By Natalia Hook
Home décor is simply not complete without wall art. Whether you go minimalist with a few pieces, load up in the traditional style, or land somewhere in between, wall-based décor is an integral component of design. If you’re a beginner asking, “What is wall art, exactly?” or just stumped for unique wall art ideas, you aren’t alone. These nine wall decorating ideas can help.
“Wall art” is an enormous umbrella term. Basically, if it’s decorative and hanging on a wall, consider it wall art. There are two important things to bear in mind, whether shopping for wall art or just planning the best placement. Consider these tips before you buy and before you hang. They’ll save you time and trouble, and maybe even an expletive or two.
Size is important when hanging wall art. Large pieces tend to work best in large spaces so they don’t overwhelm or appear cramped. Smaller pieces work well on smaller walls, or in groups on mid-sized walls. Space wall art far enough apart that each piece in a grouping can be appreciated individually, but close enough together to create cohesion. Grouped wall art shouldn’t look like one big amoeba, or like specks floating in a sea of space.
Does It Work?
You might fall in love with a piece of wall art that has absolutely no place in your home. The style, size, or color palette may be contrary to your present décor and space. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it. It just means you need to be realistic about where and when you will be able to display it. If your budget is an issue, you may want to table it for a future date and look for something that doesn’t require a stylistic reboot to be placed. Check out the list below for ideas to get started!
1. Framed Wall Art
This is the most common type of decorative wall art — a painting, drawing, or print, mounted and framed, usually behind glass. Framed art can be any size, and is usually fairly easy to hang, either with hooks, or picture wire. Extremely large, heavy frames may require wall anchors.
For the beginner, and the decorator on a budget, there are tons of pre-framed art options in brick and mortar stores, as well as from online vendors. Peruse until you find a piece that speaks to you, keeping in mind what will work with your existing décor. Most pre-framed wall art comes ready to hang, so it’s really just purchase, then place.
If you already have a print or original artwork that you would like to frame and display, there are two options: Do it yourself or have it done professionally. If it’s an inexpensive print, either option is fine. With fine art, it’s better to have it done professionally to protect the piece with proper mounting and glass.
Professional framing tends to be quite expensive, even at craft stores like Michael’s or A.C. Moore. If you have more than one piece, it’s possible a craftsperson will be able to work with you on price. If you opt to go to a chain, wait until there’s a discount framing promotion.
2. Canvas Wall Art
Canvas is my go to wall art. It’s beautiful, and it’s easy--no mat, no glass, no problem. Compared to framed art, it’s lightweight, and hanging is simple. Like framed art, printed canvas wall art is easily available from numerous vendors. Canvas is by nature an unadorned and simple medium, and shows well in minimalist and contemporary décor, or as a streamlined foil for busy patterns and color combinations. This art photo canvas of a sandhill crane in flight (KWarningPhotography) paired with bright, floral bed linens delivers beauty and balance.
An original painted canvas is an excellent option if you’re looking for unique wall art. “Swainson’s Hawk” by artist Georges Dremeaux, pictured below, is a stunning focal point. It’s actually comprised of four separate canvases, in this case achieving the effect of gazing through a window. The technical term for this arrangement is tetraptych. It’s most often done with canvas, although wood mounting is another option. Triptychs (three individual paintings) and diptychs (two) are also popular, and all are good choices for filling larger wall spaces.
3. Shadow Boxes
What about wall art design ideas for smaller spaces? A shadow box can take a keepsake or natural element to the next level, adding depth with a diminutive footprint. You probably have a bunch of lovelies in a drawer somewhere that you don’t know what to do with. Why not showcase one or two?
Shadow boxes can be glass fronted or open and are usually made of wood. Unfinished shadow boxes are easy to find in craft stores if you want to paint them a custom color, finished boxes can be found anywhere from Target to eBay to Ikea. A similar display option is a hex shelf, which is always open fronted.
4. Photo Displays
Nothing personalizes a home like pictures, and it’s never been easier to put together a photo display. There are so many options — framed, strung, and collaged, just to start. Best of all? Many DIY photo wall art ideas are easy and affordable.
