Home is where the art is

Artist Ken Vincent, in front of his work at The Granary Gallery, is happy to create art for a specific place in a client's home. — File photo by Susan Safford

Art in the home becomes a crucial component to its interior decoration — embellishing, creating focal points, and defining the personality of a room.

For some families, art may not be a priority, while others may decide to redecorate around a new art acquisition. Particularly if it’s a large piece, a new work can influence the purchase of new furniture. Collectors interested in miniatures, sculpture, tapestries, baskets, or other forms of art may design the interior of their home entirely around their collections.

“I rearrange my gallery all the time,” says Nancy Cramer of Shaw Cramer Gallery in Vineyard Haven. “It keeps it alive and new. A house that’s never changed gets a little flat.”

Ms. Cramer started as a decorating consultant, a business she continues to practice in addition to running her gallery. In her work as a space and color consultant, she often sees things that need changing the moment she walks in. “It’s like a puzzle,” she says. “You’ve got to figure it out.”

She points out that when a specific piece of art is given a place of honor in a room, a new perspective can be accomplished by rearranging what surrounds it. The room gains a new perspective. One collector she knows installed sliding walls at home to be able to rearrange what was on view. It allows the variety that is part of the pleasure of collecting.

“A young couple’s first art acquisition may be a traditional painting inherited from grandma,” she says, “and then they need help making things look more contemporary.”

And when artists are commissioned to make works to fit someone’s home décor, Ms. Cramer thinks they should be flattered by the challenge. “It makes them stretch in more directions,” she says.

Commissioning works of art has a long, respected tradition, dating back to the days Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling and much earlier. Painter Ken Vincent receives three or four commissions a year, and favors input from his clients. “I have my perspective. I create it,” he says. “But they are going to live with it. They have to have something they like. They’re inviting me into their home.”

He recently traveled to West Virginia for clients who requested a painting with fall colors that would fit in with the handmade wood and stone fireplace in their home. His painting needed to fit into a space with a specific size and dimension.

“I want to make them comfortable with my work,” Mr. Vincent says. “In the West Virginia case, architecture played into it. Everything was directed into the fireplace.”

He likes the problem-solving part of a commission and looks forward to getting a feeling for who his clients are. “I like to hear their stories,” he says. “It’s kind of a privilege.” Mr. Vincent finds that sometimes a commission is even a relief from the pressure to create something novel. He appreciates that people for whom art is important want to meet with the artist and spend time with him.

Mr. Vincent, whose show opened at The Granary last weekend, will begin soon on one of his latest commissions, the Farm Neck Country Club membership book.

John Murphy of Tracker Home Décor in Edgartown is the new kid on the interior-decorating block. From his perspective, clients who hire an interior decorator are best advised to also hire an art broker. “Clients will ask me what I think,” he says, but since that is not his primary area of expertise, he defers. “I let the colors in the room be the art.”

He says, “Art is such a personal thing.”

Gloria Lockett of L’Elégance in Oak Bluffs runs both an interior decorating service and an upstairs art gallery. She finds it natural for art collectors to see a piece of art that speaks to them, or one that reflects their lifestyle, and advises them to think about where it will fit according to size, color, or subject.

Ms. Lockett says her clients often ask if the artists she represents can be commissioned to do a piece. They also hire her to arrange their paintings. “Typically, using art should be a focal point in a room,” she says. “Art can complete your decorating, and turn so-so into spectacular.”

Brooks Robards contributed to this story.