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How Do YOU Choose A Picture - Your Art - For Over Your Fireplace

Assuming you're one who likes to hang a picture above your fireplace (knowing that's not everyone's taste) how do you make the choice of what to put there?

The subject matter?

And how do you choose your subject....

Is it of a place where you'd like to be?

A place you've been?

Is it of something "meaningful" to you?

Architecture that appeals to you?

Something by an artist you admire?

Florals and Botanicals?

The Colors used in the painting "goes with" the room..?

I like everything! But, I need to bring some discipline into it and pick one thing. How do YOU pick?

Comments (28)

  • wi-sailorgirl
    13 years ago

    I am really fussy about art. It has to speak to me. It can't just be a beautiful painting or picture that I would love in anyone else's house ... it has to move me emotionally somehow.

    Probably 10 years ago now, Coastal Living featured an artist who's work was amazing. I didn't save their name and I've contact Coastal Living for some help to no avail. I doubt I could afford one of this artist's pieces, but THAT would have been perfect for a special spot in my living room.

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  • lynninnewmexico
    13 years ago

    I LOVE art! I minored in it in college. I collect it. I love going to gallery openings, museums and to arts & crafts fairs just to admire it. It doesn't have to be original and it doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to make me happy every time I look at it . . . that's my criteria.
    What I'd suggest you do is go to an online place like and take the time to casually look through a good part of their selections. Find out types of art you like best. And then, decide which of your favorites would work best in your home/room/over your fireplace.

    For me, although I can admire Abstract, Botanicals, Americana, etc. art, I wouldn't want to live with them.
    What I love most are landscapes where you feel like you can walk right into them . . . and that place is a beautiful and comfortable place that I'd want to be in (nothing that looks sun-baked or hot). I also like color photography of landscapes and animals, especially horses. And, living here in the Southwest for the past 27 years, I also really like Spanish Colonial art and SW still lifes. But I dislike anything cliched (no howling coyotes or pastel pueblos),cutesy (DeGrazia comes to mind) or over-produced (Georgia O'Keeffe or RC Gorman).

    Over the fireplace in our living room, we have a Southwestern watercolor still life by NM artist Michael McCullough. On either side of it, we have pastel paintings by NM artist, Malinda Menke. One's a landscape and the other is a nature study of a chamisa bush in Autumn, which we have everywhere on our property. We didn't go to buy a specific painting, but just figured that we'd know when we saw the right ones . . . and we did.

    In our MBR, I was looking for a landscape, but a softer, more romantic one that would still work with our home and bedroom's style. I knew the moment I saw this watercolor by NM artist, Sean Wimberly, that it would be perfect. Many years later, I still love it. Sorry that I don't have a close-up of it to share here. It's not above my fireplace, because all but one of our fp's are kivas and you can't hang anything above them.

    Sorry, I get talking about art ~ anybody's art~ and I can get carried away a bit. But, those were my personal reasons for buying the art that I did. I think that, if you take the time to look at a lot of different styles of art and then try to analyze why you like specific pieces, and why you dislike others, you'll have better luck in shopping for a great one that's just right for you.

  • dakota01
    13 years ago

    Easy answer - I love horses! I could put a simple piece of just an elegant horse or do an english hunt scene, western prairie look, etc. Any of those looks would bring me delight.

    Yes, I would think the colors and feel of the room need to coordinate with the piece of art.

    BUT, I have a piece that didn't match any room/hall of my prior home and I put in the kitchen. I always told people, I know if "doesn't go"here, but I love the art so much that I want to look at it everyday and many times a day.

    Family and friends know my passion for horses, so they understood why I wanted to look at that piece all the time.

  • RoseAbbey
    13 years ago

    I am struggling with this issue right now. I have fallen in love with a metal wall decor, sailboat on the blue sea, I would like to hang that on my stone fireplace. I dont have any blue in the room. I dont want to change anything else in the room by adding more blue. I usually like my art to go with the room color wise. Many believe art doesnt have too. Not sure what to do.

  • kkay_md
    13 years ago

    I collect original art, and I have eclectic taste. Currently over my fireplace are two portraits by the same artist, one of me (from many years ago) and a more recent portrait of a man. They happen to be nearly identical in size, and are the same technique, so they make a nice pair.

    I don't select art to "go" with my furnishings--I just buy a piece if I love it (and can afford it), and then try to find a suitable place for it in my house (a daunting proposition, as my collection keeps growing, but my house does not). At a recent art show I bought a very large, colorful painting of a reclining woman, and she is now on the wall opposite my fireplace. Thrilling.

