Design Imitates Art Imitates Life

I've been a studio artist all my life; in fact, I started out in studio arts school before I switched majors to study interior design. So I’ve worked in most mediums, from pottery to paint to metal, and both the principles I used as an artist and many of the artworks I’ve loved have influenced the interiors I’ve created throughout my career. But you don’t have to be an artist yourself to find design inspiration in art. Your favorite sculpture or painting can not only create a show-stopping focal point, but can set the mood and tone for a space, infuse the look with personality, and help your designer understand your style better. Here’s how to bring the spirit of your favorite masterpiece home:


Of course you don’t have to limit yourself to plain white walls just to show off a great piece of art, but if you want to emphasize a certain painting, for example, it does make sense to keep the surroundings comparatively simple. I might choose a monochromatic color palette for the room, or stick with neutrals, highlighting with a few accents in colors pulled from the artwork.


If a certain piece of art really speaks to you—even if you don’t own it to display in your home—you can choose elements from its composition to incorporate into your interior design. For example, Picasso’s Cubist style is characterized by intersecting geometric planes and unexpected tricks of scale: To get this feeling in your own space, you might pick furnishings, like those at left, that share some of these stylistic qualities.


Artists and designers both rely on many of the same principles—color, proportion, texture, balance, and rhythm—to create appealing compositions. As you design a room to work well with a piece of art, make sure your furnishings, fabrics, and other elements, are in keeping with the color, scale, texture, and rhythm of the artwork—but avoid being “matchy-matchy”.


Not many of us can afford to hang an actual Picasso on our wall, but that doesn’t mean we can’t afford great art. A framed reproduction poster can double as the real thing; or, have a photograph or even a child’s artwork printed on canvas and stretched on a frame for your very own contemporary masterpiece. Also, seek out local artists.


(opposite page, from top to bottom):

  • Missoni pillow, $129, Orange Sala Dining Chair, $730, Marlow Diamond Cube, $495, Leather/Tile Ottoman, $900, ID Inside Design;
  • Landscape Shade, $118, Blue Silk Pillow, $98, Anthropologie;
  • Robert Kuo silver lamp, $5,330, Chrome and Glass Drink Table, $4,140, Baker Furniture,
  • Bowie Side Table, $1,595, Milton Chair in Picasso-Ebony, $2,795, Andrew Martin;
  • D’Artagnan Side Table, $2,078, Peso Occasional Table, $7,808, Holly Hunt;