Before taking the leap into creating my own artwork full time, I worked in the interior design industry for seven years as an in-house artist. Working from inside of the interior world allowed me to learn about artwork from a whole different perspective. Making the room complete with a painting that complimented the design from colour and style to frame choice and size.
Predominantly, my role within the company was to paint pieces for many of the show homes installed into new build developments, ranging from small starter apartments to multi million pound homes. The studio's designs varied depending on the clients brief, so there was ample opportunity to create paintings that were either abstract, classic, contemporary, surrealist or a more stylised realism. I think the reason I love working in a more contemporary style is down to the influence of the years spent working on so many large pieces created for the more modern interiors, as these were always my favourite projects to work on.
As artists and the interior design world are often miles apart, I thought I'd take the opportunity to bring the two together, by speaking with a couple of former colleagues who have also stepped into working on their own businesses in recent years. Looking at the right size for a piece, getting the framing right to suite the style of the home and creating pieces with personality.
Meet Amy Durn and Hannah Robins-Smith. I've asked them a few questions about their experience in creating interiors and what part art plays in making a room feel complete.
My name is Amy and I launched my business Amy Elizabeth Interiors with the goal ‘Live in a home you love’ in mind. I work with my clients to create breath-taking homes, that reflect everything their family needs whilst captivating their personal style and filling their homes with a sense of peace and wellbeing. Reassuring any design dilemmas along the way and saving money over costly design mistakes.
Hello! I’m Hannah, an Interior Designer. I have recently started my own business, Wilder Ones Interiors, focusing on childrens interiors. I have been in the Interior Design sector for the past 8 years, 7 of those working for a company that specialised in showhomes around the UK.
After leaving my job and taking some time out to raise my son, I decided that I wanted to put my focus back into Interiors which made me start my own business.
What role does art play in interior design?
Hannah: Art plays a massive role in interior design! It can transform a room completely and it makes the space. It’s great for adding personal expression or creating the main feature within a room, from wall murals to paintings, art is used to add personality and soul! I have seen throughout my years of work, how much impact art makes to a room from putting together show home designs with a simpler budget that didn't allow for artwork, leaving the wall bare and soulless.
Amy: This is where my favourite William Morris quote comes in ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’
It’s so important that you connect with your artwork, after all it’s going to be hung on your walls staring you in the face every day so it must resonate with you, have meaning or you simply just love it.
Its overall impact defines the rooms finished look, giving it a big role when designing any space.
When looking for a piece of art for a design, what features do you look for?
Amy: After collating lots of information from my clients, from images and a detailed consultation of what they like and don’t like in artwork, I then begin to look for the perfect pieces. This first consult is super important as it tells me what I’m searching for, for example my client could hate abstract artwork or love a particular artists style which they would like to see reflected in their home.
From here I will build my design in our chosen colour palette and start the hunt for artwork which I think will not only suit the style of the room but also the colour palette and be the perfect piece that my clients will fall in love with.
Colour balance is key, if I had soft beige walls, a grey sofa, oak furniture and green cushions, I would look to bring that pop of green colour onto the walls through artwork so that when you looked at the room as a whole, the green tones are evenly distributed throughout the room from the sofa to the artwork on the walls, creating a cohesive feel.
Hannah: Impact! I can’t stress this word enough when it comes to art. I love it when I walk into a room and my eye is instantly drawn to a piece of art first. Initially whenever you enter anywhere, you will notice what is at eye level first which normally falls to art. I look for personality, style and use of colour too; I prefer to try and use artwork that’s a bit quirky or unique opposed to artwork I see continuously used.
What styles and subjects do a lot of your clients go for? Hannah: As I focus mainly on children's interiors, obviously my styles and subjects are predominantly based towards children, but I do try to incorporate other styles. A lot of the time, I find it to be following the current trends, and I find that more neutral or soft styled artwork seems to be popular amongst my clients. Animals are always popular with children’s rooms too as they can be displayed in various styles to suit.
Amy: From my experience, past clients have opted for a lot of scenery paintings in bespoke artwork. All of these have sentimental meaning to them and therefore a constant memory hanging in their home. For example, one of my clients had a huge 180 x 100cm framed bespoke painting created for their kitchen/diner which the artist created from a photograph they had taken of the pacific coast whilst on honeymoon. I have found clients tend to opt for artwork like this in their forever homes in their most popular rooms so they can look at it every day. For prints, I have found clients often go for a lot of botanical subjects, creating a sense of calm & well being to their finished look.
What format of artwork are you more likely to include in your designs? Original paintings, drawings or prints? Amy: I would say a lot of people opt for both by having one key statement piece in an original painting and then prints throughout the remainder or the room/home. If budget is tight then prints are a popular choice, with 1000s of great styles to go for to suit any home from abstract, landscapes, typography and botanical meaning there’s something for everyone.
