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?  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.

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23 Comments

  1. Hello Jason and fellow artists,

    I could surely use some feedback on this topic myself.
    Heres my situation….

    I have been showing in a high end furniture store for many years. The sales were great in the beginning and then they slowed down recently to a halt.
    Every time they contact me, it is for a discount. I understand why because they often have SALES on their entire showroom and people expect it.
    They adorn large signs in the front of the building advertising on the radio and newspaper. They do however make the odd sale, thecommission split is 60 artist 40 gallery.
    They donot show art on their website, I dont show them as a representative either.

  2. I sold my art in a high end furniture store for 6 years and it was wonderful. Yes, the store had in-store designers and I feel this was key to my art sales success there, along with having a completely complementary style. I wouldn’t say sales were as frequent as at the galleries I am with, but definitely worthwhile. I also got to see my artwork in a beautifully decorated spaces and found it very inspiring! I was one of only 2 artists there (the rest was commercial art) Our prices were obviously very much higher than most of the decorative art and after 6 years the owner of the shop decided it was easier to sell less expensive art and discontinued us – however I found it to be excellent and inspiring while it lasted.

  3. Perhaps it would be better to seek out individual interior designers and work out a deal with them for a percentage of sales. Stores focus on selling their furniture and unless their commission is substantial their salesforce won’t work FOR you. Knowing Fayetteville a bit I think it might be worth it to give the store a trial, perhaps see what happens over 6 months showing there. And maybe you could make some large, simple paintings as a new series. It might spark some new found creativity.

  4. I have shown my artwork in a high end furniture / home office for several years. The sales are low (which was a surprise to me), but the retailer and I have an excellent relationship and it is a great space to showcase my artwork. I usually bring in the customers to view my work.

  5. I sold a number of pieces through a small, high-end, owner-operated home furnishings shop, but will say the that the sales were only occasional. and not a substantive part of my income. I still have a relationship with the shop and the owner will sometimes make an appointment to come by and pick out a few pieces from my home gallery. I’m primarily a landscape painter, and she chooses work by season. As for showing in a larger furniture store, I have been invited to do so, but have always declined, for the same reason that I never show in restaurants, doctor’s offices, and similar venues. I feel that your art just appears to be part of the decor, and so I think most artists rarely see sales in these surroundings. Some believe they are getting exposure to make the equation worthwhile, but most artists I know also feel this is negligible.

  6. I have not hung in a furniture store, and would probably decline. Inventory control, agreements, paperwork, delivery are only the beginning of additional tasks.
    Correct, they know how to sell furniture and will focus on furniture commission. They won’t turn down an art sale, but that is not what the client is seeking. I would also be concerned about its safety in handling. (I used to be in the insurance business.)
    I had a reputable chain art/craft store “lose” my entire stock and never pay me.
    I have shown in restaurants and other small businesses, and over many years only had one sale.
    I will stay with galleries, professional exhibits and my website.
    If you can manage the challenge, then best wishes for you!

  7. My work would not do well in a furniture store but several friends have been successful in them. I hang in several offices mostly as visible storage. I have been painting for 35 years and have pieces that were orphaned from old series, so mostly I just want them out of my studio. I have sold from restaurants and doctors offices, but that is a bonus for me.

  8. I was in a high quality contemporary furniture this year for two months and sold three paintings. My husband was in the same store for four months this year and sold seven paintings. Some were large 36 x 36 pieces and priced over $1000. The owner is a fabulous curator and the work looked fabulous and so did the furniture. Both benefitted from the collaboration. Both the store and we publicized the collaboration via Facebook and constant comment.

    I would say if your work and the store fits do it. In Denise’s instance, I would ask the store to remove the prints while my work was there.

    And as always it is important to have a solid contract with the store and a complete list of work there, with retail and wholesale prices. In our case the store took 35% but to us it was well worth it.

