A few years ago we posed the question, “Why do we need art in our homes?”
While it feels like a simple question, with an even simpler answer, the truth is that it goes way beyond bringing a little color into the living room.
Art breathes life into a space. It allows us to express ourselves, encouraging dialogue and welcoming emotion. It reminds us of what is possible—all to help turn an ordinary house into a home.
So, why not try selling your art to interior designers?
While artists often have their sights set on the "almighty" gallery, the interior design market is vast and the need for new art is endless. In fact, in 2023 there were only 5,000 art galleries in the U.S. and over a whopping 180,000 interior designers. That’s over thirty times as many interior designers as art galleries in the United States.
If you’re curious about this often-overlooked alternative and are wondering where to get started, today’s your lucky day!
We reached out to three amazing interior designers in the Colorado area to learn firsthand about the design process, how they find new artists and works to use, their tips for reaching out to designers, and much more.
Here’s what they revealed:
Art is more than just a pretty picture
“When sourcing art for others, I look for pieces that will resonate and have meaning for my clients,” explains Jennifer Rhode, a commercial and residential designer in the Boulder area who lives for modern, cozy designs.
“I think the art should be a reflection of the loves and passions and interests of the people living in the home,” she says. “There should be a connection that helps tell the story of the family in the home.”
“I also really like when my clients can meet the artist or commission their own pieces, that way they can learn the story behind the piece or even be a part of the story,” adds Jennifer.
In other words, it’s way more personal than simply matching the art to the curtains because clients will be looking at these pieces for years to come. It’s their space to live in and it should celebrate who they are.
Margarita Bravo, a Denver-based designer with an eye for blending her clients’ styles and her own creativity, embraces this philosophy as well:
“If I were to purchase a new piece, recommend someone, or suggest a piece of art to a client, I just go at it open-minded. This is somewhat of a delicate balance because art pieces are such crucial, central pieces in interior design. The artwork has to fit at multiple levels—the space and the client’s personality,” expresses Margarita.
That being said, not all interior designers take such delight in choosing these finishing pieces.
Different designers have different design philosophies, just as artists do.
“I have found that many designers don't know a lot about how to make art part of their overall design. They think of it as a separate, last-minute accessory,” asserts eclectic designer and award-winning artist Meg Miller—not to mention one of our fave Artwork Archive users!
Whether that’s true of the designers you are working with, it’s important to remember how helpful you can then be during the design process.
“I tend to integrate art into my designs early on, and do creative problem solving that involves artwork, art installations or wall coverings, etc. I use different materials, sizes and installation techniques to make my work fit in creatively,” says Meg. “If artists can become a creative, flexible, problem-solving resource for designers, then you can build a relationship that's more than just selling ‘a painting.’”
That’s an important piece of advice to keep in mind: think about what you can do for these designers, not just what they can do for you. Position yourself as a problem solver, someone who can help make their life/job/day easier, and they will turn to you time and time again.
Some pieces work better than others in the design world
When asked what types of artworks these designers look for to include in their designs, one theme started to emerge.
“I look for cohesiveness, abstract, bold colors,” replied Margarita. “I am also drawn to bold color and joyful pieces,” Jennifer added.
And it’s not just because of their own tastes.
“I think there are some works that are compelling and important to experience (Guernica, for example) that would be difficult to live with,” explains Jennifer. “I want the art in my home and the homes of my clients to be uplifting and provide joy.”
That’s the nature of interior design. Certain types of works are simply easier to include, and it all has to do with the mood you want to create for the space you are living in. But, that doesn’t mean all designers and clients want bold abstracts. Different rooms may beg for different styles of art—pieces that make you think for an office space, pieces that are calming for a bedroom, and so on.
“People hire designers who have an aesthetic and style that resonates with them. It's the same principle for buying art from an artist. It's all subjective, and based on taste and style,” reminds Meg. So, don’t get discouraged if you’re not the right match for a certain designer or project! The next person and space to come along might be begging to display your work.
“Ultimately,” reveals Margarita, “I look for my breath to be taken away when the piece is standing there where it belongs.”
Want to get discovered? Go where the designers go.
