The Art of Decorating with Art

Do you remember buying art for the first time? Mine was a lithograph print from a student exhibit downtown. I remember entering the Ottawa School of Art filled with excitement to buy my very first piece of art.

I was so proud of my acquisition. I had the piece framed at Malen Framing and splurged on anti-reflective glass even though I was a high school student saving up pocket money from my part-time job in the front office at the Ottawa School of Art.

Thinking back to that moment in time, when I became an art collector (albeit with just a single piece of art in tow) feels good. It’s a wonderful memory that fills me with joy.

I’m not alone in this feeling. That’s one of the rewards of collecting art: the fond memories it stirs because art is personal. It’s personal to the creator, the curator, and the collector.

And at the core of it, collecting art is about creating and strengthening connections with others. In that sense art is both deeply personal and tremendously social. Artwork can reflect where you are at a specific point in life; it can also serve to spark conversation and reinforce shared interests with others.

Choosing art for your home

So, how do you choose art for your home? As an art collector and an interior decorator, I’ve found that before you can source artwork, you must ask some questions to uncover the reasons behind the search.

What role will art be playing in the design? What space and lighting is available for the art? Will it be driving the design, or will it be used to accessorize the room design?

These questions will help determine the direction and effort of the search, which is why I’ve built it into my process. When I’m working with a client, we dive into their motivations and preferences. Then, I typically turn to one of three sources, but only once we have discussed and answered these questions.

Some of these sources are only available to the trade, so if you are working with an interior decorator, your artwork options open up dramatically.

There’s nothing like the look on my client’s face when I’ve fulfilled their request of finding artwork that’s just right for them.

Small Batch, Mass-Produced Art

Artwork Characterized by Limited Options (ACLO)

I source small batch, mass-produced art or ACLO for the majority of client projects. This art is made in large quantities, sold at a set price, and replenished when inventory runs low. However, this is done on a microscopic scale compared to the likes of IKEA or HomeSense.

Floral small batch mass produced artwork

Floral small batch mass produced artwork

While large-scale manufacturing helps bring down costs, the natural trade-off is variety. Styles, subject matter, and sizes are all limited.

For example, if I find the right subject matter and style, but the width and height don’t work for the space I’m decorating, I need to keep looking. Or let’s say that the dimensions work but the frame or matting doesn’t suit the rest of the décor, I’ll still need to keep looking.

ACLO tends to follow trends in order to appeal to as broad a range of tastes as possible. For example, warm reds, browns, and greens were all the rage in the 2000’s, which was a shift from the Tuscany theme of 1990’s, after a dramatic change from the bold, geometric forms from the 1980’s! As such, ACLO will need refreshing to keep a home from looking dated.

Just because it is mass-produced doesn’t mean that it’s not beautiful or quality-made.  As in all things, the quality of workmanship depends on the supplier. I prefer to source this type of artwork when I’m looking to accessorize a room, so naturally the room design drives the selection and curation process.

Customized Artwork

Customized artwork (CA) is ideal for when I’m looking for something out of the ordinary that will help me bring the client’s room design to the next level. This art is sold by catalogue, priced based on specifications, and produced on demand.

Foyer featuring customize artwork

Foyer featuring customize artwork

Almost the entire process can be customized, so it’s not just about selecting the image. When I source CA for my clients, I’m also choosing the frame type, medium, matting, and dimensions. The sheer number of possible options total somewhere in the billions, so it’s quite likely that my client’s space will be the only home in the world with that artwork.

Similar to ACLO artwork, this source is only available to the trade. Suppliers of CA have close relationships to artists which they contract to create artwork for them.

Customized Artwork is my go-to source when I’m looking for something more distinctive and reflective of my client’s distinct tastes or personalities.

The choice of subject matter is huge, and the type of styles vast. As a result, this type of artwork can better stand the test of time because it’s not as likely to be identified with a particular decorating trend.

Customized artwork in music-themed dining room

Customized artwork in music-themed dining room

CA can also be sourced as an accessory because of its scarcity, variety of subject matter, and customizability. This level of control can be used to inspire the entire design, accent a room, or elevate the space.

When buying Canadian is important to my clients, I especially love that I’m able to source locally and satisfy this requirement for my clients too.

Original Artwork

Original artwork is entirely unique. This is the scarcest source of artwork available, and my choice for especially discerning clients.

I work with several galleries to collaborate on curating pieces that meet the different needs and tastes of my clients. But that’s not the only place to find great art.


A sample of other places to buy original art:

Toronto Outdoor Art Fair

Toronto Outdoor Art Fair

The sources are endless. The key is knowing how to look — or shopping with someone who does.

Original artwork is the most likely (of the three options) to increase in value, which is one reason some clients prefer this source. However, I’ve found in my own experience and that for most of my clients, collecting original artwork is more about the sense of satisfaction it provides.


The joy you feel from something that speaks to your heart. You are supporting someone whose livelihood is their passion, and their original art is unique and expressive, just like you. Original artwork creates an eternal link between you and the artist and serves as a platform to connect more deeply and meaningfully with others in your life.

No matter the source and type of artwork used in a room design, the right choice makes all the difference. I always look for the right choice for my clients to make a distinct impression.

It’s time to bring art and connection into your home. Contact us for a design consultation.

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