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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40 Comments

  1. Hi Jason!

    I recently did a gallery walk in the artsy district of Portland, Oregon, and didn’t find anything interesting at the galleries. As I passed a contemporary furniture shop, I glanced through the window and spotted five or six beautifully vibrant oil paintings on the walls. They were mostly landscapes in bold colors. I went in and they were indeed for sale. I thought this was a great way to show and sell work. I spoke with the saleswoman and from what she said, I could see why people who buy furniture often look for art that is harmonious with their taste in home furnishings.

  2. Hello All,

    I have actually had success with interior showrooms, high end. The designers/ or showroom receive a nice percentage, and my name and prices are on the art, and I have a contract and check in regularly. Also, in the contact and no turnaround in 6 months I remove.
    Jennifer Haley

  3. Great timing for this article. One of my ex students is going to be working with a new high end furniture store on my area as their designer and decorator. She contacted me to ask me if I would like to show work there. I probably will at least to start but I don’t expect much in the way of sales. However she is only 10 minutes from my studio and would bring clients to my studio if they are interested.

  4. I’ve shown in high end furniture stores as well as in designer show rooms with mixed results. The sales I’ve gotten came primarily from the designers who wound up liking my work and incororated pieces into their designs. I can’t think of a single sale from a customer just wondering the store and deciding to buy it. However, it has provided me some good exposure and has helped me get more organized. Like a stepping stone to working with a galleries,

  5. I once showed with a consignment store that had all kinds of home decor (mostly pre-owned). They actually sold one of my pieces for around $1000. The weird thing was that not all that long after that, they requested that I pick up all my remaining pieces because they were “too high priced” for the clientele. All that they would tell me about the buyer was that she was a Korean woman…so of course there was no way to ever follow up. I might do something similar again under certain conditions–mostly because you never know–but one should go in knowing any benefit to the artist is a (very) long shot.

  6. I would worry about whether the work would get dinged up. Probably the thought occurs because of all the times I’ve looked at the “scratch and dent” basements of furniture stores. But also, I haven’t seen artwork in furniture stores that actually appealed to me more than once or twice. Perhaps this particular store will be changing that if they don’t dictate too much to the artists about what the work has to look like. Then perhaps the work won’t look either like a poster or seem “institutional”.

  7. Jason’s sense of this resonates with me. While I haven’t shown in a furniture store, I have shown in plenty of banks, real estate offices and restaurants. I think these are all akin in the sense that unless there is someone there actively interested in selling the art, that the customers assume it is part of the decor, and that since it isn’t what they came looking for, it is not likely to sell.
    There was one restaurant where I knew the owner personally for a number of years. He enjoyed talking about me and my work to his customers which caused it to sell. After he sold the restaurant I left art work up with the new owners. Nothing sold so I eventually removed the art. Perhaps with a furniture store it would be similar.

    1. I think it would be great if the establishments – banks, real estate offices, restaurants – coughed up the money to buy the pieces and made your contact info available. I haven’t tried just showing at these places but I feel that the art would be somewhat taken for granted.
      This isn’t to the point under discussion, but I noticed once that a weaving purchased by a bank had been placed over an air return duct and was horribly dusty. I pointed that out to management and they had it cleaned – and moved to the basement offices. Yikes!!

    2. I agree Karen I think that some places use the art as simply changing the decor of their cafe, hair salon so on and so on. I was in one spot a couple of years ago and I knew the owner of the art hanging and there was no mention of it or any info given just “I don’t know anything about it” Meanwhile the artist hung the art there with intention of selling it and left all kinds of info for the owner and staff. So I agree sometimes it just blends in and unless someone has information and really helps to sell it just hangs till it is taken down and the next series of deco is hung. It really does give the business a nice new look frequently though. 🙂 I think on line art sites are golden. People go on there to look for art and the people running the on line gallery are there to help sell. I love that.

  8. I strongly advise against it – unless the location adds a line to your resume. Years ago I showed wall hanging artwork – sculpture……in bedrooms and dining area of a tourist bed and breakfast – and the owner, when hanging the art, broke three pieces, out of five, and refused to pay for the breakage – returning the broken pieces to me. She bought two. There was nothing I could do. Another situation where wall sculpture was broken, a large piece, and the retailer paid for supplies for me to fix it – and then we had an argument on who owned it since he had paid the pittance to repair it – he thought he owned it.

