These tips for picking art for your home were updated February 2019
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 top tips for building an affordable art collection that you’ll love:
How to Pick Art: 11 Tips to Build your Art Collection on a Budget
Affordable Art Tip #1 : Peruse Instagram, Magazines and Blogs
Start simple: peruse blogs, online magazines, home tours, and especially Instagram. 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 few favorite resources!).
Affordable Art Tip #2: Unconventional Art
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 affordable 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.
Affordable Art 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.
Affordable Art 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…
Affordable Art 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 Ali Cayne’s home tour on One Kings Lane).
Affordable Art 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 on the right (photos are by Kate Ignatowski from my old 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!).
Affordable Art Tip #7: Mix High and Low
Affordable Art Tip #8: A Mini Collection
Affordable Art Tip #9: 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 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), and Framebridge, which I’ve used frequently. 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.
Affordable Art Tip #10: 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.
Affordable Art Tip #11: 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.
My Favorite Resources for Affordable Art:
Etsy is a black hole, let’s admit it. Lots of great stuff, but you have to sift through a lot of junk to get to it. Jessica Durrant has always been one of my favorites – I have a New York City skyline watercolor from her that you can see in the first photo in this post, and I like her world map watercolors as well.
There are a lot of good websites out there selling great and unique prints. I’ve gotten some of my favorites at 20 x 200 and Society 6, and Minted seems to have a lot of great options as well. I’m also a big fan of Artfully Walls.
Find artists! Instagram is great for this. Caitlin McGauley is one of my favorite artists and though she doesn’t sell a lot of prints, she does have a few 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. She also makes beautiful large-scale pieces and has branched out into figure studies, which are very classic and beautiful.
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!
Note to Self print shop is so good, graphic design and typography-wise.
Shameless plug – my Print Shop is always a great option for New York City and travel photography! 🙂
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 used to have this one particular piece that I’m pretty sure everyone who saw it thought was either strange or stupid. Pretty much no one ever complimented it, and I think it even suffered an insult or two. Did I care? Not at all! I absolutely loved and adored it for many years, and the fact that other people didn’t “get” it, well – that really only made it all the more special, because I saw something in it that others didn’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.