Art In Decorating

Nov 1, 2020

Sue is an artist, entrepreneur, and seasoned interior design blogger, who loves to provide her readers with up-to-date home decor and fashion advice. She is a former Pound Ridger and a long-term New Canaanite. Founded in 2009, The Zhush (thezhush.com and @Zhush) now attracts thousands of weekly readers eager for updates and inspiration on interior design, fashion, beauty, art, and so much more. In Art in Decorating, Sue takes a look at different styles of integrating art into the home.

In the article “Why Wall Art Matters Most In Interior Design”, Tara Mastroeni (MyMove.com, 2020) lists: “It provides an instant color palette; It creates a focal point; It brings a sense of texture, [and]; It makes the room appear finished”.
 
In “12 Quick Do’s and Don’ts for Decorating with Art”, Lauren Flanagan (the spruce, 2020) says you should “use your walls as a showcase for your own photographs [and] hang art in every room in the house”.
 
In “9 Foolproof Tips for Decorating with Art”, Hadley Keller (House Beautiful, 2019) wrote: “Anything can be art (no, really)”, and made a point to “Make use of oft-forgotten spaces”.
 
In “Nine Tips For Decorating With Art”, Maison De Cinq posted that “Original art is something that…is absolutely essential to a space”; suggested leaning, rather than hanging, some art, and; gave the clever tip to “find custom artwork from independent artists”.
 
And, in “20 Wall Decor Ideas To Refresh Your Space”, Kristi Kellogg and Elizabeth Stamp (Architectural Digest, 2019) start-off with Idea #1 – “Go for Large-Scale Art”, and Idea #2 – “Create a Gallery Wall”.
 
Yes, yes, and yes!
 
But these are all inspirational guidelines…The only rule is: Thou Must Use Art In Decorating!
 
This includes expensive and inexpensive, big and small, oil, print and photo, famous artists, works found on a trip or through some personal or intellectual journey, your own photographic and original productions, and all ‘objects d’art’ – which includes just about anything that attracts the eye, and is worth looking at.

Decorating is an expression of self. For some that means getting the look and feel of the room right, and selecting art to fit the mode. Others want more of a daily interaction with the subject, meaning, color, shape or school of art. And then there’s art as thee focus.

In the school of art fitting the decor, The Adirondack Store and Gallery is in front of the class!

The Adirondack Store & Gallery, which epitomizes everything in the Lake & Lodge style everyone thinks of as coming from Lake Placid, New York region, has opened a fabulous multi-level store at 39 Elm Street in New Canaan. 

It’s a welcoming place to shop. They have absolutely everything to decorate, outfit and finish any room, with just the right look and feel, and consistently the best quality.
 
But this retail facade fronts a big business providing personal decorating services and dealing in art.

Christopher English and Stephen Shin, owners and operators of The Adirondack Store & Gallery, are the real deal when it comes to art and decorating. Christopher has been dealing in fine art for over three decades, and Stephen, after a career as a classical ballet dancer, honed his design skills working for an interior designer. Starting with a home base in Palm Beach, with client bases in places like Charleston, Nashville, Colorado, and Texas, and doing antique shows around America, the two gained a reputation for finding one-of-a-kind pieces for homes and collections. In 2009, they moved to Rainbow Lake, and opened Antediluvian Antiques & Curiosities. Christopher’s mother is from Saranac Lake, his father went to Paul Smiths College, and Christopher has spent most summers of his life in the Lake Placid area. In 2015, they acquired the Adirondack Store & Gallery (established 1955), and did a complete renovation of the store and the merchandise. Experiencing tremendous growth, in 2018, the two then opened a store in Tupper Lake, New York (only an hour from Lake Placid). The business is actually a full interior design studio, offering not just art, antiques and lines of furniture, but also everything from custom draperies and bedding to upholstery services to kitchen and bathroom design. Christopher focuses on the antiques and fine art within the retail operation, while Stephen concentrates on buying for the three stores and the Adirondack Store & Gallery website and social media presence. Both are on a mission to bring personalized customer service to the Adirondack Store’s very growing clientele.

