How to decorate with abstract art

Abstract art continues to be one of the most popular styles used in decorating, and is easy to find in many places. If you are thinking of adding abstract art to your decor, you may be wondering if there is anything special to consider when styling your space. Here are a few tips for decorating with abstract art to get the full potential from its unique genre.

Six examples of abstract art, which is a genre of visual art that is non-representational with an emphasis on color, line, pattern and form.

What is “abstract art” anyway?

Abstract is a title that is associated with a genre of visual art that is typically non-representational, with an emphasis on color, line, pattern and form. It comes in many different media like paintings, prints or photographs, and the variations available are endless. It’s an easy style of art to both choose and to use in almost any room. 

The appeal of abstract art

Using abstract art can bring sophistication and a modern touch to any space. Its nonrepresentational style tends to evoke strong emotional responses that are highly personal, so a piece can be deeply meaningful. It’s an interesting way to express yourself and share nuances of your personality with others. And, it’s a great conversational topic - even after time, people tend to find new meaning in a piece, so there is always something to discover. 

When selecting your art, choose what speaks to you. The appeal of the style is that everyone sees something slightly different in it, so there is no single “right” choice. Selecting a piece because you like the composition, or the way a certain part of it looks, or the overall feeling you get viewing it, or because the color matches your sofa - all of these are perfectly valid reasons.

Two images side by side showing the same piece of abstract art hung above furniture to show how abstract art can be oriented in either portrait or landscape views.

Abstract art is flexible

One of the many appeals of using abstract art is that because it’s non-representational, you are not restricted to any specific orientation. This means you can use it in landscape or portrait, whichever way fits into your space the best, as shown in the image above. Of course, this depends on the individual image - you may feel it works best one way only and that’s perfectly fine, it’s up to you. Being able to decide which orientation to hang is flexibility that you can only get with abstract art as opposed to other types of art - for example photography.

Two images showing different sizes of abstract art above a couch. One is too small and the other creates a balanced look because it is at least 2/3 of the lenth of the furniture.

Choose the right size

Any time you are decorating with art, it needs to be the right size for the space so it looks like it belongs. If you are hanging art above furniture, a good decorating guideline is to fill at least ⅔ of the length of the item, otherwise it may look too small and out of place. If it’s used as a focal point in a room, it should be large enough, so people notice it when they walk into the room. 

Two images of abstract art above furniture to demonstrate that because abstract art is nonrepresentational it can viewed from both close up and far away.

One of the advantages of abstract art is that it can be enjoyed at any scale. Unlike something like a photograph, where the size of the photo will dictate how close you need to be to view it, abstract art can be enjoyed from a distance as well as close up. This gives you a lot of flexibility when choosing a piece for your space. Two ways of using abstract art to decorate above a couch - a piece that contrasts or complements the decor elements in the room

Contrast or complement for impact

The essence of abstract art is its nonrepresentational style, so to help decide if a piece works in a space, think about the art as either a contrast or a complement to the other items in the space. For example, if your room has neutral tones, then a large piece with bold colors and shapes can create a strong contrast that draws the eye to it. If your home already has lots of color, pattern and texture, you may select a piece that is more monochrome or with a smaller scale pattern to fit the space.

In a similar way, you can select a piece of art that has the kind of energy you want to bring into an area. For example, in a living room or family room, an abstract piece of art with bright colors or dynamic shapes with lots of energy will perk up the space, while in a bedroom you may want something with more soothing colors and flowing forms to evoke a calming sensation.

Decorating with abstract art

There are many ways to use abstract art when decorating. Here are a few ways you can use abstract art as a central piece.

A picture of a living room where a large abstract art piece is hung over the couch to create a focal point when you enter the room.

As a focal point

The visual or emotional impact of abstract art can make it a great choice for creating a focal point in a room. Choose a size that is noticeably larger than the scale of the other decor and hang it in a spot where it can be seen as you enter the room. Also, select a place that can be easily viewed when you are seated. This will encourage contemplation so you get the most out of the way abstract art continues to surprise and delight over time.

A gallery wall of 7 pieces using a large abstract art piece to anchor the gallery collection.

As part of a gallery wall

Abstract art works great in gallery walls. The moving nature of the art can be coordinated among multiple pieces by putting them in similar frames hung together as a single unit. You can also use a large piece as the central point in the gallery with a number of other wall decor items. Use the colors and textures in the piece to curate other items that complement those features. Abstract art is so personal, that building a gallery with it easily expresses your unique perspectives and style.

Abstract pieces can bring texture and emotion to wall galleries. Whether it’s a gallery made up of all abstract art, or it’s included in a gallery of mixed styles the color and energy of the piece can reinforce the overall feeling of the gallery.

An image of a person looking at the abstract art piece hanging above a bed and a drawn heart to show that she has hung a piece of art that she loves.

Hang what you love

The deeply personal nature of abstract art means that its emotional impact will vary among people. If it moves you, then it is worthy of a place in your space. Have fun with bringing abstract art into your home and enjoy how it continues to evolve and impact you as time passes.

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