What Interior Designers Need To Know About Art


How you think about displaying art requires the same care and planning put into your choices for furniture and accessories. Visiting artists, attending shows, and interacting with collectors are what makes art collecting intriguing. However, what’s often not addressed are the practicalities of managing a collection. Whether working with an interior designer or no, how you think about displaying art can elevate perception of a collection from average to “wow”. Here are some tips.

Photo by Bagus Tri Laksono

Plan from the beginning

Most corporate or individual projects have some scope for artwork, whether the reception area of a business, the entrance to a private residence or a painting over the sofa. Artwork locations should be defined in the initial interior plans so the technical aspects can be incorporated into the design.

Suggest that a client review and cull their existing collection to see what should be incorporated into a new interior. Artwork can change the whole mood of a space: A classically designed room could be given an edge with an abstract painting like an Ay Tjoe piece. Or you can transform a contemporary room with more depth with a modern painting like Srihadi Soedarsono’s Borobudur. Decide early what artworks should be included.

If a client is planning to acquire new pieces, learn to appreciate their taste and incorporate it into the design. If they’re new collectors, it’s guaranteed their taste will change over time. This is what art dealers call “school fees”. Working with qualified consultants can help a client navigate the market and buy with a purpose–to build a collection rather than just random acquisitions.

Hanging systems

In a new project, hanging systems should be installed before the ceilings to ensure an invisible line. Hanging systems are important when the design incorporates cladding, such as marble, wood or wallpaper.

We often encounter projects where a client desires to incorporate artwork but the options are limited because the wall can’t be drilled without damaging the space. This is important, in case of subsequent moves or if a new piece of a different size is acquired.

Hanging systems enhance the flexibility of a space, so you can hang multiple paintings on one wall, and change the artist as your collection grows and your tastes evolve.

Will It Fit?

We’ve learned from hard experience that the most important part of the design process is measuring things carefully. You have to make sure that that piece of art will fit.

Think about how to get it in, how it would complement the room and the height of the ceiling. Wouldn’t it be a shame if a beautiful sculpture couldn’t fit through the entrance of your home because you didn’t measuring the door. It happens.

If the project is an office or an apartment, double check the size of the elevators. A common issue, even for luxury projects, is when the service elevator doors aren’t big enough. When this happens, paintings need to be taken off stretchers, which risks damaging the artworks. And sometimes, it’s just not possible to fit it in.

Right lighting is the key

A poorly lit room makes everything dull. Invest in hiring a good lighting designer. There is a misconception that using a lighting designer will make a project look like an art gallery. This is not true. Ambience is important for a home filled with art. A beautiful artwork will look more striking when illuminated at the right angle and with the right hue of light to bring out the colours.

Make art the centerpiece

Art on a wall is like lipstick on a beautiful woman: In any setting, artwork can change the dynamics of a room. Making a striking work of art as the centrepiece of a room will transform the atmosphere and ambience of the space. Decorating the furniture around the art will eventually give a different character to each room.


The first thing an architect or interior designer should discuss with a collector client is the overall desired ambience. From there, you can explore the possibilities of the artwork to be displayed. Learn about the client’s art collection, the size of the works they are going to move in, and if they are planning on acquiring more art into the house. This will give you an easier platform to design.

Think ahead… again

Hanging systems for artworks must be planned before building the ceiling. A rail hanging system is the best way to exhibit art in your home flawlessly. Rails should be installed before building the ceiling, so they will blend seamlessly into the walls. The almost-invisible transparent wire will hang artworks without disruption.

Enjoy the journey

Building a home is fun. It gets your creative juices flowing as you visualize your personal taste in your home. Be prepared, be creative and be open to new exciting ideas.

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Deborah Iskandar
Deborah Iskandar is the principal of ISA Art Advisory (enquiries@isaartadvisory.com), which advises clients on buying and selling art and building collections, and the founder of Indonesian Luxury (indonesianluxury.com), the definitive online resource for Indonesians looking to acquire, build and style their luxury homes.

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