When we first bought our house last year, I knew that we needed one big statement piece. The trouble with an open floor plan house is that when each room is open to the next, which means the decor has to flow in a kitchen, living room, and dining room. Yup, just as tough as it sounds. A few weeks ago I picked up my first real-world, grown-up adult, art purchase. We chose to go with a custom commission from the ever talented Kristen from NG Collective. I tried for almost a year to find the right piece for my home and eventually realized that I was tackling it the wrong way. I needed to choose the artist first and then find the piece. The process of buying my piece taught me so much. I put together my learnings and here is your fool-proof guide to purchasing your first piece of art.
SHOP LOCAL FIRST
I swear I don’t know how to shop in stores anymore. Shopping in person gives me an unnecessary amount of anxiety (rummaging through racks, trying things on, etc) but against my own gut, I do recommend shopping in person. When you are making such a big purchase it’s important to see it in person and often pictures don’t do it justice. I was so lucky to be able to stop by my artist’s home/studio often. Seeing your piece in different lights / spaces is essential.
INSTAGRAM IS YOUR FRIEND
I saw a piece in one of my favorite blogger’s Instagram feed and I knew I needed to find the artist. (It was not easy!) I looked for months and she finally responded to one of my comments with the name of the artist. One of the most useful tricks on Instagram is to find similar artists. If you go to Instagram on mobile, type in the name of an artist that you like “@ngcollectivestudio” and then click on the little down arrow to the right of the follow button. A list of suggested accounts will come up below. I found so many talented local artist’s this way.
Sahir and I knew that we needed a large piece of art, but figuring out exactly how big was a challenge. Cost is obviously positively correlated to the size of the art, so decide what size your space needs before you make your budget. 2 smaller pieces can often cost more than one large piece, but nothing is worse than investing in a piece and then deciding that it doesn’t fit the space properly. Tip: If you choose to get your art in paper instead of canvas, you can always add a large mat to the frame to increase size.
CUSTOM V. OFF THE RACK
I never thought that we would be able to afford a commission, but surprisingly it ended up working out. The idea of a piece that was specifically made with Sahir and me in mind was exactly what we wanted. I initially began my searching looking for a print to put in my home from a local artist. After visiting a few, I realized that it didn’t make sense to pay that much for a print (remember size & price are positively correlated even with a print) when we could invest a little more and get a painted piece. We ended up tabling the idea until the following year which gave me more time to find the right artist and save up for what we really wanted. Commissions are traditionally more costly but when you are working directly with an artist you will have more flexibility.
COMPROMISE IS NOT THE KEY
One of the most important things that I learned on my journey of purchasing art was that you have to love it. Both my husband and I were set that we wouldn’t compromise on this. When choosing something so big (ours was 60×60) it was going to be something that we had to look at every day. Early on we decided that we wanted something abstract and with a watercolor look on canvas. This gave us a great jumping off point to start looking for artists. Find something you both love, if you haven’t found it yet – keep looking.
Here is a quick checklist of things that you should decide on before you begin your search:
- Size (i.e. 24×24, 60×60)
- Shape (square, multiple pieces)
- Style (abstract, contemporary)
- Medium (canvas, paper)
- Budget ($100-$10,000)
Your first piece of real world art is something that you will always remember. We chose to make this big purchase on our anniversary (first year is paper!) and it was definitely an investment. Hopefully, you will find these tips helpful in choosing the perfect piece for your home.