You have a wall that needs “something.” You know you want something special, something that illustrates your personality, something that uniquely represents your home, and, on a more practical side, something that fits the space well. Where do you even begin? There are so many beautiful pieces of artwork out there that it can be overwhelming if you simply dive in. These four tips should help you to focus in on what you are really looking for – or more importantly, help you to not get distracted by all of the other works that you fall in love with along the way.

2D or 3D
Traditionally we have decorated our walls with two dimensional works of art like paintings and prints, but contemporary design affords us the creativity of come off the wall with three dimensional works. Wall sculpture can be a wonderful way to add even more visual appeal to your space.

When deciding between a more traditional two dimensional piece and a more contemporary three dimensional piece, there are a couple things to keep in mind.

  • What is the traffic through the space? Do you have a lot of people moving through the space? Will they be getting close to the piece? You don’t want captivating three dimensional work of art that obstructs how people can move through the space. And you surely don’t want a piece that people will accidentally bump into. That could be a safety hazard for your guests, and you risk the chance that they will damage the work of art. If the space has a lot of traffic that could interact negatively with the piece you may want to stick to two dimensional works of art the more tightly hug the wall.
  • Is a three dimensional work of art going to obstruct the space? Think about what else is in the space – windows, air vents, furniture, plants? You want to make sure that your artwork doesn’t interfere. It would be unfortunate to fall in love with a piece of artwork, hang it over your couch, and find out that your family and guests bump their heads on it every time they sit down on the couch because the piece extends away from the wall.

style and theme
Knowing your personal style is vital to making sure you select a piece that you will love for years to come. Do you prefer artwork that is abstract or representational? Are you a lover of modern forms or more traditional themes? There is no right or wrong here. Maybe you have a traditional style home but prefer abstract works of art. Perhaps you live in a modern Silicon Valley loft but love traditional prints. This is purely your aesthetic. If your space “screams” for a modern abstract but that’s not what you love, your space may be happy with an abstract piece, but you may not ever come to love it.

If you’re not sure what your aesthetic is, I recommend making a Wish List or Pinterest board and start saving images of works that you love. Eventually you will start to see your own personal aesthetic come out. If you find yourself saving lots of traditional landscapes, they will start to take over your wish list or pin board.

Once you know your own personal tastes, that will help you to focus in on those themes and styles without being distracted or overwhelmed by all of the other styles out there.

Want to get a little more involved? Once you know what you like, start a wish list or pin board for each room in your house. You might find that you like different themes or styles for different spaces. Maybe one space is very open and can handle bold, modern abstracts, and another space requires more romantic pieces. Doing an exercise like this will also help you to start to understand how different themes and styles fit into different spaces.

color and material
Color is so important in our lives. It can make us happy. It can help to calm us down. It can speak of power. Colors complement each other or clash with each other. Color can be bold or subtle. Combine that with the material that the piece is made from and you can speak volumes. Art glass typically shines and reflects the light. Ceramic tends to absorb light. Therefore, a piece of art glass art and a piece of ceramic wall art will feel very different in the same space.

Think about the space where the work of art will hang. How much light will there be? Is the light natural or artificial? An art glass or polished metal piece will shine in the light. A matte ceramic or fiber piece might not be bright enough in a dim room. Lighting from a harsh angle might pick up the edges of thick acrylic or oil paintings and accentuate the textures of bold brush strokes or swipes from a palette knife.

picking the right size
Now you know what you want your piece to look like, but how big should it be? The general rule is that a piece hung over furniture should be 75% the width of the furniture and hung 6″-12″ above the furniture. If you are hanging a piece of work on an empty wall, the general rule of thumb is to leave 3/8 the width of the piece on both sides open. And don’t forget that you can do a gallery wall by filling your space with many smaller works of art. Of course, rules are meant to be broken, and you can select any size that you want to fill the space. Big and overwhelming to really make a statement? Four smaller pieces that fill the space of a single piece?

Now that you have narrowed your focus and have an idea of what you want for your space, it’s time to start looking for just the right piece. You don’t need to narrow in based on the order above. Decide what’s most important to you and narrow in that order. For me, usually it’s two dimensional or three dimensional and then size is most important. I like to have a little wiggle room on the other aspects.

Let’s say I decide I want a three dimensional piece for my wall that is about 30″ wide and 40″ tall, it’s really simple to go into wall sculpture and narrow in on my width and height.

shop for artist made modern wall sculpture by size

Once I’ve narrowed in by height and/or width I can start to narrow in on themes and colors. This focus helps me to find just the right piece for my space without being overwhelmed by the amazing amount of beautiful works available to choose from.