  9. We cannot compete with the chinese…they can make huge paintings and ship them over here and sell them for less than $1000…..and they are great artists. I would make the store buy your,artwork outright….they buy it from the over seas market…why should u decorate their store for free?….or ask store to give you a contract with exclusive rights to show only your work for a period of time..have an opening….I would not hang your work with mass produced oriental art..we can’t compete.

  10. I find it very interesting, at the right store. Specialty shop, not generic. Working out a consignment percentage along the way. The size / price would need to fit the store. Might be something I pursue!

  11. Jay Zinn Art
    I’ve hung in banks, consignment shops, restaurants and a furniture store and found no results in a furniture store. The others somewhat, but the traffic in a furniture store is very low exposure wise and consumer specific in what they are coming in to purchase. Art is typically more a discovered item and an add on to what they’re looking for unless you have an interior designer who brings them to your art in the search of outfitting a room with furniture that matches your piece in color and style. My overall best wall exposure would have to be restaurants. The others, a lot of work with the smallest amount of return.

  12. What a great topic. I think we would be willing in the right venue. I think you always want a contract of consignment and if damage occurs. I’d like to add an addition question of how you approached these various stores, was it always in person, or through email, mailing? Always find good info and great answers here.

  13. This isn’t exactly a Home Interior store, but there was an Interior Designer’s show in High Point, NC where interior designers spent about 4 days shopping and getting ideas to take home with them. The interior designer that contacted me, told me which of my images she wanted in her “temporary” furniture gallery and what size. They were all 40 x 60. She wanted 10 which cost me over $1,000. She only used 7 and would not allow me to be present or offer my information. She did not purchase any of them. Lesson to the story…get a contract and know exactly what is going to happen. Five years later i still have 5 of them.

  14. Great timing on this blog. I’m just finishing a 2 month “show” at a high end interior store (furniture to high end textiles, etc) in the Seattle area – where hi-tech executives shop. My experience with this type of “venue” are mixed. When asking me to do a 2 month show with the store, promises were made (hard to put in writing) that there would be extensive marketing to their high end clientele and community (including bus stops, etc.). They required that my oil painting sizes (large to small) and prices match their customer expectations – that is a 6×6 start around $325 and a 24×36 or 36×36 command a $4000 – $5000 price point – which is where my work is priced at now so that worked. I was also asked to create enough art to fill two very large walls (above table height to the ceiling) – with extras to replace sold works. With building a new home/studio in the SW and getting our NW home ready to sell, I literally spent every spare moment painting to create enough inventory – no extra excursions to the beach or mountains! After developing a beautiful collection in sizes 6×6 – 36×36, I arrived with my team to help install the exhibit. I learned that morning that I wouldn’t have as much display space as I was told – with one wall needing the collection to hang above a tall/wide display – limiting the number of paintings and making it impossible for people to see the work up close. There was only room for 30% of my collection to be installed. Some things you have to roll with as their floor designer wanted more wall space for her products Also, the art coordinator had a dear family member with severe medical needs and she couldn’t put in the time promised to promote the show. I heart really went out to her and realize that some things are just out of one’s control. I promoted my event extensively, but I’m guessing that promos didn’t get out to clientele, and there was only one Facebook posting each month from the store and the local Arts Council. When I noticed that there had been no promotion of the show on the part of the store just three days before the opening/reception. I asked (in a helpful tone) if it would help them if I posted a promo on their FB site. That reminded the coordinator and she put up a nice post the next day. I sold three paintings – which was great – but they didn’t pay for the two flights back to do and artist reception and to take the exhibit down. The store staff were great at learning about my art/process and could communicate to clients well – but I felt the lack of marketing hurt sales and the other artist showing on the other side of the store sold nothing. As an aside – I was asked to do a single evening event at a swanky complex where a several pro-football players live, a month before the interior store show. I could have sold 3 large works and several medium-sized pieces that evening, but the design store didn’t want any works coming in “pre-sold”. I can understand that. I left those wanting those pieces with a professionally designed referral sheet with the painting’s name and the date it would be available at the store – but the paintings remain unsold. I’m very grateful for the wall space and the exposure the store gave me. Would I sacrifice a literal year again to do it again? Perhaps – if I get in writing (even if it’s an email) the marketing plan. I’m looking forward to hearing about other’s experiences.

