The spaces that cry out for attention
Art is to home interiors what accessories are to fashion. Strictly speaking, the role of both is purely complementary. You do not need art to complete an interior scheme, or a scarf to finish an outfit. Yet somehow, without them, something always seems to be missing.
An empty wall 'cries out for attention', an anonymous design quote on the website interiordec.about.com says. Add an artwork and this hitherto blank canvas is transformed visually and emotionally. Be it a master's original, pop art or even your own work, art makes a space whatever you want it to be.
In her 'styling secrets', Canadian designer and interiors stylist Susan Burns (www.susanburnsdesign.com) says art is the one element that can define a look and give a house its 'personality'. 'More than any other element in interior design, art has the transformative power to create and change the energy, character, mood and feel of our homes,' she says. 'It adds depth, colour and texture, making a dramatic statement affecting the overall essence of the space.'
This might make choosing an artwork for your home sound like a momentous decision, which could well be the case if you are buying investment pieces. But if your budget doesn't stretch to masterpieces, Pascoe Pop Art (www.pascoepopart.com.hk) lets you tailor one-off works at a fraction of the price.
Australian Matthew Pascoe is the brains behind the concept. 'People send us photos, and we turn them into Andy Warhol-style pop art,' he says. 'We give the photos a special treatment, which simplifies the design into black and white. Then we take out the background and insert a block colour of their choice. This can then be stylised in different ways, for example it might be all red, or red with white spots, or four panels, each a different colour.'
After the customer has approved the proof online, the work is printed onto canvas by a Hong Kong printer, and home-delivered. The whole process takes about a week. Pascoe's business extends to the United States, Australia and Singapore, but his busiest market is Hong Kong.
'People send photos of their loved ones, children or pets. Couples are popular,' he says. Prices range from HK$945 to HK$3,495 for square canvas prints, and HK$945 to HK$4,250 for rectangular ones, depending on the size.
Another option for the budget-conscious is to rent artworks. Belinda Corder Kruger, managing director, art-lease.com ltd, says an increasing number of people are leasing art for their homes. 'I think this is due to the fact that people are paying more attention to their interiors now, compared with 20 years ago when I got here. Once they have their furniture, people tend to start thinking about their walls. We now have many more galleries and home stores in Hong Kong that offer people the chance to buy artworks from inexpensive to top world galleries such as Hanart, Ben Brown and Gagosian.'
The minimum lease period is one year for homes (six months for offices). The average rent is HK$500 toHK$2,500 a month. 'Of course, for Damien Hirst or Andy Warhol, the prices are much higher,' she says. The company sends an art consultant along with a contractor to clients' homes to advise on where to hang the chosen works. 'We arrange the installation and advise on maintenance, which is usually: please don't let people or pets touch it.'
Wall decals - removable, self-adhesive stickers - are another inexpensive way to dress up a space. They can be attached to different surfaces, can be repositioned and do not leave telltale signs when you want a change, or decide to move. And they are not just for nurseries.
The Wall Sticker Company has fun stickers to grace any sophisticated living space, available at www.thewallstickercompany.com.au, including collections by guest designers. Prices range from A$30 (HK$230) up to A$520 for a world map that covers an entire wall.
Company co-founder Fiona Gathercole sells to clientele from Hong Kong and elsewhere. 'People are realising just how versatile they are, and not just for kids' rooms, but to add a wow factor to any living space or kitchen,' she says.
'They are perfect for smaller flats or rentals where you can't hang pictures on the wall.'
For those living in Hong Kong, the company's Christmas range is a clever, space-saving option. Having chosen a design to suit your colour scheme, simply stick a decorated tree to your wall, and when the festivities are over, carefully remove it, reattach to the backing paper, roll up and store in a tube until next year.
Another idea is to group some empty frames of different shapes and sizes to create an art installation in its own right. US designer Kristie Barnett (aka 'The Decorologist') has some smart ideas on her website, which uses her nickname. As budgetdecorating.about.com suggests, just about anything can be displayed as art: old vinyl records, coasters, fabric or wallpaper remnants.
As for how to position your prized artwork for maximum viewing enjoyment, Jonathan Macey, senior art broker, Art Futures Group (www.artfuturesgroup.com), advises taking your cue from galleries. His key tips: stick to one piece per wall.
'All the good galleries are minimalist now - they're not cluttered like they used to be,' Macey says.
The 'right' height for viewing enjoyment is mid-eye level, 1.5 metres being a good rule of thumb. 'Galleries have a canny knack of getting it right,' he says.