“New artistic discoveries are frequently happenstance,” admits Jennifer. “I see a piece in a local show and reach out to the artist. Or, I am traveling and see something in a shop or gallery that strikes me. I also spend a lot of time on Etsy or just googling artists whose pieces I've come across.”
Margarita agrees, as her approach includes, “Networking, traveling, and attending as many events as possible while paying attention to what’s new and who’s up and coming.”
But, it’s not always traveling to the biggest and bustling cities.
“I try my best to source locally,” says Margarita. “I believe promoting from within the community is a good way to stay connected, and give back.” “I love to purchase art from local artists or from areas that have meaning for my clients,” echoes Jennifer. “I am constantly going to galleries and local shows.”
It’s clear—art can be found anywhere. That’s why it’s so important to always be prepared for when opportunities arise.
For starters, put the work into your online art portfolio. You want to wow designers when they first set eyes on your art, not turn them away. And even if they love your art and can get past some portfolio hiccups, designers do not want to be making excuses for your poorly-presented portfolio to their own clients. Professionalism pays off!
Then, besides submitting to shows that are right for you and building up your social media presence, work hard on keeping your art inventory organized. Why? Designers may want to see your latest and greatest pieces, collections that can work together for one project, and which pieces are available to use in a design and when—they have deadlines to meet after all.
Being prepared for a last-minute request is often the key to sealing a deal, reminds art business coach Danielle Glosser, whether it’s interior designers, gallerists, art consultants, or independent collectors.
It also pays to be proactive
With so much competition among artists, even locally, you may not want to wait for interior designers to find you. “I love when artists reach out to me and share their work. Those are my favorite emails in my inbox!” exclaims Jennifer. So, don’t be afraid to go for it!
However, there is an art to reaching out explains Meg:
“My advice to artists who are reaching out to designers? DO YOUR HOMEWORK. You can find hundreds of designers on HOUZZ, but make sure your work suits their style. Be honest, genuine and personal in order to form a connection. And most importantly, be honest with yourself about whether or not your work is right for their projects.
“Don't send a form letter that says you love a designer's style, and then send traditional landscapes, western art, or florals if they do mostly modern, urban, edgy design (this is ripped out of my own playbook),” she insists.
“As a fellow artist, I'm always open to seeing someone else's artwork. Especially if they reach out to me. But I will immediately delete their email if I can tell that their letter is a blanket form letter and that they have never really seen my work. Bottom line: Know yourself, know your aesthetic niche, and know your target audience.
“And be creative with your marketing—you're an artist after all,” adds Meg with a wink.
Margarita agrees: “Be yourself. But be visible. We live in an era of information overload and it is hard to stand out. Yet, it is possible. Promoting your work is as important as the work itself.”
Do not forget the final piece of the puzzle: selling
One of the biggest mistakes artists make when selling their works believes Margarita? Too aggressive when selling their pieces. “That is something I have seen from time to time,” she acknowledges.
Focus on nailing the sale just as much as creating the art. Just as Meg mentioned earlier, take time to learn what type of art these designers are looking for—budget, style, colors, subjects, the works! Don’t waste their time on pushing artwork that doesn’t fit their needs. Again, even if your pieces aren’t right for their current project, they may be perfect for the next one!
The two things you should focus on? Being prepared and professional, so you can build a long-lasting relationship with each designer (and hopefully get some repeat business).
Meg's tip? “Designers usually get trade discount pricing when they purchase things for their clients. This means that they buy it at a discount, and then sell to their client's at retail (if they have a mark-up clause in their contracts.) This can be anywhere from ten to forty percent. Offer something. You pick the percentage of the discount,” she advises. That being said, you have to be vigilant in valuing your art correctly.
“I think most artists don't charge enough for their work!” admits Jennifer.
In creative fields especially, it can be easy to let your emotions dictate your pricing. But the cornerstone of making more sales and having a profitable art business is staying consistent in your pricing.
The bottom line?
Interior designers should not be overlooked when it comes to your art selling strategy! They are a powerful group of professionals in the art world that deal with buying and selling art on a daily basis.
Understanding how they operate, what they look for, and how to get on their radar will help you gain more advocates, and ultimately more income from your artwork!