  9. I’d practically forgotten until reading this? Probably twenty five years ago, I showed at an Ethan Allen store in the Fort Worth/Dallas area. They sold a lot of my work! Even gave me a couple of shows. BUT, the owner of the store was one who really had a head for business. Not many of those furniture/designer places could hold a candle to this man! He appreciated fine art, and decided it might be fun to try to sell my work. He spent a lot of time teaching his designers about original art. What to say, how to distinguish and promote it and its price from a paper print. Several of the designers became very good and sold some of my big paintings for great prices! Unfortunately, this man eventually moved to Louisiana, and the next owner of the store was totally uninterested in such high priced paintings when they could offer prints. So that was the end of that. Since then, it’s been my experience that most interior design stores will balk at selling higher priced original art.

  10. I have worked with high- end interior designer firm for 4 years. I had mixed feeling experience.
    It was easy commissioned sales but I felt that my creativity was not to full speed . They do want original art, but it must compliment that great sofa. Price was a major factor to all sales, and at the end not even compared with gallery, or my private studio sales. I got to say it did teach me a lot with esthetics of making “likable” art ,but I was far from my own artistic goals. Landscapes were best seller and “light” abstracts. I did not sign those paintings with the same name I am signing my regular art work ( on the other hand designers always used my real name to show protentional buyer how good of a deal they are getting). I know lots of artist who do the same, it is easy supplement income, but not really advertising for your name. It was a big international firm with sales all over the USA, and unfortunately some art works just disappeared, I was not paid and paintings were never located. You will need to decide on your own, best wishes !

  11. I have had a successful over a dozen years relationship with a local antiques store owner, with solid if sometimes spotty, sales. I do a lot of portraits and have gotten referrals; as well I love how the art is displayed amongst other ‘treasures’’

  12. I had been working in a high end interior design store for ten years as a floral designer. When I decided to start painting again I asked the owner if he would be willing to sell my art, and thus it began. I was a total unknown, but it turned out many of these clients weren’t looking for an established name as much as a nice piece of original art that fit their home. The system worked SO WELL. the owners of the store, and other interior designers would take my art out to a clients home as a finishing touch for their interior design project. The best way ever to sell art, is showing it hanging in the clients home. No imagination required. This continued for ten years. Eventually the store owner and I came to the same thought at the same time…my prices had increased to the point they were leaving the realm of furniture store, to needing to be in a gallery. My last piece sold for just under 10K. When I left, I took myself off the art market, but continued to paint. I wanted separate my previous association with being sold in a furniture store, and I wanted to take my art to a higher level. (Yup so I could charge more). For the last two years I’ve been mentored by one of the top artists in our major city, and I’ve got my portfolio built up enough I’m about ready to approach real galleries. I bring along with me a fan base of prior clients who purchased my art from the past, and may buy more in the future. I’m hoping that will be an attraction to a gallery owner thinking of bringing me aboard.

  13. Just 2 weeks ago, I consigned two pieces of my art to a high end contemporary furniture store in Santa Monica, CA whose inventory includes a great deal of original art. The split is 70/30 which is better than that of most galleries. The owner is a sole proprietor and indicated to me that she does regularly sell the art. Her artists are listed with a bio on her website and she promotes the artists on social media and I reciprocate on my Instagram. I signed a 2 month contract to that effect, the timing of which is flexible. She recently moved into this location, which is a larger space than she had previously. She’s been in business for many years and has relationships with at least one major well known Los Angeles gallery. She regularly holds events that bring people into the store. Since I am not represented by a gallery, I thought it would be worthwhile to try it out and see how it goes. Fingers crossed!

  14. I don’t sell a lot but enough it is worthwhile. Definitely high end … my work is displayed beside European antiques. I hit my “high water mark” oil painting sale at this store. Split is 60/40. lt is important to understand they are processing the credit card and pay a percentage with it. Certainly reasonable. The only paperwork involved with a private company (verses corporate) is a simple one-page agreement. Works for both of us.

