At Home with Art: An Interior Designer’s Insights

At Home with Art: An Interior Designer’s Insights

An artist could talk all day about the importance of art in a space – but of course we would think so 😊 To hear from an interior designer that “art in general is often the piece that is missing in somebody's house” should make you sit up and take notice. Invercargill Interior Designer Racheal Phillips thinks art is so important that even the opening lines of her website acknowledge the role of art in creating “spaces that tell a story.”

Screenshot from Finders Keepers website with words about what Racheal thinks is important in a home

I had the pleasure of welcoming Racheal into the Art Attic recently to pick her brain so that you (and I!) can learn the what, why and where of art in our homes. In this blog, you’re going to learn about her thoughts on framing, on art placement, how to ‘fix’ a piece that’s too small, wall colours as a back drop to art and so much more! Let’s dive into her wisdom…

Art at the start

When Racheal’s working with a new client, she finds it really useful to have something as a starting point to understand the client’s likes, dislikes and personality. And art can do all that (so too can a door handle as Racheal has recently learned!). Art often sparks the beginning of a colour story for the home, and tells Racheal a lot about the personality of the client. Art can also inform further conversations they’ll go on to have about carpet type, benchtops, hardware and wall treatments…

“Because that person is drawn to that piece for a reason. And it says. "Oh my, I want you, I need you in my life". And the art is also about personality. I've got art pieces in my home, for instance, a skateboard. It's a little bit quirky and weird. It says a lot about me.”

Interestingly, the starting-point-art doesn’t have to be the biggest piece in a collection, but could be the one with the special story attached. And some clients don’t have art so “that's the fun part at the end, pulling it all together”.

Racheal points to a round piece of mine we can see from our seat in the gallery: “So you would pull out rusty oranges and lots of greens. I'm going to take the colours out of that piece to make the whole design work.”

Pulling colour inspiration from art

I take it further to ask if circles then become something that’s also repeated in the home, but she advises moderation:

“You need to balance it out. Because a whole room of circles would just be weird, right? So maybe you have squares or rectangles. But a round cushion on the couch. Yeah, absolutely. Or a round coffee table, or the back of a chair that’s quite rounded. The key is not making it too obvious. And you can't have too many squares or rectangles either. You've always got to balance it out with another shape.”

But not everyone has a special artwork to start this conversation with…

How to get started with art collecting

Racheal occasionally comes across clients who don’t have any special art or aren’t sure where to start. In this case she’ll give them a list of artists to look at – or start looking at some art styles on the internet and very quickly they’ll know what they’re drawn to. Knowing the client also helps Racheal to advise them, and often the colours and style come together with a little bit of magic, “I love it when that happens” she says.

“It's just about them exploring and taking their time. Not rushing into something, but actually finding that thing when they go, “Oh, love it!” I think, that's so important, because it's something you look at all the time. It's good when it brings back memories or it makes you happy.”

Her own experience of collecting art began with joining an art group and she’s slowly built up from there. “The first piece I bought was actually off Etsy, but it was an artist from Canada, and I loved her story. And I still love that piece. That was my first experience dipping my toe into art.” From there it’s about building up your trust in yourself and learning about what you like so that bigger investments aren’t as scary as they once would have been. “I think people sometimes are a little bit scared to buy art because they don't want to get it wrong. And it can be, but doesn't have to be an investment piece,” she says.

Racheal feels art is more accessible now thanks to Instagram and websites, where once galleries would have been an intimidating place to buy art, plus, “You get to know the artist through Instagram and so on. So you actually kind of fall in love with the person and the personality behind the picture. I think that's a huge part of it as well.”

I ask if there’s a risk that your art collection can be too eclectic and Racheal tells me she’s never come across that in a problematic way. She’s had clients with extensive art collections and even those that appear to be quite diverse, still work beautifully together.

Supporting local artists is another great starting point and they’re the first to pop into Racheal’s mind, “And not only artists as in paintings. Toni Vincent does pottery. I did a bathroom and she made these really cool sea urchins. And they’re in great colours so we got three of those to be the artwork in the bathroom.”

