Discussion: Selling Art at Home Interior Stores

I recently received an email from a blog reader asking about showing and selling artwork in home furnishing stores:

A friend of mine who is an interior decorator has asked me to do some art for a high end home interiors store here in Fayetteville AR where I live. She works there and is trying to add local art to the store. This seems to be a great venue for me but I am wondering what the benefits and the pitfalls would be?Β  I have noticed that they have asked for art that is mainly contemporary and in certain colors that fit the home interior trends. All of the work they have is $2500 and below, most of it in the $1000 range, and many of the pieces are quite large and simply done. Some of the art are art warehouse prints that the owners of the store have bought and framed for sale. Eventually they are wanting to have less of the warehouse art and more of the local original art.

I know you have always operated a gallery but what have you heard about selling art at home interior stores?

Denise S.

Fayetteville, AR

I had to reply that I hadn’t worked much with interior stores, but I promised to post the question to the blog community to see if other artists had experience and input.

I can certainly see the appeal of working with such a store – it would seem that their clientele would be complementary to ours – people looking to furnish their homes. The artist’s I’ve heard talk about showing in these kinds of venues, however, didn’t report great results. My father showed in a high-end Scottsdale furniture store for several years without a single sale, and I’ve heard other artists who felt their work was only there to accent the furniture.

I have been approached by such stores in the past asking if I would like to show gallery work in their showrooms and I’ve always declined. For me, the added complexity in terms of tracking inventory in another location, along with the liability of having my artist’s work in another business were major factors. I also know that selling art takes a trained salesperson, and though these showrooms are full of salespeople, selling art is different than selling a sofa.

But perhaps the equation is different for an artist. If you aren’t yet showing in galleries or participating in shows, exposure in an interior store would certainly beat no exposure at all. I would also suggest that it would be better to display the work in a showroom that has in-house interior designers (and it sounds like this is the case in the situation Denise describes above) who can influence their clients to consider the art.

What do You Think?

Is it worth considering showing your work in a home interior store? Have you had experience with this kind of venue? What advice would you give to someone showing in a furnishing store for the first time? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

19 Comments

  1. I actually have a reception tomorrow in an interior design showroom. My work is there for the month of October. This is my first venture with this type of venue. I do a multitude of mediums and styles and thought this would be a perfect venue for my work since it doesn’t have to be cohesive. Ill let you know how it works out.

  2. I would propose that they buy your work. You are wholesale supplier, so offer wholesale price like they pay for the furniture If they buy the art I’d say run with it. Why would you not? Consignment, why should you do the that since as Jason points out it’s not the same as selling a sofa. It’s putting the whole thing on you they have everything to gain nothing to lose. I’d bet anything they are buying the art they already carry.

      1. Oh my gosh, yes! Sell it, it should be part of inventory. They have all the advantage to not push artwork.
        It sells furniture.

    1. The store will buy warehouse prints and invest money in a frame for it….but the artist is expected to put the work on consignment (for free)? If the store can switch to this kind of “complimentary decor” for their furniture, they can save a lot of money. Those warehouse prints and framing come at a considerable cost.

      For the artist to show in the store, there are costs. The artist is paying for the framing and the cost of production -paints, canvases, brushes, etc, studio rental, etc.
      It seems somewhat naive on their part to think you can provide these things for free.
      Maybe consider rental, if you really want to do this. Otherwise there is no incentive for the shop owner to sell your paintings.

  3. David Randall, Good idea. Seeing the artist as a wholesale retailer makes the whole thing work for me.
    I suppose it will take a little sales effort to sell to the store. I started my painting business 2 years ago and have evolved into a style that is different then my first painting. I don’t want to muddy my marketing efforts by putting my early work in the little co-op gallery where I am having some success selling landscapes.
    I wonder if a furniture store would be a good place to sell abstract paintings. This sounds like a better option than filling up my garage with past work. I am going to give this a try. By the way my abstract work sold quite well, it’s just that I am trying to establish myself in a slightly different direction.

