Over many years of decorating apartments (and now a house), my husband and I have moved away from movie posters and inexpensive prints (though we still have some around the house!) in favor of funkier art that reflects shared memories, travels, and cultural tastes. We’ve collected original art created by friends, paintings by my dad, prints from Etsy artists, and family photos.
Today, I’m sharing seven tips for how to start an art collection and add more personal elements to your home. I’ve certainly bought pieces from big-box stores and websites, but now when I look around my house, I see years worth of memories and personal connections. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:
- Shop local: Coffee shops. Art fairs and street festivals. Open houses at art studios. Antique shops and thrift stores. Art is all around us, when you start looking for it. I’m partial to hipster craft markets and antique malls. Our favorite coffee shop in Chicago had a rotating selection of local artists’ work on the walls, and we found many pieces we loved, including the big piece from our friend Shira Ballon below.
- Make it personal: If your dad is a hobby painter (which is true, in my case), ask for a piece of his work to put in your home. If your cousin makes lovely watercolor paintings, commission a piece for your dining room. If a friend posts pictures of their art portfolio, make an offer to buy some of their work. You should always pay your friends for their work, OF COURSE.
- Do it yourself: There are tons of tutorials for how to create abstract art, oversized prints, string art, or other custom art for your home. If you’re even slightly crafty, try your hand at making your own art. Add your kids’ (very messy) paintings, and let them select some obnoxious decals for their bedroom walls.
- Collect pieces while traveling and exploring: On our honeymoon, we bought a small drawing at an art market in London. On a cross-country train trip to the Grand Canyon, we snapped lots of photos of American landscapes. On a family trip to Ireland, we shot photos of funny signs, gorgeous misty landscapes, castles, and cliffs. Now we have art peppered throughout our house that reminds us of some of our favorite trips.
- Go vintage: If you know you like a certain theme, subject matter, or style, search eBay and Etsy for vintage art that you might like. Or scour thrift shops, antique shops, flea markets, and auctions.
- Redefine “art.” Abstract sculptural pieces, sentimental objects, kids’ finger paintings… If you like something visually and you can figure out a way to mount it to your wall, IT’S ART. My husband found some giant, rusty gears at an auction for about $10 and mounted them on some rustic wood panels. Voila! Art!
- Take your time! We have pieces we love that we printed from photos in the last few months, and we have pieces we bought eight years ago on our honeymoon. If you tweak your collection over time, slowly and thoughtfully, you’ll discover your preferences with styles, colors, and more. This amazing narwhal piece below came from our friend Rebecca, who sells her work on Etsy. We bought it several years ago in Chicago, but I love seeing it in our house now.
When I look at the art on my walls now, I see stories, connections, and memories. But more than that, our art is about what we like, no matter whether it’s trendy or “normal.” I’ll add one more bonus tip: Get weird, and keep it weird. Art should be fun, and weird, and personal.
What are the stories behind your artwork and collections? And where’s your favorite place to shop for art? Tell us in the comments!