Christopher explains:

​“The first thing is establishing a budget that works for whatever art you’re going to put in a room or in a house. Then we find art that fits the budget and the space. We’re looking for paintings that are substantial enough to be the main feature of a room or a wall. We like to go as big as possible with the paintings that are going to be the focal point in the room. Size, color, big outdoor subject, and even the frame. The artwork should be capable of absorbing endless attention. That means deep and interesting vistas that capture the imagination, and paintings of people doing things in nature that bring up good feelings for the viewer. We often also try to match the art genre with the house motif. Fishing in lake houses, mountains in ski houses, sailing ships and seashores in beach houses. Sometimes we find something that particularly suits the special interests of a particular client, like an antique painting of an old wooden Chris Craft that’s the same model as the one in their boathouse. And not everything has to be expensive. We love to use a ski mountain trail map somewhere in a ski house, and an old flag or banners to add color and interest.”

 

“Objects are important to us as well. We like to put something big and eye popping, but nice to look at, in each space. This can mean old snowshoes and wooden skis, some antique taxidermy, or some old fly rods mounted on the wall; an old chairlift incorporated into the furniture; furnishing a collection of beautiful and interesting antiques, or; putting the budget into a Tiffany lamp, with the just the right color and look to be the centerpiece of a warm and cozy den. We like to place an object that will set the look, and suggest the conversation, in a room.”

If the art is going to be ‘serious’, where the price, value, subject and artist of the piece matters, and at least the arrangement of the room, if not the complete decorative focus, is going to be around the artwork… turn to Howard Godel, a well known and highly respected art dealer – and a Bedford local.

Howard runs Godel & Co. Fine Art, Inc., from a gallery at 26 Village Green in Bedford, by appointment. He has been focused on American art for over 40 years, and deals in everything American from 1790 to 1950.
 
Godel owns most of the art he sells, where most gallery owners are sales reps. Godel likes what he buys and gets to enjoy the art while he owns it, and it conveys confidence for the client in making the purchase that Howard invested in the same piece. And if Godel doesn’t have it, he can find it.
 
Getting to see whatever Godel has at any given point in time in his Village Green gallery is a real treat, but a visit inside Godel’s home is something special. The museum-quality art collection is breathtaking, and yet the overall impression of the house is of a lived-in, if somewhat formal, perfectly decorated residence. There are never too many paintings on any wall, each painting is attractively framed, well lit and perfectly hung, and the palette, decor, furnishings, and period of each room match or relate to the art within.
Godel deals in Hudson River School, Marine, Narrative, Still Life, Sporting, Folk, Portraits & Figures, Tonalism, Impressionism & Post-Impressionism, Modernism & Regionalism, and Works on Paper.

Then there’s art in decorating where the art’s the thing.

This includes large striking works that dominate a space, gallery walls, and art that’s simply so significant and/or expensive it requires attention. In this style of art in decorating, modern and pop art often fits the bill – because it looks great with a wide range of decorating styles, and because some investment quality work from famous artists can be acquired affordably.

Of course, there’s the likes of Basquiat trading for $30M at Sotheby’s. But in the real world, getting modern and pop art to decorate, that also represents a good investment, is a complicated world of signed and unsigned lithos, numbered and unnumbered series, provenance and authenticity, and…the vagaries of unscrupulous sellers and/or unwitting buyers in a market that includes a whole lot of less worthy prints and copies.

David Hockney signed litho 148/200 14" x 17"

David Hockney signed litho 86/200 18"x14"

Walker Manzke navigates the world of modern and pop art for those looking for the one right thing, and for avid enthusiasts looking to expand their collection. And he can assist in getting the right frame for any piece, and help get it hanging properly. He’s another local – he has lived in the same house in Pound Ridge his entire life! Manzke started his career in art managing a private billion-dollar collection and was most recently associated with VW Contemporary in Greenwich. He specializes in post war contemporary, tribal and folk art, and in automobiles and antiques.

“When I’m working for a customer, the most important thing is understanding what art inspires them. Do they want a particular artist, and is it because the artist is famous or because they like the art? Is the subject and meaning of the art significant, or is it mostly about color, shape, size or just plain dramatic effect? What’s the price range? And what’s the desired size, framing, medium or statement? My mission is to source the perfect piece. Whether it’s identifying and acquiring a Warhol, Lichtenstein or a Keith Haring for it’s recognizability; finding a Damien Hearst or a Jeff Koons, because the client likes the work, and because those artists have produced steady price appreciation in the last few decades, or; knowing that a particular client absolutely adores Hockney ever since the retrospective at the Met, and finding a signed Hockney litho that may become that client’s favorite piece of art and prized possession, for only five or ten thousand dollars.”

