Specifying Artwork for Design Projects: A Checklist for Interior Designers

At one point or another, every interior designer is faced with the prospect of incorporating wall-hanging artwork into a design scheme. Unless you have an education or professional experience in the arts, sourcing artwork may be a daunting challenge. Although some designers choose to outsource this work to art consultants, finding great wall art for your projects is something you can do yourself. (Would you defer to an outside consultant to choose the furniture or floor and window treatments for your designs?)
Whether the art is a collectible original painting or an inexpensive printed poster, the choices you make for what to put on the walls reflect not only your design sophistication and your clients' style, it can also contribute to creating the ideal environment for the occupants of the space.
Here’s a basic checklist of considerations you can use when specifying artwork:

-      Budget - how much is the client willing to spend? Try to establish the budget for art early in the project.

-      Color palette - will the art contrast or complement the other elements in your scheme?

-      Style/genre - again with respect to the overall theme and motifs you're using, decide on the most appropriate style(s) for the art.

-     Medium - paintings, photography, dimensional art or wall coverings? Originals or reproductions?

-      Finishing - how will the art be made ready to hang? Framed or unframed; glass, acrylic and/or matting? Etc.

-      Installation - who will install the art, and when? (Be sure to specify this in the budget, too.)
Though a series of upcoming articles, we'll look at each of the above (and other topics) in more depth. My aim is for you to feel as comfortable choosing art as you are with choosing furniture, lighting and case goods. For now, here are some quick tips to make the process of sourcing art easier … and your results more successful!

1. Keep an ongoing file of resources.
Just like your resource library for other design products, keep a file for art and artists. You'll want to include materials related to working directly with artists as well as brokers/consultants. (However, when possible, working directly with the artist is better for you, your client and the artist.) Collect printed and electronic materials, as well as bookmark lists of web links, in an organized filing system. If you research art and artists in between jobs, it will be easier to find what you need when a project calls for it.
2. Narrow down the options for each project.
The most daunting task of selecting art for any interior design project is the sheer volume of options available to you. Based on your other design plans, try to form a clear vision for the art in the project. Make some decisions about where the art will hang, its size, medium etc. before you start reviewing possible product solutions.
3. Research online
Continuing from point #2, I recommend you wait to research art products until you've already formed an idea of what you're looking for. Otherwise, your design plans can be derailed by the myriad of choices you'll find when you start searching for art. When doing your research, review web sites using a combination of Google searches, well-known art wholesalers, independent artists and consultants. Again, if you know what you're looking for, you'll know when you find it!
4. Ask colleagues
Nothing beats a good referral. Ask your trusted associates for recommendations for artists or brokers whom they've had success with in the past or whose work they like.
5. Know your production options

 Usually, as the designer it will be easiest if the art you specify for a project is delivered ready to hang. However, if you're working with reproductions (or even with unframed originals) that's not your only option. You can choose to license digital images and then have your own vendor perform the printing and production. And in the case of originals, it's not uncommon for designers to have a hand in specifying framing and mounting options, so you'll want to develop your own resources for those services as well.

As an interior designer, you can have full control over the finished results of your designs. As with other elements such as lighting, floor coverings and window and wall treatments, the artwork you specify has a major impact on the success of the design scheme. I encourage you to learn as much as you can about modern art and its production, and I will strive to assist you in this process through these articles. Treat the selection of artworks with the same discipline as you do all the other aspects of your project.
By Nat Coalson
Image by CarlosPhotos

Nat Coalson is an international visual artist working in fine art photography and abstract mixed media. His studio, Nat Coalson Fine Art + Design, collaborates with interior designers to create innovative visual solutions for residential and commercial projects. For more information and to see Nat's work, visit www.NatCoalson.com