Mary Abel: Mix It Up

September 6, 2011

Our magazine, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles (one of New England Home‘s sister publications), sponsors several art festivals around the state, which means I get to spend my summer meeting and seeing the work of some of the top artists in the country. I also get to eavesdrop on conversations that take place in and around the booths, and it seems I always hear someone mention that they love a painting (or sculpture or piece of pottery) but are worried that it won’t “go†with their furniture. This always makes me a little crazy.

So, as the summer art festival season winds down, I want to shout this from the rooftops: when it comes to collecting art, buy what you love. I promise you, promise you, that once you get it home you will find the perfect place for it.

I think that philosophy works especially well when it comes to mixing cherished antiques with cool, conversation-starting contemporary art.

17th Century European + Urban Contemporary
I am always drawn to bold, colorful abstract paintings (I am so asking Santa for this Monroe Hodder oil, Carmen Acts I & II) and am completely convinced that they work in any setting with any type of furniture. Paired with an English Jacobean chest of drawers and Italian Baroque chairs, it absolutely sings. And how fun is Scott Walker‘s ceramic Big Grin? Don’t take your art too seriously.

Photos by Don Riley

French Empire + Abstract Expressionism
It’s almost shocking to me how well all of this nineteenth-century French furniture pairs with bold, contemporary art glass. On the wall, Lorelei Schott‘s Crime Against Nature Exhibit A and Crime Against Nature Exhibit B (2010) offer clean, stark relief against the ornate Italian mirrors.

Colonial Americana + Photo Surrealism
The dark, moody, slightly chaotic feel of Enfant Terrible (2008), an archival print by the Corvo Brothers, is a brilliant foil to the simple shape and style of the American Colonial table and chairs. And I love the tabletop mix of pottery from late 1800s and Terry Maker‘s ultra-contemporary cast resin suitcase.

Scandinavian + Graphic Art
Here, Hunt Rettig‘s wonderfully simple and serene Untitled (2008), made of polyester film, acrylic and staples, strikes a perfect balance to the curvy, softly worn Swedish maid’s bench. And Tyler Aiello‘s hand-forged steel Sphere 74 subtly mimics the round face of the early 1800 Swedish pine mora clock. Throw in a few velvet ikat pillows and you’ve got yourself a room. It all just works, don’t you think?

The moral of this story is, when it comes to art and furniture, be brave and mix it up.

(For resource information, check out our web story, Mix & Match.)

–Mary Abel
Mary Abel is the editor in chief of Colorado Homes & Lifestyles magazine, a freelance book editor and co-author of Portable Houses (Gibbs Smith, Publisher, 2004). She has written numerous articles about interior design, art, architecture, food, travel and real estate for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. Mary lives in Denver and in her spare time blogs about learning to bake–both the triumphs and tragedies–at

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