    I once bought a large oil painting of a single pear, very dark and shadowy, but with a beautiful golden fruit. It's in my dining room. Some years later I found a large piece of pressed tin from an old ceiling, with that same glowing golden color, and almost exactly the same size as the pear painting. I hung the tin directly over the pear (tall ceilings in that room) and the marriage of the two seems right to me. I like to move my art around (it seems to refresh the eye), but right now, I'm quite happy with things.

  • Sueb20
    13 years ago

    Many years ago we bought the painting that is hanging over our fireplace. It was a big splurge -- we had gone to a gallery and met the artist, and loved all her work. We didn't buy the painting then, but later saw her work at a different gallery and decided it was time to buy. It was our first 'significant' art purchase. DH and I both loved the colors and the mood. Also, we had space constraints because the space over our fireplace isn't large, and we have sconce lights over the mantle. Anyway, the painting has been there for probably 6 years now and we both still love it.

    I find the over-the-sofa space to be more challenging. We finally just bought a painting for that space last week, after having 'temporary' art there for many years. It was worth the wait! We have a problem, though -- we went to a gallery to find this *one* piece to hang over the sofa, and left with *three* new paintings.

    As kkay said, our collection wants to grow, but we're running out of walls. DH said he loves our house but the only reason he'd ever consider moving would be to get a bigger space so we could buy more art!

  • mclarke
    13 years ago

    I don't select art to "go" with the room, but I do take the room into consideration.

    If the room is all warm colors, I wouldn't throw a mint-green painting on the wall... Even if I loved the mint-green painting, it would throw the room out of balance.

    I think you have to consider the whole room as part of your artistic statement, not just the stuff that's in the frame.

    This doesn't mean that I have to pick a painting that "goes with" my sofa... but I bet I can find an appealing painting which complements the color, shape and texture of my sofa.

  • Oakley
    13 years ago

    Roseabbey, I bet the blue art piece would look nice. I say this because when we picked out our rug for the back of the room, the main color was a light teal blue. I didn't have one blue object in the room!

    We bought it anyway and I was shocked at how nice it looks in there. Now I've added a few blue pieces to the room.

  • forhgtv
    13 years ago

    I tend to like landscapes/seascapes; they don't have to be representational. The picture I have over my fireplace is a moody impressionistic watercolor of an area in my town painted by a local artist. I had it re-matted and re-framed so that the scale was right for its current placement.

  • palimpsest
    13 years ago

    For a spot over the mantle or other real focal point it is really important that the art be meaningful...or I use a mirror or nothing.

    My one fireplace has two small 18th c. japanese woodcuts that are not Hiroshige, but contemporary to the period. Too small technically, but they are two of the things I like most to look at.

    The other fireplace has a gigantic mirror (probably too big) over it, because I don't have another piece that warrants the spot. I tend to leave a space blank before i will use a space filler.

  • kkay_md
    13 years ago

    My living room is a cool gray-green. Several pieces in that room are decidedly not from that palette, but have lively and warm colors. I never select a piece of art on the basis of complementing furniture, though once a piece of art is "in the family," I try to achieve a harmonious whole. I think that harmony can be achieved quite aside from the color of a piece. (I do tend to mix a lot of patterns and colors overall--but it works for me.)

    Reclining woman

    Portraits over fireplace

    Pear (before pressed tin piece was added above it)

  • red_eared_slider86
    13 years ago

    As wi-sailorgirl said, it has to speak to me, or, in this case, you.

    I have found that since I am attracted to all sorts of styles, simply going with something that pleases me at the moment won't necessarily look good in the house. So I would suggest that perhaps you should step back and try to focus on your overall design style first. What is your house/livingroom telling you should go there?

    We like dark woods and leather, which fits into our Old World/Mexican style, so we have a mirror over our fireplace that has a heavy, dark, intricately carved frame. It works.

  • lala girl
    13 years ago

    I fell in love with a simple painting and did end up planing the room around it - it helped me focus on the colors that could go in there. The antlers helped keep it from looking too prissy :-) I like a pretty simple look so it works for me.

  • sergeantcuff
    13 years ago

    I am still looking for a great piece that warrants that spot over the fireplace. I think I could find something quite easily if I had unlimited funds. It is also hard to find something larger for over the sofa. I am good at scrounging around and have picked up some good finds, but nothing large enough or "special" enough.

  • teacats
    13 years ago

    For the warmer months we hang an old oil portrait of a lady in cool greens -- and the sisal rug is put down. The room is very sparse in decorations and there is lots of cool open spaces on tables.

    In the Fall season -- just in time for Halloween -- a spooky old portrait of "The Admiral" (just OUR name for him) goes up -- and room is suitably decorated in Halloween/ghostly/ghastly tablescapes and colors.

    In the winter -- our very old portait of an Elizabethan gal dressed in red is hung. Then the old Heriz rug is laid -- along with other old area rugs around the house. Decor of suitable warm tones of deep old reds, plums and golds are placed around the area.

