Large Art: How Interior Designers Find It When Money Is Tight
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Large Art: How Interior Designers Find It When Money Is Tight

Here’s where design pros source large-scale decorations that don’t cost tens of thousands of dollars.

By Rebecca Malinsky
Mon, Feb 21, 2022 10:08amGrey Clock 4 min

LAUREN MCGRATH has spent the last decade fine-tuning her hunt for statement-making art that won’t break the bank. “Beautiful rugs and sofas are great, but if you don’t have anything on the walls, it doesn’t look complete,” said the Greenwich, Conn., interior designer. Many clients don’t think about art until the budget is tapped out.

Finding reasonably priced large-scale artwork to fill those gaping voids over beds and sofas is particularly tough. But if blue-chip paintings are beyond your reach, you aren’t doomed to hanging museum posters. Here, the newest ways design pros are filling big blank walls when cash is tight.

Wrap the Room

While it’s nice to dream of a virtuosic muralist gracing your room’s four walls with luscious landscapes or abstract panoramas, wallpapers can do that now much more affordably. Exhibit A: the Yunnan mural from French furnishings company Pierre Frey shown above. The misty mountains that envelop the Bethesda, Md., dining room by designer Erica Burns require no more adornment than a simple mirror over the mantel. Murals range from $8.16 a square foot, from online wallpaper purveyor Rebel Walls, to $488 for 24 square feet from West Elm. A 4-metre wide Hudson River landscape based on an antique etching runs approx. $829 on furnishings site One Kings Lane.

Ms. Burns has one warning for mural hangers: Avoid a single statement wall. Envelop the entire room for a modern, finished feel.

A digital tapestry by Zardi & Zardi warms up the bedroom of home restorer Greg Penn’s 19th-century Georgian house in Devon, England.
Dig a Digital Tapestry

Zardi & Zardi, founded by PJ Keeling, started digitally printing tapestries on linen in the early 2000s, at first just as placeholders for historic originals that were being restored. Soon, however, he was taking commissions from interior designers. Now the Gloucestershire, England, company sells its re-creations of European masterpieces online. A popular pastoral style about 7 feet wide, lined and weighted, costs approximately $1,900. “You get a million-dollar look that feels totally original,” said interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, who has hung these tapestries in a 12th-century castle in Italy and a home in Connecticut.

Greg Penn, a home restorer in Devon, England, hung a Zardi & Zardi tapestry in the cavernous bedroom of his 19th-century Georgian home. (The studio, which has sponsored posts on Mr. Penn’s @manwithahammer Instagram account, sent him the tapestry gratis.) The classic bucolic hanging warms the vast space and “helps with the acoustics,” he said.

A large-scale photograph by Werner Pawlok hangs in this Rye, N.Y., living room by Greenwich, Conn., interior design team McGrath II.
Stay Local

Small art shops are not only less intimidating than big-name, big-city galleries, they represent lesser-known artists who don’t yet command top dollar. “Starting at a more local level, when it comes to galleries, is the way you’re going to find big pieces that fill a space at an affordable price,” said Ms. McGrath, who nabbed the large-scale, signed photograph (shown above) for $1630 unframed. Her source: Lumas, a website and global network of small galleries whose aim is “the liberation of art” via reasonable prices.

When shopping the local market, room-size paintings—which fewer buyers can accommodate—can be a better deal than modestly scaled art, said Patrick Bradbury, owner of Tuxedo Park Junk Shop in Tuxedo Park, N.Y. He recently scored an 2.2-metres square acrylic work on canvas by American contemporary artist Allan Hacklin for approx. $300 at auction. He advises seeking out vintage shops that have a lot of space to fill. Given his own gallery’s expansive walls, he’s more likely to stock big art than boutique galleries with a small retail footprint. Another plus: Regional operations might let you take the art home so you can see it in situ.

A classroom-style map handsomely establishes a studious tone when hung over a desk in Hilversum, Netherlands.
Look to the Old World

A vintage classroom map of Europe takes up most of the wall behind Caley Weyman’s living room sofa. “It’s always the life of the party,” said the Toronto collectibles dealer. “It doesn’t have a date, so people are always looking for clues as to when it’s from.” She sells vintage wares through her Instagram shop @shipyardvintage and says maps sell immediately. She favours rolling classroom maps over flat maps for their durable vinyl finish, weighted wood dowels and built-in hardware. “They have longevity and hang nicely.” She sources hers at salvage and thrift shops and wouldn’t pay more than $400 for one. Schoolroom maps, which typically span 5 feet, not only bring a bigger statement into your home than a dinky print but convey an equally expansive sense of nostalgia and adventure.