  4. Tried this approach for a few years in the california / nevada market. found that an artist or supplier must review the owners and possible clients very carefully. volume at low price points is the game being played at every level of that market. Its like trying to sell art to bargain hunters mostly a waste of time. The clients generally buy image and color without any care for whether it is considered art at all. simply decoration to fill the wall. Interior design houses can be ok IF the designers are knowledgeable and willing to work with their clients one on one to a high degree. As jason points out the sales people in these venues deal with furniture, flooring, cloth goods etc they do not know art and thus can rarely realize sales. For the publishing operations selling ltd editions and glorified posters these venues work due to being repeatable volume, art however does not have the necessary economics to make it viable.

  5. Many years ago I had a fairly successful run with showing my work at a contemporary furniture gallery/showroom on Robertson Blvd in Beverly Hills, pretty much the design center of Los Angeles. The owner was very impressed with my work and excited about the possibility of building a lucrative relationship. Not just a casual “put it up on the wall and we’ll see” situation. He was a dedicated sales person. In fact, he bought some of my work as well. The opportunity in Beverly Hills was certainly the best shot I could have had in a furniture gallery. My prices are higher than the average retail shopper is going to pay. The furniture was high-end so the right audience was seeing my work. All that said, I think furniture stores are an iffy venue at best especially since at this time fine art is completing with art-by-the-yard in so many stores and online. I seem to do best selling directly to my own collector base and to people they introduce to my work.

  6. I currently have 2 pieces of work in a high end furniture store in MA. They are there because my gallery in MA has an agreement to show their art there.
    It seemed a good idea and I was sent pictures of the art in place – after our move to PA.
    But nothing has happened in the meantime and I am negotiating their return to me. Although it was good to have exposure, quite frankly I have no agreement with the venue myself and I really think commercial venues do not have the same attitude to artists’ originals that a gallery does.
    They can move your art around as they like or store it and I’m not sure of what kind of storage they have for fine art originals.
    I’ve come to think such venues should purchase at wholesale price because then it’s actually worth taking care of and selling. Otherwise their goal is the furniture and art is a second stringer.

  7. I tried this with one store with zero sales. I believe success has many variables which include whether the art matches the store’ s furnishing style, the affluence of the customer base, the price of the art, the level of customer traffic and the commitment of the store staff to art sales.

  8. Thank you so much for this blog!!!
    I appreciate being able to know ahead of time to never go through this effort!
    I GREATLY APPRECIATE THIS!!!!πŸŽ‰πŸŽΆπŸ€—πŸ₯°

  9. I had very good luck years ago at a high end furniture store. They built rooms around my paintings. They had one salesman that loved my work. He was a great closer. Once he left the store for another position, my sales dried up. I pulled out after a while. Haven’t tried this route since.

  10. This may sound a bit flippant but I’ll throw it in there anyways. Just a bit of humor.
    This brings to mind the scene written for Max Von Sydow in “Hanna and Her Sisters” I believe his reply to the musician who wanted a painting to go with his furniture ” I don’t do my paintings to match a sofa” and asked if they were large like a Stella? ” I don’t sell my paintings by the yard”

  11. great topic… and what a good idea about wholesaling your artwork to the venue, then they have an invested interest in selling your work.

  12. I like that idea of rental for a time period. I would imagine furniture store owners would not purchase the art to be shown, but the rental idea could guarantee a better result. Offer to have a training hour for the salespeople so they can talk about the art or at least draw buyers to it,,hey it looks great with this couch! I am pretty much not on the side of” exposure is great” in venues that do not actually sell art..restaurants, coffee shops etc. My experience has been that people who are buying coffee are not buying art. But maybe a different tack is to charge a rental price.

  13. What about cafes? Would the same logic apply that people mainly go there for coffee and small bites and not Art? Or is it a good option coz people actually go there, sit for possibly long times in a relaxed setting and would be willing to purchase, specially small pieces?

  14. Thank you Jason, great post! I appreciate so much the wonderful discussion which helped clarify From my limited experience, to find some success, it seems you have to reach the artistic person on this home decor line: the home decor designer. There are numerous ways to reach these people and it is indeed a trade and within this trade there are art businesses that sell to designers..

    There are some companies like LeftBank Art and Chelsea Studios that buy artist’s works for replication; as well as hire artists to work FOR them and create/produce art for home decor market.

    I think it is well said that the local furniture is at the bottom of the line here. He needs the art to help sell his furniture. Thus, sell the store owner the art–it’s his store decor!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *