Art is in all our lives.

In all its shapes and forms art stimulates and inspires us.

Art connects us to places, experiences and people. We use it to add meaning, context and joy to our homes; it is a visual focus of everyday life.

But is it art?

From mass produced commercial art, posters and postcards through to religious iconography, what we put on our walls might be very carefully chosen – or simply of the right colour, shape and content to fill a space.

Art personalises our space. It gives it heart and soul. It reflects our sense of self and personality; our quirky taste, essence of family, travels past and longed-for, social connections, religious and cultural sense, hobbies and sentiments.

Consider: when we hammer in that hook, measure up and centre art in a chosen space – making sure its level and looks ‘right’.

It looks good here… this is the right height…. it catches the light.. a focal point… the colours pick up the colours elsewhere… defines and finishes the space…

When we put ‘art’ on a wall it is not a casual decision. It is a conscious design decision of placement and order.

As visitors, often we admire art in someone else’s home because we recognise where it is, what it is, who it is, or who painted it. We see it as a statement of personal choice reflecting background, influence and taste; much like looking through someone’s music collection.

The type of art people that have in their home says a lot about their personality, interests and experiences. A home without any visual artefacts, from calendar art to photographs, makes you wonder about the people who live there. Do they really live here?

Art lives here

In a hotel, or AirbnB, art and ornaments add colour, warmth and character to a space. Art takes the bare look from the walls and ‘decorates’ the room. It makes it a little more ‘homely’. But, whenever there are a lot of very personal artefacts (pop posters, lego, needlework) you may feel like you are invading/ trespassing on someone else’s personal space.

And yet, posh hotels, converted from old country houses, actively cultivate that quirky quality of the real family who once lived here. Through artefacts and art, portraits, stuffed animals, dinner sets and tapestries, visitors piece together their history and lives. We can pretend we are a guest in their home, experiencing how they other half live. Or a curated version of it.

Art Spaces, Art Places

Art galleries are designed for viewers to see and appreciate art in the least distracting way.

Galleries are beautifully lit, spacious and calm and the art is carefully displayed to enhance the experience of ‘looking’.

As you move quietly through the space you silently gaze at each artpiece absorbing its presence and power, the artist’s skill and concept, style and quality. But, given that so few people actually visit galleries art can be seen as a niche and elitist experience, not for everyone.

And yet, it is.

Grayson’s Art Club is a testimony to how art enabled people get through the strangest of times of lockdown. Art is therapy and can help people to express their deepest darkest thoughts – or their happiest, strangest, idiosyncratic and personal way of seeing the world.

It really doesn’t matter what it looks like. It’s the making of art that counts.

“I don’t know much about art but I know what I like ….”

In our homes we like to mix it up: our good pieces and our favourites, alongside commercial pieces, photographs, ornaments and treasured objects add visual interest. Some items may be gifts that we keep because ‘someone’ thought of us when they bought it, or made it. Or perhaps certain items that remind us of someone, or a place, or a holiday.

decorative fan and clock on wall

Frivolous or serious, expensive or not, if it has some sort of meaning it has value and worth.

Children know their art is a thing of beauty and skill.

As prolific artists they expect to see their work on display in their home.

Homes with babies and children soon become centres of child-focused art. Their art adorns the walls, bursting with creativity and personality. Their footprints, handprints and photos at every stage made into art document their lives for posterity.

From superheroes, fairies, unicorns, dinosaurs to cartoon characters, children’s art motifs in children’s spaces are designed to appeal to young tastes. They feature large on beakers, posters, books, plates, curtains and furniture. This is a stage in most households that is of a time and place. As children’s influences widen their interests and tastes change, and so does their home.

Comic book curtains

I can remember absolutely loving chocolate-box and handkerchief-box art for its romance and beauty. Later, I was drawn to Mucha, Monet, Magritte… then pop-art expressionism and Egon Schiele.

I have had framed posters on the wall alongside my own work and original art by friends. Novelty pieces alongside quality pieces. When I moved house not everything came with me. New home, new space, new me.

Artistic pursuit as business.

As visual people, artists – amateur and professional – live with their work; the unsold, the personal favourites and pieces swapped with fellow artists.

They are surrounded by displays of framed and unframed, works in progress, by equipment, mediums – and mess. An artist’s studio – or kitchen table – becomes a place where art is conceived and made through trial and error. It is a dedicated space to a focused pursuit that involves a lot of thinking and looking, as much as actual output.

Essentially its a place of work, but also a space of possibilities and inspiration, frustration and delight.

artist's studio with paintings, sofa and  2 windows
artist's paintings unframed and 2 chairs

Popular Art As Home Decoration

We have all wandered blindly through shops looking for that inexpensive present for the hard-to-buy-for person-who-has-everything. And, whether it is a last resort or ‘inspiration’, we may be prompted/influenced/persuaded to buy a personalised artefact. Perhaps a cushion, poster, name tag, ornament for that special person… or their dog, or their cat.

I saw this and thought of you

collection of cushions with motifs on sake

I have a cat. Although I never set out to collect cat ornaments people tend to give me cat ornaments. When people see that I have cat ornaments – I am given more.

I might not have chosen to buy cat ornaments, but I choose to keep them, because they were gifts.

On a cushion or throw, personalised sentiments declare intimate relationships; friend, grandchild, daughter.

In many homes we see mottoes and words such as ‘Love’, ‘Home’, ‘Peace’ in 3D; sentiments writ large. They are perhaps a throw back to the days of samplers of psalms and proverbs. A modern day version as a declaration of household values and outlook, reflecting a solid humanistic, religious or cultural position.

framed stitched sampler " Home the place where we grumble the most and are treated the best

Is An Ornament Art?

I think it is.

While ornaments may not be as popular as they were ( see: car boot sales and charity shops) many (older) people prize and value their collection of Belleek… Royal Doulton.. Willow Plates…Lladro. We put our precious collections in display cabinets, because they are used only for special occasions; we protect them from breakages and dust.

To put something pride of place on the mantlepiece or wall, or cabinet, sets certain ornaments ( and tea sets) apart as ‘special’. They are used only on special occasions, and yet they occupy a prominent position in the home.

What else is a mantlepiece for?

Our homes may be dressed for show but they are not show houses.

We inherit items but also we can’t bear to throw things out. Or we keep things because… they’ve always been there. It is a part of the space and an everyday feature of homelife that we see every day, but rarely notice.

We have a close attachment to many things in our homes – even things we don’t use.

It wouldn’t be home without them.

It wouldn’t feel like ‘my’ home without them.

mantlepiece with figurines and clock

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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