(Architectural Digest March 2014, design by Sandy Gallin)
Large scale art—pieces sized anywhere from 4ft x 4ft on up to 6ft x 6ft and bigger. The bigger, the better. Big, big, BIG! (Size does matter in this case.) Scale is equally as important to a room as textile and color—maybe even more so. Maybe scale is the single most important factor governing a successful room design. Maybe. But more on what I think makes a room successful later.
Back to art. BIG. ART.
Place an over-scaled piece in an entryway and instantly you will signal drama and excitement. Or in a living room to establish conversational interest. Or in an intimate space, such as a bedroom or private study for an enveloping sense of glamour and solidarity.
Here’s how I look at art…
Mankind needs an arena in which it’s safe to loose oneself. Art is that arena. We all need an environment in which we can feel safe in stepping out and away from the everyday, from the mundane. Art in the home helps us lean a little bit closer to inspiration and all that is beautiful. Wonderful art has the capacity to transcend the everyday and carry the viewer somewhere more extraordinary. And this factor is compounded by introducing large-scale works into a space.
Art is a lifestyle. It is for sure my lifestyle. Collecting and surrounding myself with artworks. Someone once used the word “custodian” in regards to how I treat my home and its collection of art. And it’s true. Somehow I feel safe knowing that at the end of the day, I can come and be surrounded by beautiful things that I love. Oh, and also my family and friends. But they’re not as important. Stuff is more important.
Anyway, what I’m talking about here is somewhat philosophical but not impractical. So let’s get into the meat of it – the fun part! Take a look at some these spaces, made all the more impactful thanks to the inclusion of large-scale artworks…
(design by Coddington Design, photo by Matthew Millman)
Notice how the furnishings are relatively normal in proportion to the rooms, however, the artworks command attention due to their size. Try to imagine these rooms with much smaller pieces and that commanding authority is lost.
(image source unknown)
(Robert Brown Interior Design)
(from Collected Cool by Jay Jeffers, photo by Matthew Millman)
I’ve written previous blog posts on gallery wall installations, tightly connected groupings of smaller pieces, even a post on what I dubbed “humble art,” or artwork that you might find in a flea market or even DIY. And all of this has a valuable place in the home. But basically what I’m saying is that each home should have at least one large-scale piece of work, whether you buy it from a fancy gallery or make it yourself. Proportionality and scale—and having fun with those elements in regards to your art placement—is key to elevating any space.
Check out this Manhattan apartment by designer-genius Steven Gambrel…
(Architectural Digest Feb 2015, design by Steve Gambrel)
Notice how that single large painting forces you to look at it. It’s like, “look at me, look at ME!” And yet, while its color and energy provide a sophisticated, nuanced foil to the otherwise balanced tonal palette of the room, it’s largely the proportion that makes such a statement. Check it out again in classy black-and-white…
It still packs a punch. And how great is that teeny-tiny painting on the other side of the window??! It makes me grin it’s so good.
That painting by the way is the work of Cecily Brown, an amazing New York-based artist. She carries on the tradition of the Abstract Expressionist master Willem de Kooning, currently an unhealthy obsession of mine. I’m obsessed in the sense that I cry a little bit everyday over how I can’t afford his work. He’s dead, so pretty much each of his paintings is worth about a trillion gazillion dollars. Note: after you die, your work is MUCH more valuable. Write that down.
Anyways. De Kooning. Look him up. Buy a book. If you haven’t, you need to. If you’re not interested, then you should be. And if you’re still not into his work, then shame on you.
Here is a foyer, very traditional in look, but instantly energized and made current by introducing a lyrical, expressive work by de Kooning. We won’t talk about how much I want to sneak into that apartment and steal that painting and then try and run away with it tucked under my arm. But again, notice how its scale is at once arresting, unexpected and still completely composed and curated. Brilliant.
(Vanity Fair 2010, photo: Jonathan Becker)
That’s about it for now. But take another look at some more spaces with wonderfully over-scaled artwork. Notice how the proportion of the art somehow manages to be both center-stage and also complement the rooms’ furnishings. Melts my heart. Cheers!
Active in the Little Rock design scene since 2006, Joshua Plumlee is passionate about reimagining elegant interiors with a focus on original artwork and an unconventional approach to luxurious style.