A photo collage can be made on just about any board, even an upcycled pallet. Use photo clips or double-sided removable poster tape to keep pictures in place, then change them out as frequently as you like. Try a putting together a collage directly on your wall, using washi tape to create frames or a backdrop. For photos you want to display permanently, traditional framing is the best way to go. Display photos in matching frames to create continuity in your wall scape, or mix and match to add dimensionality. Just as you would with artwork, always keep photo size relative to wall size in mind.
5. Wall Decals
Talk about easy! Reusable vinyl wall decals can turn an entire wall into a mural, or just add a decorative touch. These peel and stick wall art wonders come in all kinds of designs—trees, birds, quotes, you name it. Can’t find your dream decal? Get on Etsy or eBay, and have someone custom make it for you.
Kids will rejoice with wall decals, and so can the adults. Your child’s favorite heroes and characters are all display ready, and just as easy to take down as they are to put up. A little more work goes into full-on photograph quality vinyl murals, covering entire walls, but it’s still far easier than wallpapering, with a much lower level of commitment.
6. Textile Art
To add some texture to your wall décor, try hanging a favorite quilt or tapestry in your living room or bedroom. In the kitchen, you can even go with an attractive dish towel. Any of these can be easily hung by adding either fabric loops or rigid rings to two corners. Large quilts may need a couple extra loops or rings toward the center.
To hang the pictured pheasant dish towel, I sewed two bamboo rings (purchased at a craft store) onto the top corners. Any kind of rigid rings will work, as will ribbon loops. The heavier your textile, the larger your ring or loop needs to be to support the weight (I selected my rings based on their decorative appeal—they are much larger than necessary.) Cotton thread is fine for a dish towel or lightweight tapestry, but a good acrylic is a better choice for a heavy quilt. Make sure that you sew through only the turned under hem portion of your textile to ensure that the stitching doesn’t show through in front.
For antique or delicate textile art, mounting and framing is the preferable option. Simple frames are the best complement to detailed artwork, as seen here with this pair of heirloom blankets. Their placement in the stairway utilizes the large space while keeping them visually close enough to appreciate the finer work. Win-win!
7. Metal Wall Art
Metal is a versatile medium for wall art that has become very popular in the last two decades. It can be incorporated into almost any design style. Industrial style décor may feature raw metal wall sculpture, while shabby chic could go with a filigreed wall mounted candle holder. Rest assured, if you want to branch out with metal wall art, there’s something that will suit your taste. It’s available at pretty much every price point, in a range of sizes, from scores of vendors.
Keep in mind that more ornate styles with lots of crevices can be a pain to keep dust-free. Many are submersible, so if they get to be too gritty, you can take them down and give them a thorough cleaning in the tub or sink. Just be sure to protect your surfaces by laying down a towel and read existing care instructions first. Heavier metal pieces may require wall anchors to mount, so removing such artwork may not be easy. On the other hand, there’s always aluminum!
8. Indoor Signs
If you’re looking for wall art with quotes, a wooden sign is hard to beat. This originally rustic décor staple can be applied to all interior design styles. Color, font, and graphics all lend their own specific appeal to indoor signage, and the combination you choose or create makes it your own. Whether bearing a simple “Wash Your Hands” or customized with the lyrics of your wedding song, indoor signs are a simple way to update your décor. They are easy to hang and require no more attention than a swipe with the duster every once in a while.
9. Mirror, Mirror On the Wall
Mirrors are tried and true wall art veterans. They are versatile, useful, and come in every style under the sun. At best, they create the illusion of more space, and at the least offer you the opportunity to fix your hair. The worst mirror faux pas is hanging too high for use, reflecting only the upper half of the opposite wall. Better to put it at eye level, even if that means moving it to a different wall, or room.
No matter what your style of interior design may be, these tips are sure to provide a solid wall décor foundation. But don’t stop here. Your creativity may have other places to take you, like using wall planters, mosaics, or stenciling. The next time you say you’ve hit a wall, it just might be a good thing!
Images used with permission, courtesy of Natalia Hook, Myra Dremeaux, and www.shutterstock.com