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China’s EV Juggernaut Is a Warning for the West

Competitive pressure and creativity have made Chinese-designed and -built electric cars formidable competitors

Thu, Jun 8, 2023 4 min

China rocked the auto world twice this year. First, its electric vehicles stunned Western rivals at the Shanghai auto show with their quality, features and price. Then came reports that in the first quarter of 2023 it dethroned Japan as the world’s largest auto exporter.

How is China in contention to lead the world’s most lucrative and prestigious consumer goods market, one long dominated by American, European, Japanese and South Korean nameplates? The answer is a unique combination of industrial policy, protectionism and homegrown competitive dynamism. Western policy makers and business leaders are better prepared for the first two than the third.

Start with industrial policy—the use of government resources to help favoured sectors. China has practiced industrial policy for decades. While it’s finding increased favour even in the U.S., the concept remains controversial. Governments have a poor record of identifying winning technologies and often end up subsidising inferior and wasteful capacity, including in China.

But in the case of EVs, Chinese industrial policy had a couple of things going for it. First, governments around the world saw climate change as an enduring threat that would require decade-long interventions to transition away from fossil fuels. China bet correctly that in transportation, the transition would favour electric vehicles.

In 2009, China started handing out generous subsidies to buyers of EVs. Public procurement of taxis and buses was targeted to electric vehicles, rechargers were subsidised, and provincial governments stumped up capital for lithium mining and refining for EV batteries. In 2020 NIO, at the time an aspiring challenger to Tesla, avoided bankruptcy thanks to a government-led bailout.

While industrial policy guaranteed a demand for EVs, protectionism ensured those EVs would be made in China, by Chinese companies. To qualify for subsidies, cars had to be domestically made, although foreign brands did qualify. They also had to have batteries made by Chinese companies, giving Chinese national champions like Contemporary Amperex Technology and BYD an advantage over then-market leaders from Japan and South Korea.

To sell in China, foreign automakers had to abide by conditions intended to upgrade the local industry’s skills. State-owned Guangzhou Automobile Group developed the manufacturing know-how necessary to become a player in EVs thanks to joint ventures with Toyota and Honda, said Gregor Sebastian, an analyst at Germany’s Mercator Institute for China Studies.

Despite all that government support, sales of EVs remained weak until 2019, when China let Tesla open a wholly owned factory in Shanghai. “It took this catalyst…to boost interest and increase the level of competitiveness of the local Chinese makers,” said Tu Le, managing director of Sino Auto Insights, a research service specialising in the Chinese auto industry.

Back in 2011 Pony Ma, the founder of Tencent, explained what set Chinese capitalism apart from its American counterpart. “In America, when you bring an idea to market you usually have several months before competition pops up, allowing you to capture significant market share,” he said, according to Fast Company, a technology magazine. “In China, you can have hundreds of competitors within the first hours of going live. Ideas are not important in China—execution is.”

Thanks to that competition and focus on execution, the EV industry went from a niche industrial-policy project to a sprawling ecosystem of predominantly private companies. Much of this happened below the Western radar while China was cut off from the world because of Covid-19 restrictions.

When Western auto executives flew in for April’s Shanghai auto show, “they saw a sea of green plates, a sea of Chinese brands,” said Le, referring to the green license plates assigned to clean-energy vehicles in China. “They hear the sounds of the door closing, sit inside and look at the quality of the materials, the fabric or the plastic on the console, that’s the other holy s— moment—they’ve caught up to us.”

Manufacturers of gasoline cars are product-oriented, whereas EV manufacturers, like tech companies, are user-oriented, Le said. Chinese EVs feature at least two, often three, display screens, one suitable for watching movies from the back seat, multiple lidars (laser-based sensors) for driver assistance, and even a microphone for karaoke (quickly copied by Tesla). Meanwhile, Chinese suppliers such as CATL have gone from laggard to leader.

Chinese dominance of EVs isn’t preordained. The low barriers to entry exploited by Chinese brands also open the door to future non-Chinese competitors. Nor does China’s success in EVs necessarily translate to other sectors where industrial policy matters less and creativity, privacy and deeply woven technological capability—such as software, cloud computing and semiconductors—matter more.

Still, the threat to Western auto market share posed by Chinese EVs is one for which Western policy makers have no obvious answer. “You can shut off your own market and to a certain extent that will shield production for your domestic needs,” said Sebastian. “The question really is, what are you going to do for the global south, countries that are still very happily trading with China?”

Western companies themselves are likely to respond by deepening their presence in China—not to sell cars, but for proximity to the most sophisticated customers and suppliers. Jörg Wuttke, the past president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, calls China a “fitness centre.” Even as conditions there become steadily more difficult, Western multinationals “have to be there. It keeps you fit.”


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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