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How to Incorporate Antique Artwork Into Your Home

There’s something to be said for home decorations that have lived a whole lifetime before they find their way to you. 

Vintage sofas with hand-carved wooden legs and elaborately etched glass jugs used decades ago to sling wine in Italy don’t have that straight-from-the-store glimmer, but oh, the stories they could tell. 

That’s the way Emily Reynolds of Anonyma Fine Art views artwork: Vintage and antique artwork offers a backstory and level of interest that can’t be matched by brand new or store-bought pieces.

“It’s that feeling of owning something that you know is one-of-a-kind versus mass-produced, that there are 5,000 more of floating around out there, or something digitally printed by a computer,” Reynolds said recently from inside her Oklahoma City art gallery. “It’s convenient to be able to order three of something and have it shipped in a week, but it’s not special. And if you have this beautiful home and you want to entertain, and you have striking, one-of-a-kind, interesting artwork, it’s going to spark conversation.”

Interest in antique artwork has exploded in the past year, with “antique artwork” finding its way onto many top trends roundups for 2020, like this piece from Good Housekeeping. If you’re like many others who are curious about growing their collections, read on to see Reynolds’ tips for incorporating antique artwork into your home, whether it’s newly built or lived in for ages.

Tips for Collecting Antique Artwork

Reynolds collects artwork by unidentified, untrained and under-recognized artists from all around the world. While you won’t find any van Goghs or Klimts on her walls, you will find oil paintings, sculptures and original prints you haven’t seen anywhere else.

“There’s still a lot of mystery to the pieces I collect,” she said. “I think that’s fun. Maybe the person who made it — who knows who they were — they might not have gotten the recognition that they deserved, but they were still very talented. I like that aspect.”

When it comes to antique artwork, the definition can be a little subjective. In the antique category, Reynolds places anything created before the early part of the 20th century. However, others might combine any “vintage,” or 20th century, artwork into the antique category as well.

Definitions aside, if you’re looking to incorporate artwork with a story to tell, consider Reynolds’ tips below.

Tip 1: Connect with an Art Dealer

Reynolds suggests looking online to recognize what you’re drawn to, but then find an art dealer to guide you to unique pieces you’ll love. Connecting with an art dealer will allow you to glean expertise from those in the industry while also seeing what pieces look like within your home before you buy. While you might gravitate toward certain types of pieces, you should also keep an open mind for artwork that might seem out of your comfort zone, or pieces you wouldn’t initially imagine in your home. 

Reynolds thought back to a recent project with a couple who loved portraiture and owned a beautiful, remodeled home in Nichols Hills. After touring their home, taking photographs and jotting down dimensions, she returned with lots of portraits she knew the couple would like, but also a broad range of other artwork.

“You really do sometimes need to get things into someone’s home and literally put them into place,” she said. “They ended up buying artwork they said they never would have if I’d only sent them an image file and said ‘What about these for this spot?’ But seeing them in their home, with the colors of the room, the lighting and how they play off of other artwork, they could actually see they were right for the space.”

Reynolds even met the couple at a local framing shop to advise on framing, matting and installation of the pieces they bought.

Tip 2: Identify Your Top Locations

Next, figure out which locations in your home are most important to you. If you spend a lot of time in your family room, consider spotlighting some framed antique artwork above your mantel. Perhaps there’s another spot in your home that you pass by or look at frequently. Think about the room, the style and the color palette.

Tip 3: Consider the Age of Your Home

Introducing lots of antique artwork into an older home might make sense initially, but it could cause your home to feel more like a museum than an inviting space for your family to enjoy. Consider more modern work in an older home, to contrast with the architecture. 

The same can be said for newly constructed homes having all-new artwork. 

“Having an older piece of artwork, something that has craquelure on the surface of the painting, something that clearly has a history, it adds soul to the space and creates a nice tension between this brand new home with these really nice, brand new furnishings, and the older artwork.”

Tip 4: Take Your Time

You’ll have much better luck filling your space with antique artwork you love if you take your time, Reynolds said.

“If you’re new to collecting and you want to put some older artwork in your home, I would avoid having that ‘get it all done in one fell swoop’ impulse; buy piece by piece instead,” she said, adding that it’s OK to buy two or three pieces at a time if they really speak to you.

“If you see something like that, truly, buy it, because it’ll be gone if it’s a one-of-a-kind piece.”

Tip 5: Mix Up Your Media, Artists and Colors

Diversity is key. If you’re leaning toward lots of colors, consider sprinkling in some black-and-white artwork like charcoal sketches or black-and-white photography that won’t fight with other colors.

Shoot for a variety of artists as well, whether that’s age, male versus female artists or country of origin. Their points of view and how they see the world will be different, making your art collection all the more interesting.

And lastly, mix up your media. Sure, incorporate paintings on canvas, but don’t forget drawings, sculptures and photographs.

Now that you’re equipped with the know-how to incorporate antique artwork into your home, get more style inspiration from our blog! Learn how to create your own audio room or decorate your nightstand.