  15. I worked with a decorator for awhile who moved several pieces for me. There was no retail venue, high end or otherwise … she worked out of her very stylish home. More an art agent, we agreed on a 30% commission. I worded our agreement very similar to a gallery. She was a word-of-mouth decorator (some advertising) and she did well for years. She quit taking on new projects and the relationship languished. We parted on good terms but I never knew the reason for her abrupt abandoning a successful business (it often has nothing to do with you or your work). I haven’t found anyone with her charisma and contacts since.
    I suspect high end retailers are used to a 300% markup with furniture and rugs and the artists’ work might not support the prices … cold maybe, but retailers will push/sell that which they can make more money. Makes 50% gallery commissions a bargain. 😀
    If I were to do this again it would have to be an unusual relationship in a unique city with universal appeal. Just reading that is distressing …. it pulls at the art side of our work and places it in the commercial end. I have trouble combining both in the same venue. I do some commercial stuff but I don’t confuse the two.

  16. I know of a woman who is a Master Pastelist with Pastel Society of America (that’s their highest honor) who owns her own home decor store and has her own (high-priced) and other artists’ work on the walls, for sale. I have no personal experience with this, but it seems to me that putting work in a high-end store is both like having a gallery (in terms of exposure. although without gallery expertise) and a way of showcasing work in setttings similar to where customers might put it, increasing the sales value of both the furniture and the art. The key would seem to be the commision paid to the store: if they receive a good one, they will try to sell it. The artist can take responsibility for providing them with bios, statements, piece descriptions, etc, just as furniture manufacturers do.

  17. I think the decorators in home & interior décor stores want to display art that “matches the couch” and sell to people who want that too. Don’t we artists always try to counter that attitude? Decorating and collecting art are two different things. I think anybody who wants to buy a unique piece of art knows where to find it.

    1. Linda, I get where you’re coming from, but I think many artists would be happy to sell their art to people who want to match the couch. The purpose is to create it, and then have it appreciated by someone. It’d be great if it was always appreciated as the fine art it is, but if someone’s willing to pay for original art, who are we to judge in what way it makes them happy? We’re not all making collectible art. Some of us are just making art to make people happy and earn $ while we do that. I’m happy to decorate someone’s house, hospital, or corporation!

    2. Some artists take offense at requests to match colors or moods. Often, though, non-artists don’t realize that “could you paint one just like it with pinks and mauves instead of blues” isn’t enjoyable or sometimes even doable for artists in general. It’s not so much an attitude as a lack of knowledge. While decorating and collecting are two different things, most of my paintings over the years were bought to hang somewhere in someone’s home as, like it or not, decor. Most people, myself included, want to feel at home in their homes, so they choose furnishings and artwork that feel good to them. This means if they hate magenta, a magenta-based painting will make them uncomfortable every time they walk past it and, hey, they’re not going to buy it. Neither would I.

      When someone commissions me to do a painting either using or omitting certain colors, I take it as a challenge, a fun way to learn and grow as an artist. No problem. If they want a certain style, though, I show them examples of current artwork and politely let them know that this is my style, and I’m happy to do a painting for them in my style. If that’s not OK, I refer them to another artist whose work might suit better. For myself, no commission is worth trying to paint something in a style not my own. The times I have tried nearly cured me of doing commissions.

      1. Well said. I totally
        agree with you. I had a commission where my agent said no purples because the ex wife painted everything in purples and the new wife wanted no part of that. She loved my painting and it went into a beautiful home.

  18. I personally would be very worried about how the art was handled. I am extremely particular with my surfaces and this is always a concern when choosing where to show and who handles it.

  19. Interesting that this came up as a topic of discussion. I worked in the interior design world for some time and have also worked with artists to show their work in a retail environment. From this perspective, I would say it depends on what kind of an artist you want to be. Potentially, an artist could make money selling this way. However, the perception of your art and who you are (if you are lucky to have your name on it) is diluted. Your art becomes an accessory, along with the vase, rug, lamp, and throw pillows. Your art is complementary to the rest of the pieces. I have done homes of art collectors and the architecture and interiors are designed and built to showcase the art and artists. There is a real difference. I’ve noticed a big trend in retailers, such as West Elm or Restoration Hardware, trying to be unique by contracting with artists. To me, the first one may be “art” but the rest become production. Retail art is artwork that is meant to just be good to look at. Your audience or customer isn’t necessarily looking for an imprint of your soul. Plus, in order to sell the price point has to be way down.

  20. I have been showing at two high end home stores in the city and cannot keep up with the sales! My work is in the $800-$2,000 range and is colourful, expressionist art inspired by nature – contemporary florals, landscapes and some animals. The sizes range from 2-5 foot. The owners of both stores love art and place my work around the stores with displays of merchandise that coordinate with my art – my art definitely does not match the couch! We change paintings over the seasons but that is not a problem for me as my art references the colours that are around me and so tends to change colour with the seasons too. The clients say they feel much less intimidated buying art in the home store than visiting galleries. In one store I am the only artist, in the other there are several artists and each has a substantial wall display and home stock that compliments the art. Sometimes my art is not displayed as optimally as in a gallery, but my great sales show that this doesn’t really matter. Commissions are 35-40%. These are not furniture stores but home stores with interior designers as owners with a loyal client base who are enthusiastic about buying art. Hope this helps.

  21. Jason – I love it when people are able to say, “Hey, that’s something I don’t know.” Thanks. The closest I’ve come was several large-scale commissions arranged by our local arts foundation. They hooked me up with a medical facility first, then later with an interior designer for restaurants, casinos, and other business clients. This worked well for everyone, and I would do it again, given the opportunity.

    Every time I’ve tried the furniture/interior design store route, though, nothing has worked out. Usually, they are looking for inexpensive work that they can mark up quite a bit, and that’s just not a good fit for either of us.

  22. I have supplied paintings for years to a friend who runs a small shop with decorating accessories and tailor made curtains. She has a lovely Biedermeier table in the window; a framed piece of art on the wall above this table is an eyecatcher for customers and has been a wonderful source of exposure (and income) for me. Seeing art “in situ” definitely has its advantage, much like having that folder of paintings in customers’ homes. This system has worked for both the shop owner and myself, though it definitely is not a primary source of revenue.

  23. I have better experience developing a relationship with a few interior designers and showing a few pieces in their show room as an example of my work. I am pitching commission work through the designer vs holding inventory in the store. Interior designers have a budget and I can deliver pieces that I am willing to sell within that budget. I recently received a $4,000 commission for an office renovation. I find that it is easier to work out a commission job vs trying to guess what will sell in the show room.

  24. I got my start selling small-to-medium oils (7″ to 18″, $325-800) in a lovely oriental rug shop with dedicated display space. The venue rotates among interested local artists every two months. The proprietor lists each “show” in the monthly “First Friday” gallery walk blurb, so there is always some good traffic and word of mouth geared toward the art work. Among the 13 or so pieces I hung last year, about half sold in the two month period.

  25. I have found that selling my art in a retail environment not specifically targeted to the art market to be unfavorable for me. My husband runs a high end store in Scottsdale, AZ that supplies appliances, floor covering and cabinetry that goes into the interior of homes being remodeled for new construction (both custom and tract). Even offering commissions to decorators and sales people in the store has not proven to be that effective. My experience has been, that clients come into the store for a specific purpose and are focused on that, as are the sales people too. ( understandable, as they are focused on selling thousands of dollars in product VS my thousand + for art) I have made some sales, but they are few and far between. I think the purchase of art for the wall is purposeful and not that impulsive. Art displayed in that environment become just a decoration on the wall targeted toward a color scheme and style but nothing more. If you were the sales person in the store, then that might be a different story ,as you would have a vested interest in the sale of the art….but you need to ask yourself WHY is the client here? What motivation is the strongest for the sales person on the floor? You would be better off establishing a relationship for commission work, as the interior design business is fickle and precise in it’s demands. Artwork is needed for the home, but the vehicle to get it there may not be a retail store dedicated to things other than fine art.

