Curating Art That Suits Your Space

Curating Art That Suits Your Space

Curating Art That Suits Your Space


There’s an art to selecting art, and Crystal Sinclair has a knack for it. We got the lowdown from the designer on how scale and subject matter factor in.

Art is a bundle of contradictions. It can be shockingly cheap and wildly expensive, achingly sad and unabashedly playful. But when it comes to investing in pieces for your home, it always seems to be consistently intimidating. Designer Crystal Sinclair is here to convince you why it doesn’t have to be. We spoke with the art enthusiast about how art scale and subject matter factor into sourcing and displaying art, so you can feel confident when choosing art to suit your distinctive tastes and space. Time to prove you were born to curate art—or at least master a really arresting gallery wall.

Design by: Jae Joo
Photo by: Julia Robbs

How do you decide what scale of art works best for your space?

I like to avoid standard sizes, so I prefer to go large or tiny. Playing with the scale makes the space more interesting. Either extreme makes for a visually pleasing impact!

Design by: Jae Joo, Liz Lipkin
Photo by: Julia Robbs, Sean Litchfield

When do you think it’s better to have a lot of small pieces (like a gallery wall) versus one large statement piece?

It greatly depends on the busyness of the space and the preference of the clients. If the space is a bit sparse, sometimes a wall gallery gives it a needed focal point. If a space is already busy, it may just need a large piece to complement everything else.

Design by: Marissa Bero
Photo by: Sean Litchfield

What about pairs or groupings versus a gallery wall? How do you decide what style of display to embrace?

It’s about structure. If you have a Type A client, then a very structured pairing or group may be best. However, if it’s a real large room with a long and/or tall wall, a grouping is best. A smaller gallery wall may get too cluttered or lost on a larger backdrop.

Design by: Kate Banks
Photo by: Sean Litchfield

Are there any hard and fast rules about the amount of space you should have surrounding a piece?

It depends on the art itself. If you’ve invested in an expensive piece, you may want to make it the focal point and keep things clear of it. However, I love layering and think almost anything should be layered. A huge pet-peeve of mine is when there’s art above a console or cabinet with lamps and accessories pushed to the edge as so not to block the piece. Layer it in, and choose a lamp that will complement and won’t block the piece entirely.

Design by: Marc Houston
Photo by: Sean Litchfield

We talked a bit about the scale of the artwork itself, but what about the scale of what’s pictured? Are there guidelines or tips you have about selecting a piece with the right visual scale?

This depends on the space itself. A room with lots of accessories or pattern will likely need a piece with large or simple subject matter. Whereas a more minimal room can handle art that’s more detailed.

Design by: Tali Roth
Photo by: Genevieve Garruppo

Large-scale art can tend towards the expensive side. Can you share any tips for those looking for alternative ways to make a maximum impact—or is it always worth the investment? Any advice on picking a large-scale piece you’ll love for the long haul?

Art can be one of the most expensive things in the home. However, it can also be affordable, depending on who the artist is or if you opt for a print. If you’re on a budget a large print is fine. Regardless, try to find something that really speaks to you. Avoid trends unless the trend just happens to favor your preferred taste. Like beach scenes are all the rage right now; if you loved beach scenes before, chances are you’ll love them later. But, if you’re digging the trend, you may tire of the piece in a year or so. If you do want to play with the trend, make sure you shop within a budget you’ll feel comfortable with in case you decide to replace it down the road.

Design by: Jae Joo
Photo by: Claire Esparros

What are some of your favorite ways to play with juxtaposition?

If it’s a more traditional space, it’s always fun to install something more modern or racy. It’s also fun to play with traditional pieces or antique finds in a more modern space. Another way to play with juxtaposition is through framing—going big and bold on something simple or modern!

Design by: Michelle Zacks
Photo by: Genevieve Garruppo

Are there certain pieces you shy away from incorporating in certain spaces?

I am open minded as to what can go where. However, I do recommend keeping personal photos in bedrooms or private hallways. Racy things are great anywhere but a kids room. But sometimes something daring makes the right statement so long as the client is okay with it.

Design by: Jill Shadek
Photo by: Sedona Turbeville

What art trends are trending right now, and do you think it’s worth hopping on the bandwagon?

The beach scene is everywhere right now. It’s a great trend, but I do see it falling out soon. Another trend that’s on the way out right now are neon lights. They’re fun and bold, but unless you’re a neon fanatic, I’d recommend avoiding them.

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