourself.

People worry about their hair growing back, but they don’t need to get haircuts. Huang says that it’s not the same, but there are some similarities with hanging art. Hanging art doesn’t need to be scary. It’s easy to make mistakes and change things up later. It’s easy to fill in small nail holes and keep extra paint for any color you choose.

“The interesting thing about owning art is that if it’s good art and something you love and feel proud of, it speaks for itself,” she continues. It’s best to hang it where you will see it and appreciate it. But, you don’t need to worry about it being perfect. It looks better when people don’t get too fussy about it. This seems possible, right? Find out how to get started.

Do: Plan Ahead (A Little)

“The first thing to do is think about what kind of approach makes sense for you. This connects to three main factors:

1) Temperament. Based on your personality, what would you find most satisfying? Are you a person who enjoys looking at the things you purchase? Are you looking for art that is meaningful to you? Are you looking to make this happen as quickly as possible?

2) Time. What amount of time do you have? Are you averse to searching for the right things immediately?

3) Intention. It’s possible that one piece of art you love is too small to fit on your large wall. If you place the art in the right spot on the wall and can move things around in your room, it might look intentional. Even if you are trying to fill the space with more art, this may be possible.

“As for me, whether it’s art, clothing, or furniture, I’ve always been one to buy organically over time, and only when I find something that I truly connect with. Because I don’t see decorating my home as a goal, but an evolution, I have never felt pressured to do so. Sometimes I only had one piece I wanted to hang, so I placed it over my fireplace and left the rest of the walls blank. This was the focal point of my room. As I have acquired more art and other objects over the years, that’s how I filled my walls organically.” –Huang

Do: Experiment with DIY

“To narrow down my choices, I draw inspiration from an existing element. For example, a favorite piece or art. Then, I use its palette to guide me. I avoid wallpapers that are trendy and choose to blend styles. For mounting new art, I love using vintage frames. The uniqueness of old timber frames is what makes them so special, while a more complicated and expensive frame can be very costly. Frames are sourced at flea markets such as Kempton and Ardingly. Mounts can be used to your advantage if the frame is larger than the artwork. I love using linen-wrapped mounts.” –Ashby

“You can find amazing art that is large but still within your budget if you’re open to looking at other artists. If you’re interested in works on papers, such as paintings, collages or prints, there are more options. You will need to frame them if you don’t already have them. This adds to the price. But still, if you compare a work on canvas to a framed work on paper by the same artist, the latter will usually be more affordable on a price-per-square-inch basis.” –Huang

Do: Think Beyond the Realm of Paintings

“On my walls, I have a watercolor next to a Maurizio Cattelan collaboration piece. It may not be fine art but it is there and helps fill the space. A floating bookcase can be hung to hold books, art and other objects.” — Huang

Do: Work with the Size of Your Space

If you have limited space, a small mirror that is wall-hung won’t maximize your space. Instead, make use of large mirror sheets. Although it may seem counterintuitive at first, I find that boldness is better than a constant search for the ‘light and airy look’ in small spaces. Use statement art to bring out the intimacy in the space. Paint colors can add atmosphere to a space and are also one of the most cost-effective ways to change the feeling.

“An equally effective but lesser-known choice is the use of soft wall art, such as textiles and tapestries. Soft wall art can make spaces feel cozy, warm, welcoming, and intimate. They can also improve acoustics by changing the material palette and adjusting the pace, which softens the space. Wall hangings are another form of art. They have personality and draw people into a room. I like to change the pace between painting and drawing, photography, sculpture, and tapestries.” –Ashby

Don’t: Get Caught Up in Matching Art to Your Space

“While it is possible to find something that meets certain criteria, I prefer to buy based on my connection to the object (assuming it’s within my budget!) It’s more meaningful to wait until I find something that excites me. It’s the moment I cannot stop thinking about it that I know I must buy it. If you do this, I believe that your art will reflect your space. You will have a lot of things that resonate with you …. and likely others that are in a similar aesthetic.” — Huang

Don’t: Be Afraid of a Gallery Wall

You can express these things with just a few pieces of art hung on a wall. This is especially true for those who love what they buy. As you collect more art and other objects, you can organically add them to your gallery wall. It will look amazing from the first few pieces. The most successful gallery walls that I have seen weren’t just right, or even arranged in the best possible way. You can also hang art that you like, while still accumulating the pieces that will make your ultimate vision a reality.

“People focus a lot on the physical placement of artwork within gallery walls, but I think they should think more and have more fun with the way different artwork can interact with each other. It’s possible to juxtapose different colors or subjects that you find thought-provoking. You can also have a wall with just your portrait collection. Don’t let these possibilities intimidate you. The result will still be great and interesting, even if it were just randomly hung.” — Huang

“There aren’t hard-and-fast rules here, but the trick to a gallery wall is making it feel like it just happened, even if you actually planned every element of it intensely. This effect is not dependent on the number of works, but rather on how they are hung. Try to achieve some degree of asymmetry. If you have four identical-sized works, you might want to stack them one at a time, and one in the middle. You will find it slightly out of center, but still balanced. That’s what you want.”

“Don’t be afraid to let your gallery wall evolve with you as you collect pieces over time. You can experiment with different frame finishes, such as black, white oak, walnut and gilt. Beautiful pieces should be displayed on the wall that are meaningful and personal. A minimalistic, photographic wall is what you want. I prefer sleek frames made of plain timber or monochrome. I love to decorate blank walls with photos, postcards, or paintings. These are often pieces that I found on my travels and remind me of wonderful memories. You can preserve that moment in your life by framing each piece with care and add a unique touch to your home.” –Ashby

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