RL Ideas: Decorating your Home with Artwork

Live in harmony with your art pieces by following some home-art-synergy advice from design experts

Original Article: Gwyn Guanzon and Coni Tejada

In a typical Filipino home, a bas-relief or tapestry of The Last Supper behind the dining table is a common sight. But whether you go for such traditional kitsch, a well-done reproduction, or a true piece of art, it has to be placed in the right spot—and in the right way—in hopes that it will uplift your room aesthetically.

But there are other concerns, such as what should come first—should artwork be mere decorative objects, or should the art pieces be the basis and reason for the design of an entire room? It is a chicken-or-egg scenario that has to be resolved before anything else.

We have asked several people from different fields of expertise in the Philippine art world, and from their answers, we give you steps on what to do with art pieces in your homes.

Read the original article ("Home is Where the Art is") in the March 2009 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App now! Log on to for more details. 

Classify your collected pieces

Marlene Aguilar, a collector and publisher of books on Philippine art, classifies paintings into two popular divisions. “As far as the paintings that fall under the category of ‘fine art’ are concerned, you can further classify these as either traditional or modern.”

Meanwhile, Patrice Salas, owner of Gallery Genesis adds, “…For subjects, you have portraits, still life, genre paintings, lines and non representational shapes. Then you have several mediums like oil acrylics, watercolors, pastels, drawings and prints.” These various classifications are useful in deciding which pieces are to be put on a wall of a certain room.

According to interior designer Nicky Jardenil, positioning of artwork per classification is crucial. “When you hang and display the art piece, classifying them by subject and medium is important. Every art piece has its rightful place in the home. A nude painting or photograph will definitely not work inside a kid's room.” He further adds, “You have to remember also that the subject of the art piece should contribute to the totality of the design.”

Yet for Avellana Art Gallery owner Albert Avellana, “classifications” can be more relaxed, or even ignored altogether. “I don’t want to classify. If you are putting it in your home, the interiors should follow the art pieces that you like. Because you are not using art as décor, [but] as a collection so it means a lot to you, it’s something that you’d like to see. And you can start with your art collection and design your interiors around it. Even if you’re working with a designer, you can tell them ‘this is my collection, lets work with my collection on how to enhance or blend with the interiors.’”

Check your space

Note the design, color, size and the purpose of the room in assigning which art piece to put. According to sculptor Jordan Mendoza, “In deciding whether certain pieces are appropriate, you do—to a certain extent—consider the fact that there will be people coming into some areas of your home. But in private spaces, the only valid consideration in the choice of artworks is the taste of the person occupying the space.”

On the design of the room, Jardenil says, “I find it more attractive if you have a specific theme for a specific room. I find it more workable and consistent with the design, however, it is not an essential, it’s purely a matter of choice.”

Yet for Avellana, deciding on where to place an art piece basically depends on what emotions are you trying to evoke in a room. “It depends on what kind of mood…you want to set in a particular area.  If you are bold enough to put a nude photo in your dining area, why not? It all depends on the owners. You put a gloomy painting in your living room…do you want that for you, for your guests? Do you want them to feel sad when they see it? Do you want that effect?” 

Assign your space

Once you have grouped your collection and have seen your space, it will be easier for you to regroup them according to which room they are going to be hung in. Use the most suitable classification for your home. It can be based on subject, medium, or even just color.

Aguilar gives us examples on editing such as, “You can put together black and white drawings of pen and ink on one wall. You can also group small pieces of watercolor paintings of landscapes on one wall. If the wall is large, then you can group bigger pieces together.”

To answer the question of: “Should modern houses have modern pieces only?” furniture designer Eric Paras believes that, “Mixing different styles is something that I love to do and it gives the space a different character.”

Salas adds, “It does not follow that a modern house should have modern pieces or traditional for traditional houses. After all, a study in contrast can become an interesting diversion in any house.”

For Avellana, the answer is very simple: “No. [Mixing styles] can actually work in full contrast. In fact, that would make it more interesting. In framing alone, you can put a modern painting inside an ornate baroque frame and it stands out. Or putting an old traditional painting put it in a simple box frame makes it very updated and it becomes fresh. Even with the old masters, you are not being disrespectful. You are handling it the way you want it because you care for the art piece.  So hindi kailangan luma to luma, bago to bago.  It’s like wearing maong and wearing linen on top. You see the value.  It’s balanced. Putting modern and traditional together highlights both.”

Make adjustments

Reframe the artwork, or repaint your room. There are art pieces that you personally would want to put in certain rooms yet aesthetically, they don’t seem to match, you decide whether you change the color of the wall or change the frame or stand of the piece. It actually brings us to another chicken-or-egg question of which comes first—the color of the room or the painting?

Jardenil says, “The colors of the art piece can be the source of inspiration for the room's color motif. And the color of the room can dictate what type of art pieces you need.” Paras, on the other hand has this practical musing: “If it’s the work of a National Artist, I will be willing to spend for the repainting of a room than telling him if he can add something violet to match with my walls and throw cushions.”

Avellana also believes that everything should start with the art piece. He recalls a a fond memory, “I have a classic experience in 1991. I didn’t have a gallery yet. I still had an office; brokerage… and I had paintings in the office. There was this couple who came in. And then the husband goes, ‘I like this painting.’ But then the wife goes, ‘This is not our color scheme.’ Then the husband goes, ‘Tell your designer to adjust to this painting.”

Break the rules

You tend to put an art piece in your home because the piece means something to you. Do not be swayed by market value or the mere prestige of owning a particular piece. Art pieces tell a story, make sure you can relate to that story if not being in it.

As Jardenil puts it, “I believe putting art on your walls probably says a lot about who you are than anything else in your home.  Whatever you hang on the wall is because you like to express yourself through it.”

Aguilar further adds, “(Assigning art pieces in a room) lies not in rules but in appreciation. It’s not art that fits the home or the home that fits the art, but the two should blend together in harmony along with the personality or the character of the person living in the house.”

Albert Avellana's Artwork Care Tips

1. Keep your art pieces away from direct sunlight. 

2. Open up your windows and keep your art pieces in room temperature. In our tropical country, unless you have a 24-hour dehumidifier, it’s better to keep your windows open. Let your art pieces go with the temperature of the room instead of turning on the air-conditioner then turning it off. Mas masama yung reaction kasi para bang lalagnatin noon. Instead, let the temperature gradually go up and down. 

3. Occasionally dust your art pieces. Dust them lightly using a soft-bristled brush. Remember, You’re just taking the dust off the surface. 

4. Keep hands off the painting. This would prevent the natural oil of your hand from sticking unto the art piece.

5. In storing art pieces, place them in a rack where the surface of the painting isn’t touching another thing. 

6. Do not seal off paintings in plastic wraps. The humidity would get trapped inside. Remember that paintings need to breathe. Instead, use non-woven fabrics because the painting can still breathe.


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