For some, the prospect of building and compiling an art collection can seem intimidating, overwhelming, or downright impossible – especially if you’re trying to do it on a budget! Welp, I’m here to tell you that finding art to adorn your walls is actually an easy and fun process that can be done in an affordable way. Art is an essential component in any space, and the pieces that I’ve put on my walls add so much personality, color, and happiness to my tiny abode. Here are my tips for building an art collection that you’ll love:
Tip #1: Peruse blogs (that should be easy!)Start simple: peruse blogs, online magazines, and home tours. That is where I’ve found a ton of my favorite art, or sources that led me to my favorites (see the bottom of this post for a list of my favorite resources!). The picture above is from Alaina Kaczmarski’s home tour on The Everygirl.
Tip #2: Get eclectic and creative. Collect from different sources so that your collection looks eclectic and unstudied/unstaged. If you buy from all one resource, your collection can look flat – mixing is the best way to achieve a more effortless, stylish vibe. Don’t forget that you can (and should!) frame unconventional items like postcards, greeting cards, even a cutout ad from a magazine (talk about budget-friendly!) In the above photo from her Instagram, you can see that Sarah Tolzman framed vintage Kate Spade ads and hung them over her bar (mixed with inexpensive art from her print shop) – and I think we can all agree it looks absolutely perfect. If you feel like it, peruse flea markets and thrift stores to find vintage prints for a steal. And side note: You can get frames just like those at places like Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Ikea, for not a lot of money.
Tip #3: Make it personal. As you can see in the photo above from my home tour, I framed a poster that reminds me of a really special experience – attending the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met with my Mom. So in between the prints that you get because they’re pretty, and the other things that you get because they look cool or whatever, throw in some really personal pieces or something that represents a special memory. These types of pieces add warmth, personality, and uniqueness to your space, while also giving you a little happy boost when you’re reminded of the story or memory they represent. It’s all about making your home a happy haven, and this is a great (often inexpensive) strategy for achieving that.
Tip #4: More than just “cute.”Try not to get a piece just because it’s “cute.” I read this bit of advice on Darlene’s blog, and it really resonated. I see a lot of art (and other decor items) where my initial thought is “oh, that’s so cute!” but I don’t always get those pieces. That’s because there’s a good chance that they won’t stand the test of time – I’ll get sick of them sooner rather than later. That’s not to say that that hasn’t happened, where I’ve bought something and grown tired of it. Tastes change, and a collection can’t be static – you will get sick of some things, inevitably, and find others that you want to sub in, which is totally fine! Though a lot of the things that I like/buy could be called “cute,” I try to only buy things that have something else going for them-that speak to me in some way or that I truly LOVE. Which brings me to Tip #5…
Tip #5: Staying power.Before you buy a piece, try to think about if you’ll love it at LEAST a few years from now. Even if something is inexpensive, you don’t want to buy things that are going to be disposable. You’re aiming to build a collection that really represents you and your style, and that will stand the test of time. (Photo above is from Alex Yeske’s home tour on Design Sponge – which you should check out if you haven’t, it’s awesome).
Tip #6: Make something yourself (or have it made for you). Now granted, I cannot utilize the first part of this tip, as any attempts I make at painting/drawing end up appearing to have been crafted by a drunk person and/or a six year old. However, I’m lucky to have a sister who is artistically inclined, and who gifted me that gorgeous gold, pink, and black painting above (photo is by Kate Ignatowski from my home tour). But use your strengths! I’m into photography, so if I had any wall space left I might consider printing some of my better photos. If you want something one-of-a-kind but you’re not artistically inclined, you can always commission a piece, which yes, can be pricy, BUT, is totally unique and I think, worth it (see this post). If you have a favorite quote, there are lots of sellers on Etsy who will happily turn it into a one-of-a-kind print for you at a good price. Poof, you have something totally unique (and probably meaningful as well!).
Tip #10: Framing.Professional framing can take an inexpensive piece of art from “meh” to WOW. Framers are like hairstylists though – the level of talent varies. Do your research, talk to different people, and get yourself a good framer who knows what they’re doing. Now as we all know, professional framing is
anything but budget-friendly, so shop around for the best price. And try to keep in mind that if the print cost you ten bucks, then you can at least feel a little better about splurging on the framing. If you don’t want to go the professional route, read this post on how I managed to achieve a custom-framed look for my beloved Garance Dore poster, but for a fraction of the price of professional framing.
If you want to skip professional framing altogether, as mentioned above, Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Ikea sell great, simple frames that should work for a lot of different pieces of art (I’m partial to the plain black or white wooden gallery frames). Another option is an online service like Framed and Matted (I’ve never tried them, but seems like an interesting concept). I even bought two custom frames on Etsy way back when, which worked out pretty well for me. You can also find cool vintage frames at flea markets and thrift stores, and if you want to really stay budget-friendly, I’ve gotten perfectly fine frames at Target, Kohls, and on Amazon.
Tip #11: Something quirky. Don’t be afraid to get something a little cheeky or quirky. It adds personality and life to a space! In my favorite design book ever, The Perfectly Imperfect Home, Deborah Needleman writes about her friend Rita Konig’s LOVE poster as an example of a touch of quirk in decor, which you can see in the photo above from her home tour on The Selby. It’s a quirky, bold little piece that just adds a certain something.
Tip #12: Take your time! Don’t rush it! This goes for all decorating – finding what you love takes time, both in figuring out your taste and in sourcing items. This is in the same vein as not buying every piece of art at the same place – similarly, don’t try to build a collection overnight. It will feel more layered and authentic if you collect over months or years. Each piece will be different and have more meaning because it will remind you of where you were at the time when you chose it – physically, mentally, emotionally. An overnight collection would be flat and boring. You want your space to feel alive, vibrant, and representative of your life. Also, your taste may/will change over time (even if just in subtle ways), and if you take your time collecting, your art will be more representative of your true taste.
Find artists! I got my original painting from Manhattan-based artist Jen Ramos at Cocoa and Hearts – I absolutely love her artwork. Caitlin McGauley’s work is everything. Though sadly a lot of my favorites are no longer available, she does still have some lovely work available on her site! Inslee Fariss is another favorite artist of mine (and many bloggers!). Her yearly calendar = 12 amazing art prints perfect for framing and displaying!
You can always check flea markets and thrift stores if you’re willing to pound the pavement! One of my favorite prints was found by my mom at a thrift store. It’s the best way to find something truly unique!
The Everygirl’s European letterpress collection is lovely. I bought the Eiffel Tower print back in the day when Alaina was selling them through her blog, and I still love it to this day for it’s simple, sparse lines.
Note to Self print shop is just so good, graphic design and typography-wise. These will stand the test of time for sure.
Ultimately, remember that you need to buy art for you. You’re the one who will be seeing it day in, and day out, so choose items that speak to you and make you feel something (even if that something is just plain old happy!). Don’t be deterred if people think your taste in art is weird or silly. I have (at least) one piece that I’m pretty sure everyone thinks is either strange or stupid. Pretty much no one has ever complimented it, and I think it’s even suffered an insult or two. Do I care? Not at all! I absolutely love and adore it, and the fact that other people don’t “get” it, well – that really only makes it all the more special, because I see something in it that others don’t.
So don’t let your walls languish, blank and unadorned. You may be surprised by the incredible amount of personality and warmth that a simple gallery wall or a few well-framed prints can add to a space.