Walls and art

We move on to talking about the wall as the backdrop to the art. Racheal mentions a lovely deep green wall in a bedroom she’s advising on at the moment:

“Any artwork that I choose is going to be quite muted. It’s going to be more natural colours. Because I know the other elements in the room. Because I know the wall colour. I know what the duvet is going to be, I know the headboard and side tables. I know the carpet. So, to me, I'm kind of already thinking that it's going to be quite neutral.”

The answer is almost always “it depends” when it comes to wall colour and art. Light or dark walls can work, colourful or neutral can work. But it depends on the art. And when it comes to hanging art on wallpaper, she advises caution:

“That's a hard one. Because it depends on the wallpaper because if you had a really, crazy wallpaper. are you going to deflect from the beauty of it wallpaper by putting an art piece on it? Is the art piece going to work with the wallpaper? I don't do a lot of that because it's actually tricky, the colours have to complement each other; there can be a lot going on.”


Although not all art has to be framed, Racheal does prefer her art in a frame, even canvas pieces: “They just look finished, don't they? Frames just take them to the next level. I've got a couple of canvases that are framed and they just look so good.”

Racheal says framing can make a bold contrast with the wall colour behind it, or tie in with the tones in the rest of the room. White and wood frame remain classic favourites, though wood tones can be difficult. If in doubt, she recommends an oak frame for a look that won’t date.

Forest bathing art hanging in gallery

She also advises reframing for older pieces, saying that you can fall back in love with an artwork if you present it in a more modern frame. “And going into a great framer, who can also guide you is also very good, and often will give you ideas that you hadn't thought of, like double matting.”


Hanging and Displaying Art

Racheal shared some fabulous insights on how to display your art and one of her most important tips is to ‘ground’ your art by placing a piece of furniture underneath it, or a lamp or a plant alongside it.

“Often we put something on a wall that's out of proportion. But if you ground it and maybe place things, say on top of a cabinet, you're creating more of a story and giving that piece of art a purpose. Because nine times out of 10 people's art is too small, or they don't know how to make it look in proportion.”

"Grounding art" with furniture, plants and decor

Two-thirds is Racheal’s loose ratio when it comes to art size and whatever's underneath it. Another solution she offers to fix the ‘small art problem’ comes in grouping artworks:

“If there was a couch with only one of your round pieces above it, that would look silly. But if there was a couch there with those three pieces, now that makes sense. You can create a wee gallery.”

Smaller art is art you can have a lot of fun with: “Skinny hallways, little nooks in the kitchen; I've got a lovely piece in my kitchen, a little round, and it just fits beautifully. Bedside tables. Small art doesn't even need to be hung; it can be placed on a cabinet.”

To style a piece of art Racheal suggests grouping it with other pieces of home décor, taking inspiration from the colours of the art. Elements she suggests include lamps, vases and “pieces of nature” e.g. bunny tails or stones.

She speaks to my artist’s heart, and this might be the perfect conclusion to this blog, when she says, “Art anywhere. I’ve got art in my bathroom, put art in your toilet. Just put it in places that surprise people, I think is it's part of the story as well, it creates talking points, creates memories and experiences.”


  • People can be scared to buy art, but start small and build confidence from there
  • Don’t worry about your art choices being too eclectic
  • Buy what you love
  • Take your time to buy, don’t rush but trust your gut
  • Support local artists
  • Framing is important and professional framers can help you get it right
  • Art is often too small for a space – but grouping works can overcome that
  • Art in your toilet is underrated

 Final words

“But if you love it, that is actually the key.
If you love it, that's all that matters.”

Thanks for sharing all this fabulous wisdom with us Racheal!

To learn more from Racheal or to work with her, visit her website (I recommend signing up for her newsletter) or follow her on social media @finderskeepersinteriordesign.

If you fell in love with any art seen in this post, pop up to the Art Attic in Invercargill before Aug 26 to see more, or flick me a message to see if it's available (

x Mel


Back to blog

Leave a comment