Tips for Picking Art for Your Home

How to Pick Art for Your Home featured by top interior design blog, York Avenue

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

How to Pick Art for Your Home featured by top interior design blog, York Avenue: image of a gallery wall

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!).

How to Pick Art for Your Home featured by top interior design blog, York Avenue

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.

How to Pick Art for Your Home featured by top interior design blog, York Avenue

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.

How to Pick Art for Your Home featured by top interior design blog, York Avenue

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…

How to Pick Art for Your Home featured by top interior design blog, York Avenue

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!).

How to Pick Art for Your Home, 11 tips featured by top interior design blog, York Avenue

Affordable Art Tip #7: Mix High and Low

Get one or two expensive pieces, and others cheaper – it’s all about mixing high and low. As you can see in the photo above, at the time when this was taken I had one original painting in my apartment which I was (and still am!) utterly, absolutely obsessed with. It’s a focal point, and to me it was worth every penny (definitely a splurge). Many of my other pieces of affordable art cost anywhere from zero dollars to 20 dollars to 50 dollars…it’s all over the map. But having one really showstopping (probably pricier) piece can sort of trick the eye into thinking that all of the pieces are that good. One great thing in a room elevates all of the things. Or to put it another way, as I read in a book recently, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
How to Pick Art for Your Home, 11 tips featured by top interior design blog, York Avenue

Affordable Art Tip #8: A Mini Collection

Make a collection within a collection. In my first apartment I wound up amassing a little mini collection of NYC art pieces, because I just constantly seem to be finding NYC based art that I love. Did I set out to collect New York City art? Nope. Just go with what you love and a little micro-collection might emerge. If you find yourself with just a few pieces of art and you’re at a loss for where to go from there, try using a piece that you already have as a jumping off point to create a collection within a collection. Having a consistency in your art through a mini collection also clearly says “I care about this thing.” Which is kind of cool, since it helps your space to represent what’s important to you.
How to Pick Art for Your Home, 11 tips featured by top interior design blog, York Avenue

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.

How to Pick Art for Your Home, 11 tips featured by top interior design blog, York Avenue

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.

How to Pick Art for Your Home, 11 tips featured by top interior design blog, York Avenue

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.

PS: loving these tips on how to buy affordable art? Click here now for some essential tips on how to divide a studio apartment!

stair gallery wall image via Erin Gates

Leave a Comment

  1. Paisley wrote:

    Wonderful tips and thank you for sharing some great resources of where to find great prints! I love Rifle Paper's prints…I have a few and I'm glad you introduced me to Cocoa and Hearts too!



    Published 11.10.14 · Reply
  2. Ali wrote:

    Wow – what a FANTASTIC post. Not just because it features my attempt at artwork 😉 This is very helpful to me — still, you have to help me w. this — I have a lot of empty walls!

    Published 11.10.14 · Reply
  3. Thank you for these tips! I'll need them myself soon. I LOVE your apartment. It's so clean,, chic and fresh looking!

    Published 11.10.14 · Reply
  4. Can you just come and do my walls please? I can't seem to take the plunge.

    Published 11.10.14 · Reply
  5. Alex wrote:

    These are fantastic tips and I would love all of these gallery walls to magically appear on my walls. Etsy has been my savior because there are so many affordable options.

    Published 11.10.14 · Reply
  6. Sarah wrote:

    <3 Thank you for the shout-out my dear!! But seriously, we must live close to each other. Let's make a get-together happen soon. x

    Published 11.12.14 · Reply
    • You're so welcome! Obsessed with your print shop (as you probably can tell :). And agree, we must get together asap! I think we are definitely in the same neighborhood…a coffee date is in our future 🙂

      Published 11.12.14 · Reply
  7. Thanks Juliana! So glad it was helpful.

    Published 11.27.14 · Reply
  8. Miriam wrote:

    Hey the link to “a little mini collection of NYC art pieces” isn’t working.

    Published 5.5.15 · Reply
    • York Avenue wrote:

      Thanks for the heads-up! Should be fixed now 🙂

      Published 5.5.15 · Reply
  9. Katie wrote:

    Love this! (Which is probably not surprising, coming from an artist, lol). I would add framing things that aren’t art, from a fabric in a print you like, to ephemera (think a well-stamped page from an expired passport, ticket stubs or a family member’s dog tags). Stuff you possibly already have, and like, can be repurposed and put on your wall where you can actually enjoy it!

    Published 3.1.19 · Reply
    • York Avenue wrote:

      Yes, that is such a good idea! Not only is it basically free and probably meaningful, it’s totally unique and something no one else will have. Anything can be art, really!

      Published 3.2.19 · Reply
  10. very nice… i really like your blog…. I found something new on this website, some of my opinions agree with that, I just want to ask for one brief opinion or tips on the article or a few sentences above and I’m sure you are more skilled in making concise conclusions and concise for that.

    Published 6.23.20 · Reply
  11. My husband and I are hoping to build up our art collection in our home, so we appreciate all of your tips, Jaqueline. I like how you said that it is important to pick artwork that you know you will still like in the future. I think that it would also be very beneficial for my husband and me to hire an art appraisal service to make sure that we are getting the most out of our investments.

    Published 2.17.21 · Reply
  12. It was a helpful tip when you told us to consider if we’ll still like the painting a few years from now before purchasing it to ensure it’s worth paying for. I’ve always loved art, so I was thinking of displaying a painting in my condo’s living room. I’ll be sure to consider what you said once I find an art studio to visit where I can buy paintings soon.

    Published 2.6.23 · Reply