I love it when customers bring in photos of their biggest decorating dilemmas. Sometimes, they just don’t like a room but they don’t know why. As I look through their snapshots, it’s easy to see what’s bugging them. Even though they have filled the rooms with beautiful furniture and nice accents, they are usually missing one important element: artwork.

In my opinion, nothing makes a room feel warmer, infuses it with personality or makes it feel “finished” like artwork. If you’d like to fill your walls with arrangements of art that look stunning, here are some tips to get you started.

Art Makes All the Difference

Most people like to move their furniture around to keep their spaces feeling fresh. I move my artwork. When I get the urge to mix things up a bit, I wait until Dan has left the house (he dies a thousand deaths every time he sees me drive yet another nail into the walls), and I go on a picture hanging spree. I experiment with new groupings, moving pieces around, pairing them with unexpected partners and rotating in new artwork to replace pieces that have grown tired.

The longer I work in the decorating industry, the more convinced I’ve become that artwork makes the biggest difference when you’re trying to make a house into a home. For instance, not long after my friend Melanie moved into her condo that overlooks the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, I asked her how she liked her new place. Her response was tepid. It just didn’t feel like home, she sighed. So I asked Dillon, the art hanging guru of Nell Hill’s, to go over and help Melanie perk up her place with artwork. All it took were some carefully constructed montages and Melanie fell in love with her new space. It’s amazing how powerful art is!

Today I’ve asked Dillon to give us some pointers on how to warm up those wide open walls in our homes. He let his hammer do the talking and created some magnificent montages on the blank walls at Nell Hill’s Briarcliff to show us how he creates his masterpieces and how we can do the same in our homes.

Great Groupings

Before he pulls together an arrangement of art, Dillon picks one key piece of artwork that will serve as a focal point. For today’s example, he selected a large, lovely landscape framed with a classic gold wooden frame. (Note that he’s hung the piece several inches above the furniture so we can accessorize the top of the furniture without covering up the artwork.) He’s letting the gold tone of the frame and the darker colors in the painting determine the color palette for the grouping: gold and black.

Dillon never has a set plan when he starts to create an art grouping. But before he hammers in a nail, he does have an idea of what he wants the finished product to look like and uses that as his guide as he experiments with the pieces he selects and where they are placed.

For our example, he’s decided he wants to create a symmetrical look using traditional artwork in a black and gold color palette. So he’s picked a variety of art pieces that vary in shape, size and medium. First to go up is a horizontal landscape in an ornate gold frame. Dillon centers this fetching piece above the large painting like a crown. Note how similar these two piece are, from the colors to the subject matter.

Now Dillon starts to mix things up by hanging a pair of decorative plates that sport an Asian motif. The plates add interest to our growing grouping by introducing a new shape, subject and medium. At Nell Hill’s we use lots of plates, platters and trays as artwork, either showcasing them in their own groupings or mixing them into montages with paintings.

I really like art collections that feature pieces in a wide range of sizes. So does Dillon. That’s why he frequently adds tiny treasures to the montages he creates at Nell Hill’s. Here, he’s picked a pair of line drawings whose long, thin, rectangular shape and gold frames mirror the landscape he hung on top of the key painting. When you pull together artwork to create a display, try mixing your mediums like he’s done here, pairing line drawings, architectural sketches and paintings together.

Next Dillon makes the display 3D by adding plaster wall shelves. I adore this set because each wall shelf is a piece of art in and of itself, plus the shelves give you a platform upon which to place other artwork. Try propping a small piece of art in an easel atop the shelf or putting a candlestick or some other accent there.

Silhouettes, a wonderful historic art form, are as hot as ever today. I’m so crazy about them that I had a series of whimsical silhouettes custom designed for my Mary Carol Home Collection (they are available now at Nell Hill’s Online). Dillon added a pair of silhouette busts, one of a lady and the other of a gentleman, to lend charm to this attractive grouping. He nestled them into the dead space above the focal point art, centered on either side of the top piece. The black tone reinforces the black and gold palette.

Dillon finishes out the grouping by tucking in two gold-framed oval landscapes. These tiny paintings introduce yet another frame shape and harmonize with the other gold-framed pieces in the grouping.

The finished montage is magnificent! I love how Dillon spotlighted a wonderful piece of artwork by framing it with an arch of interesting piece that are dissimilar yet so compatible they create visual harmony.

Some More Wonderful Walls of Art

This simple, symmetrical display also revolves around a gold and black palette and would be easy to reproduce over your buffet, console table or fireplace mantel.

I really like to hang art in unexpected places, like up and over the top of a door frame. When you create loose compositions like this one, where the artwork is fluid and feels almost as if it’s moving, you can easily add in new pieces over time.

When you pull together artwork for your wall, weave in a few unusual pieces, like the coat hook wall shelf that anchors this inventive display.

People often ask me how to decorate above their beds, and my answer is always: add artwork!

This sleek but strong display features a single theme and style. Dillon grouped contemporary drawings of nudes in a crisp black and white palette.

Here’s another example of a collection that’s grouped by subject matter. Dillon used a hunting/outdoor theme that was inspired by the hunt club look of the bedding.

Are you ready to grab your hammer and nails and go make some magic on your walls? If you need any help selecting or configuring your artwork, just give us a yell at Nell Hill’s. We love to look at people’s snapshots and make suggestions. Or, our designers (including Dillon) can visit your home and arrange your art for you. If you’re looking for new pieces for your collection, Nell Hill’s Online and all three of our stores feature gorgeous pieces in a variety of price ranges.

Next Week …Most people go to their local farmer’s market looking for fresh fruits and veggies to eat. I go there to look for decorating tools designed by Mother Nature herself. Next week I’ll share tips for how you can use nature’s bounty to add beauty to your décor this summer.

