art, decor

Art in small spaces

Greg Cox
One of gallerist and interior designer Dylan Thomaz’s guiding principles is that art brings happiness. He believes that everyone should have happiness in the home, so no matter how small your abode, you should consider every inch of wall space – and that includes the bathroom. ‘By thinking out of the box, being creative and innovative, you can use your art collection to visually extend the limits of your living area. Your art becomes your window to the world, and even your bigger pieces can work for you,’ he says. ‘Large monochrome artworks give an illusion of scale and make a space seem bigger. For example, in a small bedroom, try putting a large-scale monochrome canvas above the bed. When a dynamic artwork takes centre stage, it becomes the defining element, drawing the eye and making the room look bigger. ‘Learn to consider giving each piece its own space in which to tell its story. If the artwork has to fit into a particular area, adapt your furniture selection so that the art becomes the focal point. In a smaller space, go for more black-and-white pieces with monochrome frames. Add a few pieces of colour for a sophisticated look.’ Bookshelves can act as display cases for art as well. ‘Artworks have the ability to bring your shelves to life. Ensure that the size of the art suits whatever else is on display,’ says Dylan.
A common mistake people make when displaying art in confined spaces is using too many different types of frames, he adds. ‘You should have frames of similar tones. In small spaces, the details count, so always make sure that your art is framed well.” Another piece of advice he gives to clients whose art collections threaten to compete with their living spaces is to connect the artworks to the rest of the space by juxtaposing them with other decor items. ‘For example, don’t be afraid to let the leaves of your potted orchid stray into the same space as the picture hanging behind it.’
A significant new trend in the art world is small-scale artworks. Measuring 20cm x 30cm or smaller, they are more affordable, often requiring close-up observation and are ideally suited to compact houses. Several of Dylan’s favourite artists prefer to work on a small scale. Sarah Pratt, a highly skilled printmaker, is known for her magical and inventive creations, which include quirky animal figures. Corné Theron specialises in ethereal oil paintings of dreamlike female underwater swimmers; Craig Actually Smith produces colourfully abstracted ghostly portraits that captivate; Lisette Forsyth experiments with a variety of subject matter and recyclable mediums in engaging black-and-white artworks. These artists all indulge in the kind of small-scale creativity that would enliven an unusual space in a limited living area, whether it’s the spot behind the toaster or the little strip of wall between the bedroom and bathroom. Visit for more. See Dylan Thomaz's carefully curated Hout Bay home on page 59 of the March 2017 issue of House and Leisure.