    Just depends on the season -- and the reason! LOL! I like to move artworks, accessories -- even rugs -- around to suit the weather.

    Here are some examples -- but remember that I switch around the accessories all of the time! LOL!

    1) Halloween Mantel

    2) Summer Mantel

    3) Winter Mantel

  • awm03
    13 years ago

    Jan those paintings are terrific, as are your mantel decorations.

  • kiki_redo
    13 years ago

    i'm having a portrait painted of my daughter. i've had the idea for a long while, but a few years ago i stumbled over the perfect match for me in a local artist! i've been on her waiting list for two years and hooray! this summer she photographed my 7 year old daughter on a gorgeous day, in a high mountain area. i'm honestly not sure when i'll get my painting, but i knew when we started this process that it might be a long while before i received a finished watercolor.

    it's funny, i was there during the photographing - but i don't know when she paints how predominant the sky and rocks and greenery will be or if she'll focus in more on my daughter's skin tones or hair - so i have no idea of the color palette.

    i'm going to hang it over my fireplace, where it can be seen from most of my home - so, i can't do a single thing to redo my livingroom/diningroom area. it's all ugly late 70s and needs utterly redone - and i'm refusing to do any of it until i see my painting because i'd like to start from there - so i'm just waiting and waiting ...

  • Delilah66
    13 years ago

    Jan - I love that you change the fp decor with the season. I never can seem to do that. Halloween is come and gone and I'm just now trying to pick out the fall items that could stay out through T'giving!

  • teacats
    13 years ago

    awm03 and javachik: Thanks!!! What nice thoughts!!

    As for changing things around -- well -- I just love to "rotate and reorganize" items in rooms -- so that the whole space feels fresher! And I just mix things that I already have .... with the exception of candles of course! LOL! :)

    DH always laughs when he sees me carrying items around the whole house -- looking for the perfect spot or just the "right" arrangement for the day! :)

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  • mjsee
    13 years ago

    I didn't have any art over the mantel for YEARS...just stuff ON the mantel that shifted with the seasons. Then The Husband and I took a trip to CA...and came home with a landscape. We bought it because we loved it...and it reminded us of the trip. Now it hangs above the mantel;

    (Terrible photo...but it's all I've got uploaded at the moment.)

    All the art we own we've bought because we love it. And we have to agree with each other. Which means we sometimes pass on stuff that one or the other isn't fond of.

  • mjsee
    13 years ago

    Found a better picture!

  • IdaClaire
    13 years ago

    What lovely photos are posted above! I too collect original artwork and while my taste is eclectic, I am most often drawn to images of the southwest and Mexico/Latin America because of my own life's experiences. Hanging over my fireplace is a 1920s-era photo of Hopi basketmaker for which my Dad crafted a beautiful frame. It's one of my favorite treasures.

  • doonie
    13 years ago

    I searched for an artist whose work I loved. My DM stumbled across one at a Dallas Art Festival. Then I communicated back and forth
    via email about the colors and subject matter and he did a commissioned work for me of the yellow Aspens.

  • velmashepherd
    13 years ago

    My husband wanted to put up this ugly reproduction of a horse race painting that he found at a garage sale, I told him "give me a week, I'll find something better online!" I wanted a modern look, some realisitc photography, but I didn't want black and white because we have so many b&w prints in the house already. I finally bought a color print of a park scene (some park in NYC, I'm not sure which) at a web site called Brooklyn Prints.

    Every mantle is different, of course; I had just enough space to put up a 16x20 print in a wood frame. Our fireplace is for decoration only, so we didn't have to worry about heat damage to the frame or the print, but it is something to think about too.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Brooklyn Prints

  • scanmike
    13 years ago

    I have the same dilemna. Originally I needed more color so I bought something at HOme Goods because it was the right size and colors, but it's not me. It's too modern and it's okay for now. I don't feel like spending money until I find something I really love. I would prefer orginal art than just purchasing some print I found at Home Goods. I was thinking of those decorative iron pieces to put above mine. I have picture frame molding on my walls so I need something 34 " by 34" to fit.

  • segbrown
    13 years ago

    I picked the only thing we have that fit into the moulding. It's actually a very nice antique print of a map of Venice. It "goes" fine but it isn't terribly inspirational. One day we'll find something perfect... (and I know it doesn't have to fit inside the moulding, either)

  • susanwrites
    13 years ago

    We went through this with both fireplaces. One I found a landscape that I loved and I am planning a room around it. The other fireplace is in the library and I wanted something that had some sort of a literary connection but also spoke to me. I ended up with this one called The Tempest.

    While this is not my blue room, I have a few bits of my blue and white in here so the blue in it worked for me. And there's a tiny piece of red that just pops.