Choosing Art for Your Home in Toronto

Choosing Art for Your Home in Toronto

"Buy something that you love, that you have some emotional or intellectual connection with, and that brings out in you the kind of feelings you want to experience in your space."

Whether you’re a new home or condo owner or you simply feel your space needs to be livened up a little, art is a great way to create the perfect warm, inviting, and inspiring home. But how do you pick the right art for your home? How much should you spend? Where should you shop? What style should you pick? There are a lot of questions to ask and it can all seem a little overwhelming. So we’ve asked three incredibly skilled Toronto designers for their insights on how to choose the perfect pieces of art for your space.

Educate Yourself

The Struggle For Justice by Elvert Barnes
The Struggle For Justice by Elvert Barnes

So, you’re ready to add some art to your home but you aren’t sure where to start. Well, designer Jeanette Hlinka of Jeanette Hlinka Design suggests a simple (and pretty fun!) way to get your search going.

My number one tip for someone who would like to add some art to their home is — research. Educate yourself. Visit art galleries, art exhibitions, furniture stores that carry art to get a taste of what is out there — and more importantly, what you are drawn to.

Now, that sounds like the kind of research we’re happy to dive into!

Investment Art versus Decorative Art

Interior Room Light
Art around the room by anyjazz65

Once you’ve gotten a sense of what you’re drawn to, it’s important to think about the kind of art you’re truly looking for. In other words, are you looking to find original pieces and to start and art collection or would you be happy just finding something that will decorate your walls?

It’s two very different ways of thinking about how you’re going to make those purchases,

says designer Laura Stein of Laura Stein Interiors.

If you’re just looking for something to decorate your walls and to fill a space you can usually do that on a tighter budget because you aren’t necessarily looking for original pieces. If you’re starting an art collection or continuing an art collection then that’s something different to think about,

she adds.

When it comes to serious “investment” art, Hlinka suggests relying on the expert advice of an art consultant or dealer. If you’re looking for decorative art,

“You can be the expert,”

she says.

Consider Your Budget

Whether you’ve decided to start an art collection or you’re simply interested in decorative art for now, it’s important to consider your budget.

There are lots of different galleries out there at different price points so even if you do have smaller budget and you want original art there are places to go that you can find original pieces,

says Stein. She adds,

there’s often student sales and things like that to sort of get your collection going.

Otherwise, if you’re going the decorative route, a lot of furniture stores sell what they call “wall decor,” says Stein. This could be a plain print, or in some cases, companies have artists that go over a print with paint or a glaze so you can actually see brush strokes.

It actually looks like a real painting but it’s much less expensive because it’s not an original work,

says Stein.

Find Your Style

Less is more
Less is more by Wicker Paradise

There are many different decorating styles; traditional, modern, country to name a few,

says Interior Decorator and Designer MaryLynne Meschino of Allegro Interiors.

One of the styles I most frequently encounter is transitional, which is part-way between traditional and modern. I also find a lot of people these days interested in an eclectic mix, combining vintage with more contemporary pieces.

Not sure which style of art is the most “you”?

Chances are that people looking for art will gravitate to those pieces that fit their existing decor style, since they were drawn to that style in their furnishings and space in the first place,

suggests Meschino.

Choosing art pieces that are consistent with the decor of the space will create a sense of harmony. For example, a realistic landscape painting in an elegant detailed frame can act as the “jewellery” in a traditional living room. In an eclectic space a large vintage advertisement poster can add humour and impact. In each case the art piece enhances the style and mood already established,

she suggests.

But not everything in a room has to follow the same style. “Another way to go is to choose a piece of art that is different from the style of the space,” points out Meschino.

A large, unexpected piece — say, a colourful modern abstract over the fireplace of an otherwise neutral traditional room — can create a sense of surprise and add excitement and energy to a room.

But if you do go that route, she cautions,

in a case like this, where you want to create maximum impact, you want to make sure there are not a lot of other things vying for your immediate visual attention.

Pay Attention to Scale

New big art by Mae Chevrette
New big art by Mae Chevrette

In addition to budget and style, another very important aspect to consider is scale. It’s easy to think, “Oh, I have this wall. I need to put something up there,” says Stein, and then you might throw something up there you already have or go and buy something but it’s not the right size for the space.

So you want to make sure that the piece or grouping of pieces fills the space nicely and doesn’t feel like it’s lost or sort of floating in the middle of the wall. If it’s too small it sort of gets lost and if it’s too big, like if it’s too close to the corner or to the edges of the window or door or whatever you’re placing it near then it looks like it’s not meant for that space either and it’s too big. So you want to really think about scale and make sure you have enough breathing room around the piece,

says Stein.

Make Practical Purchases

When you’re wandering through a home decor store and a piece of art catches your eye, it’s easy to want to snatch it up on the spot. But careful not to get too carried away!

If you want to display the piece in your home right away, be sure you have a place for it,

cautions Meschino.

You may fall in love with a large canvas and find you have no wall space large enough to accommodate it. This is fine if you intend to keep the piece for a future home, but if not, do keep scale in mind,

suggests Meschino.

