The Art Collector’s Condo (Refined Magazine)

Minimalism and decluttering are on the rise these days, due in part to the popularity of Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Each episode features Japanese organizing expert Marie Kondo helping families pare down their belonging to items that “spark joy.” But what about the collectors among us? What if, for you, a lot of things spark a lot of joy?

For art lovers in particular, the notion of discarding any prints, paintings or pictures you’ve amassed over the years can feel completely at odds with your nature. If your home is spacious, this may not be an issue. But if space is limited, as it can be for condo owners, getting strategic with how you display your art is essential.

Here, we share three ways to joyfully showcase your collection.

Gallery Wall

The most common way to feature multiple pieces of art is a gallery wall. These can be hung in the living or dining space, a hallway, your bedroom — anywhere that has enough wall space for several pieces. 

For a uniform look, arrange pieces in a grid. This works well as an alternative to hanging one larger, solitary piece. To create a more eclectic feel, display different sizes and styles of art together, without worrying about lining up the edges. Choose one larger piece to anchor the gallery, then build around it. This will give the collection more visual weight and a place for the eye to rest.

The key to making your gallery wall look cohesive is to choose a unifying element. This could be through colour, such as a black-and-white collection of photographs and charcoal sketches or a grouping of pastels. It might be through the frames, using all wood or all antique frames with varying styles of art. (Rather than using the same frame for each piece, which can appear generic, choose frames with similar colours or materials.) 

Other ways to unify are through theme or medium. Hang your collection of portraits, landscapes, or family photos together. Try a grouping of oil paintings or watercolours. Play around with multiple arrangements on the floor before you commit — you might be surprised by how different pieces complement each other in unexpected ways.

Picture Ledges

If you’re hesitant to commit to a gallery wall, you can achieve a similar look through picture ledges. These are floating shelves with an edge that protects art pieces from slipping off. (The art leans against your wall.) Ledges are available in a range of sizes and materials, and allow you to easily swap out and rearrange your art. If you’re someone who likes to refresh your space often, picture ledges are the way to go.

As with the gallery wall, a picture ledge collection can be placed anywhere with wall space. Keep it simple and hang one or two long ledges or create a floor-to-ceiling grouping. Along with the ability to change your arrangements, ledges allow you to display items other than paintings and prints: mix in sculptural pottery, baskets, plants, candles, or other meaningful pieces. The ledges are typically deep enough that you can layer items, creating a clustered, casual look. 

The same gallery-wall guidelines apply here: showcase pieces with unifying elements. For added interest, feature art in varying sizes and shapes.

Creative Placement

A well-known rule of thumb is hang art at eye level. Consider this your permission slip to let go of that rule. Sure, for prominent pieces or the center of a collection, eye level makes sense. But beyond that, it’s limiting and unnecessary. Your condo is full of unconventional places waiting to display your art.

Consider windows as complementary to framed prints and paintings. A window can act as the large anchor piece in a grouping, with art placed above and along both sides. The same goes for doors and kitchen cabinets. Don’t hesitate to hang a piece close to the ceiling; as long as there are other artworks, cabinets or windows beneath it, it will look intentional rather than misplaced. Just be sure to choose a piece that is visually strong from a distance. 

You can also slip art in among other objects. If there’s room for an open shelf in your kitchen or dining space, place a print next to your favorite coffee mugs. Have a bookcase or glass-door cabinet? Mix old family portraits in with books and ornaments. Use your fireplace mantle to show off travel photos. In the bathroom, hang a piece that makes you smile beside the mirror or create a mini-gallery above the toilet. Art featured in surprising places will add warmth and character throughout your home.

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