I had a couple of readers ask where I find artwork for our home for my most recent Magpie Mail post, so I thought I’d dedicate a post to a roundup of a few of my favorite sources. I will first say that I have discovered a few things about my taste in and approach to collecting art for my home over the past many years, and will provide those insights to set the table:
- Ideally, it’s better for me to collect pieces slowly. I tend to find that the most incredible pieces present themselves when I least expect them — and certainly not when I am desperately in search of a piece of art for that wall, and STAT. I am reminding myself to take this medicine right now, as we have a slew of guests scheduled for various entertaining occasions for the next few weeks, and I would like nothing more than to “finish” at least some of the rooms in our new apartment. But, in the long run, I know I would rather live with bare white walls for awhile than to rush into settling for something.
- One of the biggest problems I ran into early on was that I kept finding pieces I loved but buying them in a size 11×14 or 16×20 only to learn that those sizes were simply not suitable for the expanses of wall I tended to be hoping to cover. In my opinion, nothing looks sadder than a small, floating piece of art against a sea of painted wall. I’d almost rather have nothing at all! It’s tough because the bigger sizes tend to be exponentially more expensive than the smaller ones, but in the long run, I think it’s wiser to invest in fewer, bigger pieces.
- That said: a gallery wall has been a great solution for us in many of our homes as it has enabled us to cover a lot of wall space with small, well-loved pieces of art and memorobilia. Our new apartment may well be the only home in which we do not compile one.
- Framing is expensive. I nearly always underestimate the cost and feel furious when I discover that framing a $300 print will cost…close to $300. Ugh! There are some less expensive options — Framebridge, for example, or purchasing a frame yourself from a store like Pottery Barn (if the artwork is small enough) — but if you have something properly matted and framed, it costs a small fortune for reasons that are unclear to me. (Do I underestimate the craftsmanship and complexity of frame building?) Over time, I’ve just had to accept this cost and mentally round up when I am considering a work of art. I’ve finally come around to the same thinking when it comes to furniture — for years, I would “forget” or “overlook” the cost of shipping the furniture and now when I see the sticker price, I have to pause and remind myself it’s actually likely to be $200 extra for delivery. At any rate, the same goes for art and framing. This is also why I very much love stretched canvas artwork (not sure if that’s the official term) — you can hang it without a frame for a kind of painterly/modern look.
Now for a few of my favorite sources for artwork / artists I’ve been eyeing for a long while:
Sally King Benedict — I love the color and composition of her artwork. So fanciful and playful and feminine!
Inslee — I was a fan of hers long before we became friends. What a talent! I especially loved her series of figure studies last year and her more recent collection of color spots. I have a little watercolor of hers on my desktop right now as I write this!
Saatchi — This site requires more thorough investigation and study as it is essentially a marketplace for independent artists and you have to be patient and/or know what you are looking for to strike big. But I discovered and fell absolutely in love with a Spanish artist named Javier Montesol on the site and we invested in one of his large-format toro paintings (ours is close to six feet by six feet) — similar to this one. We had just returned from Spain when we purchased it for our new home in Chicago so it bore personal meaning to us for that reason, too. I absolutely love it. In the few minutes I spent scrolling around the site while writing this blurb, I also discovered this incredible oil on canvas and am daydreaming about it in our bedroom…
Paule Marrot Textiles — I have long lusted after one of these framed reproductions of the iconic textiles of Paule Marrot. I love this specific one with the birds, but this one with the doves is also gorgeous.
Andy Warhol Reproductions on Canvas (seen above in situ in a gorgeous interior design situation dreamed up by the one and only Bailey McCarthy) — I am actually not an enormous Andy Warhol fan (in fact even less so after seeing an exhibit on him at the Whitney earlier this year), but I have always appreciated his series “Cowboys and Indians” because it speaks to a complex and problematic part of American history that I studied fairly extensively as an undergraduate and I find some of the archetypes that he depicted in this series highly resonant with my own childhood iconography (I shared some adjacent musings on this topic here). I was thrilled when I one day found a reproduction on canvas of his General Custer portrait on eBay and have since come to learn that you can find similar pieces there regularly. Much of our artwork is more traditional, so this particular piece stands out. This Brigitte Bardot or this Elizabeth Taylor could play a similar role in a bedroom or closet or powder room in your home.
Charles Ryan Clarke Matchbooks — Such a cool way to memorialize an important restaurant in your life.
Framed Audubon Prints — My mother-in-law has enormous (poster-sized), vintage Audubon prints in her sitting room and they are gorgeous. I immediately emulated her by finding four small and non-vintage Audubon bird prints on Etsy and framed them myself when I was maybe 24 — but I have repurposed them in every single home I’ve had, though I’ve reframed them a few times. I love that there are so many varieties to select from, and this is one inexpensive way to line up a series of 11×14 or 16×20 prints to make a grand impact. You can find framed versions here or go it on your own here.
Old Try — For those with Southern roots / connections: I get incessant questions about my “Old Dominion” letterpress print from Old Try. It’s a lovely way to pay homage to Mr. Magpie’s home state and to our shared love of Charlottesville, VA.
Ashley Longshore — Specifically her Audrey series. So, so cool.
Etsy — This is vague but I have found so many insane pieces here. One of my favorite strategies is to thumb through one of my favorite interior design books (I especially love Nate Berkus) and, when struck by a particular piece of art, spend some time nosing around on Etsy searching from similar pieces. For example: “vintage oil on canvas horse” or “vintage bullfighting painting.” You just never know what you’ll find — for example, this original Francisco Goya, which I would promptly re-frame in a very modern setting (white wide mat and a slim black frame).
Mirrors! — They can be just as impactful as artwork. Anthro actually has some really cool, vintage-looking ones, like this, and I have a very inexpensive round mirror hanging on a leather strap that wins a lot of compliments in our home. Mirrors have the added advantage of making a room look bigger than it is.
Hunt Slonem Bunnies — Borderline iconic at this point, and very very expensive.
More generally (and I realize this is excessively vague): Mr. Magpie and I look for inspiration literally everywhere. In Chicago, we loved taking guests to Publican restaurant and they have these enormous, quirky pig paintings on the walls. I found a pair of (very, very small) versions in a similar vein on Etsy here that we then hung in Chicago home and they always bore personal reference to a cherished hangout of ours. Similarly, my mother-in-law has a series of silhouettes of Mr. Magpie at various ages hanging on her wall, and he commissioned one of mini that he in turn gifted both his mother and I for Christmas. My eyes are always peeled for similar inspiration — and when I run dry, I think back to my childhood. I considered hanging a series of vintage Babar prints (especially love this one) or vintage Madeline prints in mini’s room — both beloved characters from my youth.
Liminally related to this post: can I just say that this vacuum is one of the best investments we made to date (thank you to all the Magpies who encouraged me in this direction). The one I linked is the exact model we purchased and if you are in the market, let me say that while Miele is an incredible brand for home appliances, their various lines are very confusing. What’s the difference between a C1, C2, C3 vacuum?! So confusing. I ended up selecting the exact model above because it is optimized for (and comes with attachments for) both hardwood floors and high-pile carpets (and also upholstered furniture and more). It is AMAZING. It is so quiet, so powerful, and so easy to use. I love that it has a very long power cord, you can easily wheel it around (and carry it — it is light!), and there is a button to retract the power cord when done. It’s just brilliantly designed all around but — I’ll spare you a longer review. Trust me: it is one of the best purchases we’ve made recently. (And we’ve made a lot of purchases for our new home already.)
P.P.S. I’m kind of digging these tie-waist jeans.