Pictured above, Manzke was asked to complete the decorative transition of a two-story front entrance hall to accomplish the ‘art gallery’ look (for that Hockney-loving client). He installed 2 Mr. Brainwash works to echo the decorative impact and to suggest collector, and, a signed and numbered Hockney lithograph, that tickles the homeowner every time he passes and thinks “I’ve got a signed Hockney!” Then, recently…Manzke found another signed Hockney litho from a series compatible with the one the client already had, and the client was thrilled to snap it up! Also pictured above…the new Hockney! (And below, the smaller Brainwash is off to the client’s NYC apartment.)

Mr. Brainwash 30" x 22" signed on paper

And then, at the extreme, there’s art in decorating when it’s really just about the ART!…

Architect Jay Levy designed a home in Bedford for just such an art-focused extremist, and then got a call from the client mid-build that the house would have to be modified to accommodate and feature a newly acquired prize:

Levy recalls: “The owner’s vision for this project was to create a loft-like residence that was filled with contemporary art. We started with an existing home that was completely stripped and re-built. A main feature and starting point was to create concrete resin floors throughout the main level that resembled a factory or gallery. The desire was to keep everything extremely clean and minimalistic with large white walls to display artwork. One evening, close to the end of construction, I got an email from the owner excited about a large piece of artwork he had just purchased by the artist Banksy. Included with the email was a link to a video that was made about the artwork called “The Man Who Stole Banksy” in which this piece of artwork was featured. It blew me away. It’s a section of a concrete wall, 7 feet tall, 10 feet wide, that weighs 4 tons, and was cut out of a building in Bethlehem! Crazy! I’m a Banksy admirer and immediately began to figure out, along with my contractor, how we’d get this unusual piece into a finished house. Floors and walls had to be reinforced with steel. Then we needed the right art moving contractor to make this happen. The day of installation was truly an event. A team of experts first un-welded the concrete slab out of the steel cage that protected it in transport. Hoisting it up using a large forklift onto specially constructed low profile dollies, it was gently moved with only inches of clearance. Finally, it was carefully maneuvered into a custom niche built specifically for the artwork. Mission accomplished! And now it’s spectacular and humbling just to be in the room with such a monumental work of art!”

In 2007, Banksy was doing his street art in Israel, and painted a huge image on a concrete barrier dividing the West Bank. This very valuable and extremely controversial work, meant to draw tourists to the conflict zone, now known as “Donkey Documents”, was then stolen by a local taxi driver. The story of its sale and resale, and travel across the globe, are the subject of the widely acclaimed documentary “The Man Who Stole Banksy”. According to Julien’s Auctions: “The detached mural is the largest and most significant intact Banksy in existence from his visit to Israel.”

This Banksy Is In Bedford…

I‘m in the middle. For me, art in decorating is a compelling question which must be answered with exquisite balance. Decorating must be personal. My style is mostly traditional, with a nod to modern pieces to keep things fresh.
 
The color palette of any space is very important. I always want the room to feel rich and comfortable, while still looking light and clean. My go-to scheme is a lot of white or gray walls, with a few blue and white accents throughout.

Along the lines of one of the homes authors I first quoted, I recently replaced an oil painting in my home with an abstract of a pretty well-known artist. I tend to paint with acrylics on wood panels, using mostly soft blues and neutral colors. I can’t think of a more personal way to express yourself in interior design than through art. For me, that means showcasing my own work, which is becoming more and more of an emotional outlet (and potentially a vocation).

On the wall behind our breakfast table, we hung an art poster from the ‘80s for a Lichtenstein museum exhibit. The original poster was a bit larger with text on the bottom; we had the framer cut and crop it. We love the splash of color this poster brings to the whole kitchen and breakfast area.

​I like the suggestions to lean, rather than hang, some art, and to hang art where it’s least expected (in front of a bookshelf). And I really appreciate when art fits within the scheme, but still bedazzles. At a home on Smith Ridge Road in New Canaan, the homeowner hung a fabulous, large, black and white, photomosaic of Jackie Kennedy, by Robert Silvers, in the school of Chuck Close, in a back hallway off the kitchen. The powerful image, which is well lit, attracts attention from the kitchen/family room, making that living space more interesting, and giving more depth and substantiality to the hallway space.

​Again, the only rule is:

Thou Shalt Use Art In Decorating.

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