Bringing art into your kitchen is a great way to add life to an otherwise utilitarian space

"Try not to overthink it, because perfect is not the goal — something that makes you smile is," Rebecca Gibbs says

Published February 15, 2021 4:00PM (EST)

Design by Agenda Wheeler Design. (Stephanie Brown / Food52)
Design by Agenda Wheeler Design. (Stephanie Brown / Food52)

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It's practically undeniable at this point that kitchens are the beating heart of our homes. They're where we gather to make delicious food, deepen our relationships, and forge new memories (not to mention, hold 3 p.m. corporate brainstorms and 11 a.m. art class). The fluidity of these spaces is of paramount importance. You have to have enough room to seat the whole family, a table that doubles as an eat/work zone, enough gizmos and gadgets to help you take on all the additional home cooking . . . the list goes on. But for as functional — and beautiful — as many of our kitchens are, are they truly reflective of our homes, and our style? I'd venture a guess and say, maybe not.

Ask any designer and they'll tell you the biggest impact you can make in a space is often with art. Not only does it help tie a room together, but it's a great way for homeowners to imbue their dwellings with their unique taste and point of view. Yet, oftentimes, the kitchen is the last place we add decor layers like artwork.

Luckily, there's a new trend here to change all that: Designers and influencers alike are turning to framed paintings, unique sculptures, and old-school busts to add an artistic touch to a workhorse space. "Bringing art into the kitchen is a great way to add life to an otherwise utilitarian space," says Rebecca Gibbs, owner and designer at Gibbs Design + Build. "Try not to overthink it, because perfect is not the goal — something that makes you smile is."

Whether you style a sculpture alongside your favorite dishware on open shelving, or hang a vintage oil painting atop the hood of the stove, the result is the same: a cohesive, collected feel that brings an additional element of "hominess" to your space. Here's how to make it work.

Keep the style simple

When choosing a piece of art to work into your kitchen, focus on picking something simple and a bit understated — the goal is for the artwork or objects to blend into your decor, not visually clog an already busy room. Stick to a palette that compliments the existing finishes in your space and avoid anything too eye-catching — vintage oil portraits or still-life scenes typically work great. And don't forget to have fun with your selection! "Choosing the right piece can add poetry to a place of utility," explains Katie Bogart of Bogart Interiors. "In selecting pieces for the kitchen, it's important to choose art that's not too precious."

Pick the right size

The key to this look is keeping it feeling small and collected. Stay away from using oversized pieces, clunky frames, or word art. Instead, opt for smaller pieces and natural finishes — flea markets and estate sales are great places to find well-loved artwork at a petite size (and price). And remember, one or two hits of art is all it will take to upgrade your kitchen.

Find the perfect spot

Hanging your artwork is a no-brainer, of course — but it's not your only option. When selecting where to display your piece, consider unexpected locations like the hood of your oven, an open shelf, or even the countertop. "I like to find little corners or small spaces to tuck an unexpected piece of art and capture the eye," says Bogart. The goal is to add dimension and interest to your space, so the more "ah-ha" the spot, the more impactful your piece will be.

Think outside the frame

The best part about art? It is totally subjective, and is about whatever speaks to you and your style — and that may not be a framed painting or photograph. If you think your kitchen is the perfect place for a beloved tapestry, memorialized hand-written recipe from your grandma, or vintage bust, go for it. At the end of the day, your kitchen — and the artwork in it — should be something you love and enjoy.

By Alyssa Longobucco

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