5 Interior Design Ideas for Inexpensive Art
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5 Interior Design Ideas for Inexpensive Art

From wall rugs to framed memories, interior designers share their low-cost alternatives.

By Elizabeth Anne Hartman
Thu, Sep 2, 2021 11:05amGrey Clock 3 min

TURNS OUT you can improve the way you feel by lazily staring at nicely decorated walls. “Incorporating art and colour into your home design will have a positive impact on your mood and overall health,” said Jessica Shaw of New York’s Turett Collaborative architecture and design firm, citing studies from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. And the nerve-calming wall installation doesn’t have to be a 19th-century Arcadian masterpiece. It can be baskets, even an array of hats. “It’s authenticity that counts,” Ms. Shaw said. “What is that thing for you? What gives you a hit of dopamine or serotonin? If a collection of old Levi’s is a genuine reflection of you, go ahead and frame them.” Other substitutes for pricey artwork: a group of trip mementos, a public-domain photograph that reflects your obsession with katydids. Here, design pros offer their favourite low-cost alternatives to an Alice Neel original.

Frame a Freebie Photo

Put your tax dollars to work for your décor. You can get copyright-free or public-domain images from the wide-ranging collections of public and federally funded institutions such as the Library of Congress and NASA. For an amateur photographer’s Brooklyn townhouse, local designer Lauren Stern printed and framed this shot of the far side of the moon taken by Arizona State University’s telescope. “Really large and graphic pieces can be hard to find, but photographs can be enlarged to any size.” High resolution is a must, she warned. Find university image collections through the institution’s home page.

Don’t Let Carpets Lie Like Rugs

Scrolling through Etsy, Austin designer Sarah Stacey spotted this large, colourful Boucherouite rug for $400 that perfectly fit the upbeat atmosphere of a small home about to welcome a baby. The plush Moroccan rag rug played well with the punchy pinks and blues of the living room furniture. From geometric Mexican carpets to English needlepoint rugs, you can find a style to suit pretty much any room. Against a large-patterned wallpaper, try a small-patterned rug that will complement rather than compete. For a less-casual room, select a tighter weave. (For inexpensive Moroccan rugs, try the clearance tab on benisouk.com)

Bundle Baskets

“Multidimensional installations are a great way to customize a space,” said Andrea DeRosa, co-founder of Avenue Interior Design in Los Angeles. Try black and beige baskets against a beige wall, said Genna Margolis, owner of L.A.’s Shapeside design studio. “The black really pops.” Or “go with the overall aesthetic,” advised fellow Angeleno Christine Markatos Lowe. In a tropical home, she hung these finely woven Indonesian versions over an equally elegant and organic rattan bench. Ten Thousand Villages sells baskets handmade in developing countries.

Tack Up a Table Runner

Textiles on a wall not only stand in well for expensive art, they add coziness, noted Kathleen Rubin, owner of interior design studio Room Is Blue, in Austin, Texas. Recently she discovered these table runners designed by Tabria Willford, founder of local textile company Tawa Threads, and block-printed by hand by a family in India. “Tabria’s runners, with their bold patterns and colours, can make a big impact if you hang several of them—framed or unframed.” (approx. $80 each, tawathreads.com) Like rugs, table runners can be found in myriad styles, from antique Aubusson tapestries to geometric linen patchworks. For unusual finds, Ms. Rubin recommends trolling online artisanal retailers.

Repurpose a Memento

“Art that engages is the best kind of art,” said Los Angeles designer Amy Sklar. After stumbling upon a journal her husband had diligently kept at age 10, she singled out a particularly charming page, then had it enlarged, professionally photographed and framed—and gave it to him as an anniversary gift (shown). “My kids think it’s hysterical, and it’s become a conversation piece,” she said. And you needn’t only draw from your own history. In Philadelphia, Melinda Kelson O’Connor framed the original blueprints of a 1910s home. “If you don’t have blueprints from your own home, you can choose a vintage set to hang, selecting from a housing type or historic time period that interests you,” she said. For example, a high-resolution image of Gustave Eiffel’s plans for the iconic Paris tower, published in 1900, can be licensed from Getty Images for approx. $677.


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The designer’s Mind: Delving into the Best Interior Design Books
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Wed, May 24, 2023 3 min

There’s no shortage of design inspiration online but nothing beats the joy of spending an afternoon immersing yourself in a good interior design book. Edited, carefully curated and, above all, designed, these titles take you behind the scenes of some of the world’s most beautiful interiors in a considered way. Think of it like the difference between listening to a few tunes on Spotify versus releasing a thoughtfully crafted studio album. We’ve assembled our top six of interior design books on the market right now for your viewing and reading pleasure.

1. Interiors beyond the primary palette 

Arent & Pyke: Interiors Beyond the Primary Palette : Arent & Pyke, Arent, Juliette, Pyke, Sarah-Jane: Amazon.com.au: Books

Step inside the world of award-winning interior design duo Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke in this, their first compendium of their work. A ‘best of’ over more than 15 years working together, it’s a masterclass in working with colour and pattern as seen through 18 projects from around the country. With a focus on the idea of home as sanctuary, this hefty tome offers insight into the mind of the designer with points on where to find  inspiration, meeting client briefs and the importance of relationships. Thames & Hudson, $120

2 House of Joy

House of Joy - Playful Homes and Cheerful Living - gestalten EU Shop

If there was ever a book title for our times, then this is it. With a subtitle of Playful Homes and Cheerful Living, this book champions fun in interior design, with bold and bright homes from around the world to delight and inspire. While there’s a good dose of the unexpected, like a disco ball in the garden, there’s no mayhem in these spaces. Instead, they’re beautifully executed to tempt even the most colour shy. Gestalten, $105  

3. Abigail Ahern Masterclass

Abigail Ahern's Masterclass :HarperCollins Australia

Some design books are beautiful to look at, and that’s it. This is not one of those books. A master of colour and pattern, UK designer Ahern offers a practical foundational guide to beautiful interiors, mixing form with function in her latest book, Masterclass. Find the inspiration you need to create a gorgeous home. HarperCollins, $65  

4. Interiors Now!

Looking for a visual crash course in international design trends with longevity? This is the book for you. Featuring homes across the globe, from New York to Auckland via Avignon, the biggest dilemma for readers is settling on a style. Many of the projects are owned by designers and creatives, lending a dynamic edge to this tome, now in its 40th year. Taschen, $50

5. Home by the Sea 

Home by the Sea, The Surf Shacks and Hinterland Hideaways of Byron Bay by Natalie Walton | 9781743798256 | Booktopia

For many Australians, the ocean holds an almost hypnotic appeal. Home by the Sea by Natalie Walton lets you imagine, for a little while at least, what it’s like living the dream in a beach shack in Byron Bay. The book tours 18 homes in and around the region and the hinterland owned by artists, designers and makers. With photography by Amelia Fullarton, it champions the good life. Hardie Grant, $60            

6. The Layered Interior

The Layered Interior - Greg Natale

Released last year, this is the third volume from award-winning interior designer Greg Natale. Different in format from his earlier books, the eight projects featured are Australian but with a slight Euro-centric focus. The writing is conversational, almost intimate, inviting the reader into the most luxurious spaces beautifully captured by photographer Anson Smart. This coffee table tome is perfect for dreamers and doers alike. Rizzoli, $110 


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