Scour the City

There are places all throughout the city you can find art, says Stein. In terms of galleries that have options for those working at a lower price point, Stein suggests checking out Art Interiors in Forest Hill, Canvas Gallery at Dupont near Ossington or stopping in at one of the many stores open throughout The Gallery District on Queen West around Ossington and Dufferin, or around the AGO and OCAD. There are also higher end galleries in the Distillery District or Yorkville that are worth checking out, adds Stein. And for a great deal and to support young artists starting out, be sure to check out the OCAD student art sale that happens at the end of each school year, in the first few days of May. When you start to keep an eye out for new opportunities to find art, you’re sure to find cool spots scattered all over the city — sometimes in the most unexpected places.

Whatever your style, there are countless sources for art pieces; galleries, large or small; antique shops and markets, craft shops and shows,

says Meschino. You might even stumble across a new piece while grabbing your morning cup of joe, since “a lot of independent coffee shops will display local artists’ work on the wall and if you like it you can buy it,” says Stein. So keep your eyes peeled because you could find the perfect piece of art just about anywhere in Toronto!

Pick the Proper Frame

Living Room Shelves
Living Room Shelves by Michael McCauslin

When you’ve found the perfect photograph or painting, you of course want it to be displayed in the best possible way.

Framing is critical to bringing out the best in a piece,

says Meschino. And don’t worry, there are experts to help you pick out the best style, colour and size to let your art shine. Meschino suggests

“a good framing shop will know how to make the most of your piece.”

Hang it Right

Hang Woman by Poster Boy
Hang Woman by Poster Boy

So you’ve found the perfect piece of art and you’ve got it home. Now what? Although choosing the style of art you want and finding the right piece is the majority of the work, you aren’t done yet. Displaying your art properly is the crucial next step.

“People always tend to hang art high,”

says Stein.

The top third of the piece should be at about eye level,

she explains. Now, of course if you are particularly short or tall, you should take that into account, she adds, but it’s a good rough estimate to go off.

You don’t want [the piece] to look like it’s floating in space in the middle of the wall. You want it to relate to something. So if there’s a console table or some kind of cabinet or a piece of furniture that’s underneath it you want it to relate to that. So it should actually be a little bit lower and a little bit closer to that piece as opposed to really high up and floating in space closer to the ceiling.

Go for Layers

Don’t go thinking you have to get everything around it out of the way for that piece of art to shine, says Stein.

It’s okay if there’s a lamp or a plant or flower or some other thing that’s on that table or piece of furniture that may be blocking [the piece] a little bit. It’s okay to have that layered look. It actually creates a more rich feeling in the room when you layer things. So you don’t have to have everything free and clear and pushed to the side so your artwork is front and centre.

You Don’t Have to Drill

Once you have an idea of where you want your artwork to go, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to pull out the drill. You can lean artwork up against a wall which leaves it free and clear to move whenever, suggests Stein. Or if you have a smaller piece of artwork (not one that is heavy) Stein proposes hanging it with 3M Command Adhesive Hooks and leaving it there for a couple of days to decide if you like it. If not, you can take it down and remove the strips with no damage to the paint or wallpaper, she suggests.

Try a Collage

Wall by Incase
Wall by Incase

Have a large wall to fill but don’t have the budget or can’t find the right large piece? Stein suggests trying a collage instead.

It’s really interesting to do a collage of a number of smaller pieces to fill up the space. If you’re on a budget and you’ve got smaller things, you might want to frame some photographs you have or that sort of thing to use for your walls,

Meschino agrees:

I love the impact created when small pieces are grouped together on a wall rather than randomly distributed through a home. It takes a skilled eye to arrange the pieces, and there should be some relationship among the pieces, such as frame colour or style, but the overall effect can be powerful.

Don’t Limit Yourself to Prints and Paintings

a la francaise
À la française by Santi Villamarín

When we think of art, it’s easy to jump to paintings, photographs, and other large canvases we can hang on our walls. But don’t limit yourself!

There are all sorts of other things you can put on your walls,

says Stein. 

There are sculptural things you can put on your walls. There are floating shelves, clocks, all that type of thing if you want something different. Pieces gathered over time and travels always lend a special feeling of depth and meaning,

adds Meschino.

A variety of pieces, from paintings, photos and sculpture to framed textiles and masks, create layers of interest in a space,

she suggests.

Most Importantly… Buy What You Love

Bathroom Decor
Bathroom Decor by ssedro

There are clearly a lot of things to take into consideration when buying art such as budget, style, and scale, just to name a few. But at its core, choosing art is simple. When asked for their number number-one tip for potential art buyers, the answer of all three designers was unanimous: buy what you love. Don’t feel the need to buy something just because it “matches” the rest of the room, says Stein, or feel pressured to buy something you don’t truly love.

After all,

“you are the one who is going to live with it,”

points out Hlinka.

Ultimately, says Meschino,

“buy something that you love, that you have some emotional or intellectual connection with, and that brings out in you the kind of feelings you want to experience in your space.”

So although choosing art may seem challenging and complicated at first, at its root, it’s very simple. So have fun learning, browsing, and buying beautiful art you love!

Title Photo: Sculpture by Ian Muttoo


3 Replies to “Choosing Art for Your Home in Toronto”

  1. I & my husband = Studio Spectar = selling our paintings from our home studio. We are working in oil on canvas, different styles – from portraits to still life to abstract.
    Welcome to send me email and arrange private gallery tour.

  2. “Most Importantly… Buy What You Love”

    Couldn’t agree with that statement more! While there are plenty of ways to decorate your space with art, and this article beautifully exemplifies many ways to choose art, that’s perhaps the best advice within the article.

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