Hannah: Prints are used more frequently as they are budget friendly and easy to add in and style. However, original paintings or even wall murals are great for creating more of a personal touch and having a truly unique and bespoke piece of art. These are great for creating impact and being the main focus within the room.
Does size matter? Large statement pieces or smaller more versatile pieces? Hannah: Yes! I think it depends on what the client is looking for, but predominantly the size of the artwork says a lot about the space. For more of a feature, I would suggest to go big as smaller pieces will generally create a more subtle feel. Smaller pieces are great for little areas of a room that might feel a bit empty, but I have definitely learnt that size matters when it comes to making a statement with art. It’s a fine balance between looking lost and feeling overpowering.
Amy: Definitely! For me, it’s the bigger the better. Having that one statement piece over a sofa for example can be extremely effective for the overall look of the room. This creates a focal point and perfect to cover a large wall space for a clean end look.
However, that’s not to say smaller pieces don’t work, they certainly do. A set of 3 framed prints over a bed can be extremely eye catching. Gallery walls and single prints layered with accessories on shelves are also some of my favourite finishes for artwork to mix up across whole home designs.
What would make you more likely to work directly with an artist for a clients project? Amy: Working with an artist is a fantastic way to inject personality to your space and make it your own. Artists can give you the option to own a sentimental pieces which make your home unique; a piece that no one else has.
This can be anything from creating paintings from original photos you’ve taken of special memories throughout your life; Pet portraits which are extremely popular and will continue to be as our pets mean so much to us; Or even a memory from back ‘home’. I had some clients move to the UK from South Africa and they couldn’t wait to receive their bespoke piece of Table Mountain, a place they would walk past everyday in South Africa and wanted to see in their hallway as soon as they came home every day here in the UK.
Hannah: The individual style of that artist. When it comes to looking for that unique piece of art, you are looking for that unique artist that can create it.
Any tips from the interior design industry that would be helpful to artists creating original work? Hannah: Using colour in different ways. I think sometimes people can be quite scared to go bold with colour, so creating artwork that can be used easily within a space without compromising the initial creativity is a great way to inject colour into a design. I think size is very important to consider too. I see a lot of artwork that is beautiful but so small and we want those pieces to take centre stage not be lost within a space.
Amy: Find a great framer which is included in your overall price and will offer a range of different sized frames, styles and finishes which will need to be matched to the design style. If my room design has black elements within the room, I would opt for a black frame to tie in with my rooms colour scheme. Or if I had an oversized painting, I would need a thick frame to reflect the size of the painting itself and not something too thin.
An artist working along side an interior designer is a great way to get a perfectly matched piece. I would send fabric samples to help create a bespoke piece which matches the colour tones of the room and always give my clients the option to have a sneak preview or a surprise reveal which is really fun when we are adding the final touches to the completed design.
After dipping into a different industry, it is interesting to think about all the ways artwork can be used within a home and what you can do to help potential clients find a piece that works well in their space. Whether it means offering prints of your work, altering the size of your pieces or looking into framing options to provide a finished piece ready for your collector to hang straight up in their home.
When creating artwork it can sometimes be easy to forget that it will eventually be hanging up in someones home. Of course the best work comes from working on what you are most passionate about... but if there are little tweaks you could make that would help your work look even more amazing on the wall, it might be worth having a think about some of the options.
Here are a few things you could think about when putting together your next piece:
- What space is my artwork best suited for? eg. country or coastal home, contemporary design, classic interior etc.
- How can it be framed or mounted to enhance the piece in the best possible way? eg. oversized mount for a more modern design, large ornate frame for a classic interior, tray framed canvas for a seamless contemporary finish etc.
- Does your artwork evoke emotion or allow the collector to express themselves in a particular way? eg. moody background may allow the collector to express their edgy side, a bold punch of colour may evoke happy, empowering thoughts or a particular subject or composition that brings joy, happy memories or compassion.
- Have you considered how you can play around negative space around your subject?
- Will you be using colour in your piece? Is the colour likely to coordinate with the style you are working in? eg. country style may use soft greens, dusky blues and warm neutrals, classic homes often go for deeper, stronger colours or rich wood tones etc.
- Is this likely to be a statement piece of a room, part of a gallery wall or little piece for a smaller area of the home?
- Can I make prints of this piece? If you go large, have you looked into how you will digitalise your artwork at the highest resolution?
A few different types of framing you could consider:
- standard frame, mounted and glazed
- float mount with the drawing raised over the back mount and framed with a spacer to allow room between the glass and the drawing
- framed without mount (make sure there is still a space between the glass and the paper to prevent damage
- standard frame against top edge of the canvas
- standard frame plus slip to add a bit more detail
- tray frame, frames the canvas without overlapping the top edge. Can be framed against the edge of the canvas or with a space between.
If you would like to find out more about Amy or Hannah's work, you can find them on instagram just here: