365 Objects Of Design, Mad About . . ., Mad About The House

A Guide to Buying Art Online

22nd November 2016

It’s a tricky thing buying art and one that I have steered clear of until now as it’s so subjective, but there are certain guidelines and tips that apply to everyone, whether you’re adding to an extensive collection or just want something to hang above the sofa.

It’s even trickier if you’re buying art online as it’s so hard to decide if you like something from a tiny picture or from a photoshop image on a white wall in an empty gallery with no furniture or sense of “real room” about it.  And if that wasn’t hard enough, how about having to trawl through pages and pages of pictures when you have no idea what you’re looking for but feel instinctively that it would be naff to put “aquamarine” or “landscape” into the search engine.

For this reason buying art in The Mad House has mostly been the preserve of The Husband. I can trawl through 15 pages of shoes but not paintings. Not when I’m pretty sure that I’m going to hate most of them. And not when I don’t know what I’m looking for. I just know I’ll know when I see it.


We have a mix of photographs (taken by The Husband) family pictures and things we have acquired over the years. But we definitely have blank walls. And not enough time to trawl the websites to search for the One.

So when Rise Art contacted me a few weeks ago to ask if I wanted to work with them on a post, I was initially sceptical. I don’t know what my style is, I’m pretty sure He won’t like anything I find and, frankly, there aren’t enough hours in the day to go hunting for it. Whatever it is.


But hang on, they said. We have a team of curators. They will talk to you about what you like and what you want and where you want it to go and how big it should be. And the budget, of course the budget. And you can put all of those requirements in the order of priority that suits you.

And, they added, we offer a rental service so you can try before you buy with the rental cost knocked off the final price if you do decide to keep it. Oh and we have a hanging service as well so you can have more advice from the person who comes to actually put it on the wall. Now read on people, read on because that bit was really invaluable.

kristjana williams london prints seen in Mad About The House image by Kate Watson-Smyth

Well it seemed they had thought of everything and I agreed to give it a go. For the purposes of this feature it was agreed that they would send over three pieces as a result of our discussion.

I had a long chat with the head curator Rebecca Gordon, who worked for real life art galleries before joining Rise. We talked about what I had and what I liked and she started suggesting names for me to look at. This was immediately brilliant as I would never have found these pieces without her help. The first two were by Kristjana Williams  who I absolutely loved. I’m a huge fan of maps and her detailed illustrations of West and East London were an instant hit. Rebecca agreed to send them over and I planned to hang them next to each other over the sofa.


We talked some more and decided on an abstract Icelandic landscape by Nick Miners and a gorgeous aerial photograph of the sea, which was tiny but which, I thought, would look amazing in the newly decorated bathroom.

Two days later the pieces arrived. Along with a note saying that the seascape was unavailable in the time slot and that they had included three other pieces they had chosen as a result of our conversation.


The first issue was the two London prints were huge. Too big to sit side by side over the sofa. That was something that would need to be discussed with the hanger.  I didn’t love the Icelandic abstract but decided it was possibly the frame. Of the three others that arrived one was a Peter Blake (oh cliche I yawned) and the last two just weren’t right at all for this house.


But now we come to chapter two. The hanger arrived and immediately suggested we split the two London prints between the library and the sitting room. And then between the library and the hall. That was something I would never have thought of. He was definitely getting a biscuit with his coffee. It would, he said, be too much of a cliché to hang them next to each other (even if the wall had been big enough) but splitting them between two rooms was an interesting idea and gave them a new perspective.


He duly fixed picture hooks in the right places and departed for his next job after walking round the whole house to check that there weren’t any better walls, which is a valuable part of the procedure – after wall you may have bought a picture with a particular place in mind but it’s good to get an objective opinion about where it might work better.

And this is where it gets interesting. I already loved the London prints but when I saw the Peter Blake on the wall in my house – in three different walls actually, I completely fell for it despite my expectations. It just worked so well against both a dark and a white wall, which was an important factor in this post;  I wanted to show you how all three pictures looked when hung against both black and white walls.


In the same way the Icelandic print, which I had been unsure about when I first saw it, came to life over the fireplace. With its frame removed (by photoshop for this feature) I could see how it worked really well against the dark. But it was in the kitchen, next to some other pictures that it really worked.

I think you can see from these pictures how, in particular the Blake, changes the personality of the room depending on where it was hung. I can honestly say that I would keep both the London prints and the Peter Blake if it wasn’t December and the children are very inconveniently wanting Christmas presents. And somehow I don’t think a Peter Blake in the sitting room is going to cut it as a present for two teenage boys.

See below for a guide to buying art online and, if you click any of the links in this post and sign up you can receive between £20 and £100 off your first purchase.



All photos, unless stated otherwise are by Teddy Hall

For more of my favourite works of art see my Pinterest Board

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  • Yuri 23rd November 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Kate, your tips are great. The most important for me as an artist is – buy art because you love it. Your post reminds me once again, how thankful I am for art admirers who order my art online or commission a painting without seeing my art in person.

  • Liz Reid 23rd November 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Kate,
    I love reading your blog and liked your article on buying art. Do excuse the shameless self promotion, but I make unusual wall hangings with printers trays and found objects, and thought one of these might look good in your library! Hope I’ve not broken some etiquette rule of blogs sending a link …

    Look forward to your next post!


  • Jennifer probyn 22nd November 2016 at 11:24 pm

    I love the Icelandic print best – more sophisticated.

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