Your living room is probably the most visible and public room of your entire house. It is in this room where your family will bond and guests will be received and entertained. With this in mind, you should make special effort to decorate your living room to be comfortable and attractive. Buying art for your living room is an important decision that will set the tone for the room, so the art you purchase should be chosen with the specific purpose of putting you, your family and guests at ease.
Appropriate Subject Matter and Rendering
Art in a high-traffic area such as a living room should have far-reaching appeal. Many buyers prefer abstract art because it is modern and chic, and because abstract pieces represent something different for everyone. If you prefer representational work, ubiquitous subjects like landscapes and still life pieces are universally recognized and appreciated. Avoid pieces with heavy, dark subjects and content.
Be sensitive to the subtle uses of color that an artist uses to set the mood and tone of a piece. Paintings with soft, low contrast colors and symmetrical or traditional formatting help create a calm and comfortable atmosphere in your living room, while paintings with dramatic, bold, high contrast colors are more likely to create some feelings of drama or even tension.
If you prefer sculpture, three dimensional pieces may be less common for living room decor, but no less appropriate. Abstract sculpture has the same appeal of abstract paintings. If your tastes fall on the conservative or representational side, seek classical subjects like busts and studies of the human form. Note that the size of a sculpture and the texture of a sculpture will set the mood in a room much in the way that paintings do with color and contrast. Smooth textures and smaller sizes are subtle and calming, while a large, freestanding sculpture, or a sculpture with harsh textures will add drama to the atmosphere of the room.
The Right Piece for the Space
If you are buying wall art, measure the wall where the art will be hanging and designate an approximate size for the piece you seek. Common sense dictates that a tiny painting should not hang on a large, empty wall, nor will a massive painting look right on a relatively small or cluttered wall. Beyond choosing a painting that has appropriate dimensions, you will need to find a painting that fits with the room's decor. Among your qualifications for the right piece of art should be a painting that displays the appropriate colors.
Although you should not seek a piece that matches the color of your decor exactly (it is possible to over-coordinate), your painting should fit somewhere within the color scheme of your living room while also exhibiting colors found nowhere else in the room. In this way, the painting will command attention and establish itself as a focal point or centerpiece. For example, if you are buying art for a living room that has been decorated predominantly in tones of brown, tan, and cream, you may pick a painting that includes some similar shades of brown, coupled with a vibrant shade of red, or large patches of blue-gray.
Three-dimensional pieces should have their own place to sit on display, whether on a table, a shelf or in a low-traffic place on the floor of your room. Like two-dimensional pieces, three-dimensional pieces should be left in an area free of visual clutter that may detract attention from the beauty of the art.
Whatever medium you choose, the place that you have designated for the piece should provide a safe space for your art. Antiques may be especially susceptible to damage from direct sunlight or humidity, but all original art should be treated with special care. Don't place art near a front door or a steam heater. A painting should not hang on a wall where it may be frequently exposed to direct sunlight, and heavy canvases should be anchored to the wall where they hang. Sculptures and ceramics must be set away from the reach of small children or pets.
Art As Investment
Although art can appreciate over time, it is difficult to judge the value of what a given piece will be in ten, twenty or sixty years. Even pieces by established and historic artists can be susceptible to unanticipated increases and decreases in value based on changing moods and trends. An investment in artwork by an artist who is still establishing a career is an even greater unknown. In addition, art is surprisingly illiquid. Should you ever decide to sell, finding the right buyer or auction for a valuable piece of art can be a difficult and slow process.
Even so, the word "investment" doesn't have to mean a return in cash. True art should last for decades or even centuries, and may be handed down from one generation to the next as a valued family heirloom. Artwork passed from parent to child, whether monetarily valuable or not, will have personal and sentimental value into the future.
Buy What You Like
Whether you plan to hand down this art to your children or throw away the next time you redecorate, the most important thing is to buy something you like. Once you've made the decision to buy artwork for your living room, spend time researching artists. Go to local galleries, peruse museums, browse artist homepages online. Practice talking about art with family members and friends to gain a greater understanding of what you like and why you like it. Identify patterns in your tastes. The ability to express your preferences will also be useful when you speak with gallery owners and artists as you look for the right piece. More important, once you understand your tastes, you're more likely to settle on a purchase that you'll continue to love into the future.