It all starts with art: Interior designer Deirdre O’Connell on how to choose art for your home
25th Apr 2023
Home is where the art is. Here are tips for using art in your room design and home décor projects from interior designer Deirdre O'Connell.
The power of art goes beyond four walls. It paints a picture of you as an individual and is a real window into the passions of the family. A collection of art in any home adds warmth, colour and charm, and stops you and your guests in your tracks for a second look.
I’m a big fan of art and believe that any wall or open space is a canvas for something beautiful, whether it is art, photography, mirrors or wall décor, and whether it hangs, leans or stands.
Where to start
If you’re lucky enough to own some art that you love (that part is key, offload the rest), then start with these. It can be hard to know where to place art, but the first step is to give it a go.
If you’re unsure after hanging it, and it niggles on you for a few days, consider where next to move it – you’ll find a home eventually!
Not everything has to hang; I love leaning small art pieces for example in bookcases or on a countertop, it adds a pretty layer.
Just as you would update a wardrobe, some heirloom art pieces might just have to go to the charity shops or resale shops – there isn’t room for everything in your home and your style changes over time.
If you’re creating a certain type of look in your home, go for art that is in keeping with that. The style of the painting, the finishes, the colours, the size, shape and frame of the artwork will all support or go against certain types of interior design styles.
If you’re doing a renovation, consider artwork as part of the process. Choose a paint colour from your feature artwork, then add picture lights and wall beading if you can as these frame art beautifully.
If you’re buying new art for a specific room, think about the practical first and the aesthetic second. Once you have done the research, the process of figuring out what you’re looking for will seem less daunting.
The practical step always involves a measuring tape! Note the heights and widths you have and keep these close for your shopping trip. Note what natural light the wall gets, what amount of traffic is passing, and the colour and finish of the wall. Bring the paint colour card with you on your shopping trip.
Secondly, consider the aesthetic. See what your favourite designer or influencer has done. You’ll find designers use certain types of art – for example, designer Amber Lewis uses laid-back, moody muted tone landscapes with soft, natural, slim wood frames.
Kelly Wearstler’s style is graphical, bold, colourful and modern. You’ll soon be able to differentiate between a soft watercolour of an Irish landscape, a print from a graffiti artist, and a modernist abstract work of bold colour.
Where to find art
For a lovely few hours retreat, visit the galleries near you. The Doorway Gallery in Rathfarnham, Dublin carry gorgeous art, Hang Tough Contemporary on Dublin’s Exchequer Street showcases the latest street-vibe contemporary work. The Grainstore in Ballymaloe runs wonderful art exhibitions. It was here I came across the incredible Cork artist Paul McKenna.
A piece of Irish artist Gerard Byrne’s colourful work is top of the bucket list. Dun Laoghaire artist Isobel Henihan produces beautiful abstract work which marries coastal tones with gorgeous vistas.
I love attending ArtSource in the RDS each November. You’ll see a cross-section of Irish artists and designers showcasing their work. They have their very accessible 100 for €100 promotion and they also showcase recent graduates from Ballyfermot College of Art.
I am drawn to framed photography, which is a great compliment to paintings and prints in a personal art collection. The actor Hugh O’Connor has an amazing library of moody portrait photography taken in Dublin, LA and beyond. Gareth Murran is a Rathmines based landscape photographer who travels regularly and captures beautiful dusks and dawns.
For edgier, more modern print work, Kildare street artist Shedpop creates, and can be commissioned, for his vibrant, colourful block work. I have also framed a number of cloth batiks and scarves as a centrepieces including a James Early silk, using it as the basis for the décor scheme.
On your art hunt, don’t forget the markets and second hand shops for art or indeed for frames; I’ve reused many an old frame.
Speaking of, the frame and the mount play as much of a part in the aesthetic as the picture itself, so don’t neglect this part. Speak to the experts and don’t skimp on the frame – Appletons in Stillorgan and Copperhouse Gallery in Dublin will see you right.
In summary, have fun with it. Take time when deciding to invest in something new and have a second and third look before you buy. You won’t go wrong if you choose art because you love it.
Consider where you are positioning the piece, the colours around it and the framing. After a few years, it’s also nice to move and shuffle art around your rooms; it’s like a new lease of life.
Deirdre O’Connell is an interior designer specialising in creating charming and individual homes. Visit
dtale.design or follow on Instagram @dtale_interior_design.