See you soon!

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22 Responses to “Enliven Your Home with Artwork”

  1. Patti Dame Says:

    Wonderful, as usual-keep it coming! Thanks.

  2. Linda McMahon Says:

    Can you use a wrought iron plate rack for pictures instead of plates?

  3. Debra Says:

    I just love and appreciate your unique talents and style!! The second picture from the top, the one with the Hutch…..what color of yellow is on the wall? I just love that color.

  4. Gerry Marie Rhodes Says:

    Mary Carol, you are a genius to employ Dillion. Nell Hill’s has many assets; but, none shine brighter than Dillion.

  5. dbantam Says:

    Love the interest and the creativity – Have been a fan of artwork in unusual places for years- thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Mary Carol Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more Ms. Gerry–my friend.

  7. Mary Carol Says:

    Debra—That beautiful warm yellow color is our Sugar Cookie–part of my Mary Carol Artisan Paint line. Stay tuned–we are getting several new paints to be introduced—hopefully some time in July.

  8. Mary Carol Says:

    Debra–Feel free to use your plate rack for pictures too! Love the idea, that way you can change them out and really personalize your home.

  9. laura kratz Says:

    MC, Thank you for your blog on artwork! I am a local KC artist, and it always amazes me that people will spend a fortune on anything and everything, EXCEPT ART! I am a firm believer in surrounding yourself with things you love, and art is no exception. I have only been oil painting for 3 years, but I have learned that there is nothing like original art to truely make your home come alive! People come to my home and they know imediately an artist lives here and they think they can’t have art themselves, so not true!
    Thanks again for opening some eyes!!! Lov eyour blog, Laura

  10. maureen Says:

    Wonderful ideas that I will incorporate into my home! As always, thank you for sharing the talents of your wonderful staff! I only wish I lived closer to your stores! Have you ever thought of opening a store in the New York Metropolitan area? Hint Hint!

  11. rene sandifer Says:

    This is my love language!! haha… never enough wall space for all of the collections!! When We moved from Austin, TX to Overland Park, KS, I looked for a house that had enough walls with the open floor plan so that I could keep my cozy feel. Being a designer myself, I couldn’t agree more that ‘naked’ ( or necked as we say) walls need to be well dressed!! :) Love the pictures, Mary Carol!

  12. Linda Nelson Says:

    Mary Carol,
    I remember finding your decorating book Nell Hill’s Style At Home book I fell in love with your quest and style. ( I have all your books) I loved everything you had to say so off I went home to decorate! I use your style from my space at work and at home. I love it when people come to my house and say your house makes me want to sit and stay awhile. My office at work beckons people to come in. I have had people ask me to decorate their house! I refer them to your books and that is truly where I got my look in my home and office space. I love the fact that I could put my grandmother’s pieces and use them instead of hiding away in a closet! So hats off to you Mary thanks for helping me live my dream in style and comfort in Minnesota!

  13. Paula W Says:

    One idea about artwork: Sometimes you can gild the lily. I have a picture that needed a “little something.” The antique frame was a little harsh and angular. I put pheasant feathers at the top left corner–two reaching across the top of the frame horizontally, and three hanging vertically down the left side. They are attached with a very subtle dark red ribbon and it looks beautiful. The feathers added so much to the picture. I’ve never seen the idea used anywhere else. I was just looking for a way to soften the frame.

  14. Linda Harre Says:

    Mary Carol………………….Do you still sell those beautiful French sofa’s covered in natural linen that you featured on the first floor! I fell in love several years ago and am still holding out hope to one day have one:D Thanks, Linda

  15. Lori Turec Says:

    MC – Thanks so much for the informative and inspiring blog. The pics are beautiful but I most appreciate the step-by-step approach on how to pull it all together. There’s a reason I always stop by your shop everytime I’m nearby!

  16. LInda Foster Says:

    Yea, I’m glad that someone else has a husband who cringes when we bring out the ladder, nails and hammer.
    I like to use round shapes such as wreaths in a wall arrangement. I have twiggy ones, dried bay leaf, magnolia leaves , sea shell wreaths – all different sizes and shapes – on display in my home and outside in patio garden and on lanais.
    I enjoy your blog!
    Thanks, Linda Foster (Naples , Fl.)

  17. LInda Foster Says:

    Yea, I’m glad that someone else has a husband who cringes when we bring out the ladder, nails and hammer.
    I like to use round shapes such as wreaths in a wall arrangement. I have twiggy ones, dried bay leaf, magnolia leaves , sea shell wreaths – all different sizes and shapes – on display in my home and outside in patio garden and on lanais.
    I enjoy your blog!
    Thanks, Linda Foster (Naples , Fl.)

  18. Terri Castellano Says:

    Love all of the ideas. Really loved visiting your home during your spring open house. What a treat to walk through the pages I admired in your books. I own them all. You are such an inspiration to me. Only wish south Fla was not so far from nell hills and garrity’s.
    I have to commend you for being such a gracious host, you spoke to each of us on the tour and made all feel so welcome.
    Thanks for a wonderful experience.

  19. Sonya Mogenson Says:

    Hi Mary Carol! Love the bedroom photo shoot. Is the ceiling black? It appears so, and very warming. Love it!

  20. Peggy Andreasen Says:

    Is it okay to have your pictures above a smaller piece of furniture? I have two pictures I like,but where I put them would be above a chest that would only be about 41″ long and the pictures placed above them with only about and inch between them would come out about 58″. Will this look off balanced?

  21. Carol Lintner Says:

    Mary Carol, How do you and Dillion handle hanging art work on two walls that make a 90 degree angle? Both walls are in a corner of my living room and each is about 5 feet wide. Love your sharing ideas on-line too!

  22. Tania Says:

    Thanks for these great tips!!!

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