Interior design with fine art is a little bit of a dance, according to architect and interior designer Suzanne Lovell. Having launched her professional life at the venerable architectural firm Skidmore, Owings& Merrill, she takes an architectural approach to her work.
"The language of architecture is a language of materials. It's a three-dimensional language of color, texture, height, volume," she told ARTINFO. "We're thinking about what the fabric is, what the special piece is, or what the special driving force of each room is. It's a much more complex piece of artwork — choreography."
Expressions of her artistic vision can be seen in herforthcoming book, "Artistic Interiors: Designing With Fine Art Collections," an impressive tome highlighting a dozen art collectors' residences, including her own, each with a distinct personality accentuating its owners identity, as well as the architecture. "In every case, the decor serves as a stage for the art, whether it's a superlative collection of paintings or photographs, striking examples of craft, or unique furniture pieces executed by masters old and new," Lovell writes.
In a chapter that focuses on a Victorian-style Chicago residence, she describes the modernist space planning techniques she utilized to display her clients' extensive collection of Native American artifacts. Another chapter illustrates her use of 1940s wrought-iron gates to play up the high ceilings and long windows of an Art Deco apartment elsewhere in the city. Lovell even invites readers into her own home, describing the playful choices she made for her living room: "I optically extended the library space by mirroring one wall and hanging Vik Muniz's 'After Gerhard Richter' — a portrait of Richter's daughter Betty looking backward over her shoulder — so she appears to be looking into the glass. "
Lovell let ARTINFO in on her top five tips for designing interiors with fine art.
FRAME IT WELL
Don't be afraid to use linen or silk mats, and the big one I think is don't hang it too high. A lot of people hang their art way too high. Lighting is imperative. Lighting is the key to highlighting any art, so if you can't get a light to it, don't put it up.
MIX IT UP
What I mean by that is, putting pieces of ceramics, ceramic vessels, and beautiful small things are as important as the big things that are called art. It's almost like lighting. You want to have ambient light in the room and you want to have focused light in the room. You want to have big art in a room, but you also want to have small, well-crafted objects that speak to the hand of what creates art. So I think that's super important, and when you look at the residences I think you can kind of see that.
THE HANGER SYSTEM
We often use a hanger system for our clients, you know, where you have a picture rail. I think that some people think a picture rail is an old idea, but it's a really versatile idea. If you can run a picture rail and integrate it into your architectural expression, you have so much more variety in being able to move your artwork around. A picture rail is a wonderful thing.
HANG YOUR COLLECTION IN GROUPS
One big mistake that people do is that they don't hang collections together; they spread it all over the house, and you can't find it. Don't be afraid to bring all of the portraits together. Don't be afraid to bring all of the drawings together on one wall, because then they give a much more bold expression. A collection is a thought. And how to you express that thought? You express it by bringing all of those pieces together. And a lot of times people spread it out, but they have so much more power when they're together.
LOOK FOR IT ON PAPER
Works on paper are so much more accessible than paintings. I think people don't really know that. If you really like a certain artist, and you can't afford the big painting, go toward their work on paper. Editions are a wonderful way to begin a collection.
"Artistic Interiors" hits stores later this month.