    The only downside is them wanting themed paintings. If I was more inclined to paint their vision instead of my own I’m sure I could sell more. It is a personal choice.

  15. For six months I had work in a new design center about 30 miles from where I live. At first I was happy to have gotten in on the ground floor, hoping that it would be a good way to reach interior designers. But it soon became obvious that it was going to be a dead end. The way they hung and presented the art was not conducive to making sales : everything was hung with only an inch or two to spare around each piece, making for a very crowded, confusing presentation. Shortly after my work was accepted, they began hanging artwork all the way up to ceiling level. The building had such high ceilings that binoculars were needed to view those pieces. While I did sell a couple of small paintings it was nowhere near enough to justify the long drive I had to make to deliver new work and switch out older pieces. Unfortunately this type of business just wasn’t a venue that worked for me.

  16. Years ago, Ralph Lauren (yep, that’s the one) asked the gallery in Telluride if he could use a couple of my paintings in his New York furniture showroom. I gladly agreed. He had my paintings for 6 months. Unhappily for me, he didn’t buy them, but shortly after they arrived back in Telluride, someone else from NY bought both of them. Ralph sent me a personal note with a stonewashed shirt and some perfume for my wife. Nice. Otherwise, I had great sales of my western paintings in a cool gallery that was just inside the front door at a high-end western tack shop in Connecticut. Unhappily, the tack store/gallery venture was short-lived. I had a few sales from a designer gallery in Denver, several from one in Steamboat Springs, but none from restaurants in Beverly Hills or Jackson Hole, or from design stores in Houston or Los Angeles. Like someone said, unless the place has a separate area that’s well-lit and is focused on showing and selling the artwork, it’s probably not the best venue. As for the lost artwork, it’s majorly important to have a signed consignment agreement (preferably with their logo/letterhead) so everyone knows where the artwork is and the shop is accountable for it.

  17. We owned a home interior store for 12 years (recently retired) and worked with several local artists and craftsman. It was a joy featuring and supporting local artists. We mostly sold on consignment. Pieces and artists were featured in some of our special events giving our customers/clientele a chance to ‘meet the artist’. I would highly recommend both local businesses and artist to work together. The details of how sales worked varied a bit from artist to artist. In the end it was a successful endeavor for both of us.

  18. We are just about to hang some of our artwork (originals and prints) in a yoga studio/wellness center that I go to for acupuncture. It’s within walking distance of our home and we plan on switching out the artwork at least every six months. We have agreed to a 15% commission if anything sells. Stay tuned.

  19. I connected with a design store that has two locations a year ago and they’ve sold more work of mine than any gallery I was ever in!!! The designer has a 40 yr success record and has done very well for me…which is why I’ve moved to designers from galleries. It’s just a monetary split between us and all I have to do is paint, printmake, then deliver and wait for the check in the mail. They also pay very quickly and there’s never any discussion or problem. They’re super people to work with!!! I feel very fortunate to be in business with them!

  20. Interesting to read your thoughts and those of everyone else. 4 months ago I consigned 4 pieces (60/40%) to an Interior Design Showroom. I doubt it will work out because they are a “to the trade” only Showroom. Very high end but little traffic and when the designers are there they are zooming around choosing fabric, wallpaper and carpet samples. Because I only have one gallery right now at least the the paintings are out of my studio. I’m giving it a few more months, after all it looks good in my website.

  21. I owned a my own gallery for almost 20 years and now exhibit in other galleries. I had the opportunity to show my work in a high end small boutique furniture design store with an owner who likes my work, so I said “why not.” I have had more sales in 6 months compared to any gallery that currently represents me, many over the $2000 mark. No website, no shows, no marketing. 50/50 split. I keep track of my inventory. I do not do abstracts, many of the works have figures or coastal in nature, all impressionistic. I believe it makes a difference no matter what venue you are in that the owner (or sales person) really likes your work and knows how to sell.

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