  26. Thanks so much for such a great topic. Selling art from furniture retailers has become a big trend in Australia. These new style retailers combine art, furniture and homewares. They virtually take on the gallery role and have a ‘stable’ of artists they work with, hold exhibitins with openings, add the art to their website and post new pieces on social media as they become available. They sell both online and throught their bricks and mortar store. So there is very strong and active marketing, exactly like a gallery, and from what I hear the artists are very successful. The websites reflect this, for example:
    https://www.fentonandfenton.com.au

    I recently collaborated with my sister who owns a home staging and property styling business to design a range of large fairly minimalist paintings for her, separate from my fine art work. She is expanding to open an online store to offer room packages of art, furniture and accessories. This is a growing trend where furniture retailers/interior designers have websites with complete rooms online, where you can click on and buy every item in the room. Including the art.

    The customers are people who are reasonably affluent professionals or entrepreneurs who are time poor, intimidated by galleries and the contemporary art scene, have no idea what to hang on their walls, and want clear guidance. Art is not their thing, they just want their home to look nice. I don’t see it or treat it as simply decorator art, but a way to introduce these people to something better than what they currently have. A lower price doesn’t have to mean poor aesthetics.

  27. I’ve had a really fabulous experience working with a high-end furniture store. They specialize in handcrafted furniture, have interior designers on staff, and have been an absolutely pleasure to work with. I’ve had 6 or 7 sales in the last few years I’ve been working with them. It has been great exposure for me. They have had several openings for me and were very good at sending out email invites to everyone on their mailing list, so they brought in lots of people who otherwise wouldn’t have seen my work. I sent invites to my mailing list as well, so they had visitors to their showroom who hadn’t seen their furniture before. One great benefit that I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet is that working with them has helped me build my newsletter list and social media presence. Unlike galleries, who (understandably) are reluctant to share buyer info with artists, part of our agreement is that they collect and share with me the full contact info for any buyer. So, I have the potential for creating a long-term relationship with anyone who buys through them, and several of the buyers now actively follow my work and may make additional purchases. And, I have had people stop by my studio to see additional works after seeing my work in their showroom. So, I would highly encourage working with a furniture store IF the quality of their furniture, and their staff, is a good fit with your work!

  28. I recently checked out interior designers in my area and stumbled upon one that employs three designers. As it turns out, this is just a satellite location and they are based in Chicago (2 hours from me). In Chicago, they have won extensive interior design awards. I showed one of them a few small pieces I had in my car, which she kept to show the others over the weekend. She said that the GROUP (which she stressed) felt that my work didn’t fit with what they had at the time or in the near future, but she asked me to keep trying, as they change things up often. She also invited me to stop by over the holidays to see how they change things up and gave me an idea of sizes and colors they’d be interested in. The work I showed them was somewhat representational and they are looking for only abstracts. They would take 50%, but I think it would be worth it because of the status of their firm in Chicago. She started to give me my card back until I told her I also did murals and commissions. Then, she kept my card. I think more could be made through commissions than through sales in the showroom.

  29. I’m not proud, I’ll show my work anywhere, seriously,anywhere. My best shows have been in taverns and coffee shops. I live in Seattle where there is a huge art community and tons of venues to show in. Price point and size may be part of my success.

  30. This is a really good subject to discuss. I have been selling my work in a high end “life style” store in a big city with sophisticated clientele for four years. I started with a trunk show and visit every six to twelve weeks with fresh work, mostly large canvases and painting on paper. They know nothing about my work but have a great number of designers who visit the store frequently plus an instore designer. They do show houses and take my work. I have sold more there than any commercial gallery. It has its downsides though. They won’t share who bought the work and they don’t want me showing anywhere else in the city but we don’t have a contract, so I do show in other venues there. They take 50 percent commission but I have to travel there to keep track of the inventory and to get paid. Also, sometimes they hang my work in a bad spot where it is prone to damage or can’t be seen. I just picked up a large canvas that was hung behind a desk and chair and the chair was denting the canvas.
    Also they buy work ” at market” so that is often the work they promote and put in the best spaces in the store. Also they buy market work that imitates mine. One piece was an obvious copy from my website , though not done nearly as well, an untrained eye might not see the differences.
    I pointed it out to the owners but they didn’t care. That piece eventually sold and got eroneously attributed to one of my sales, since the sales people thought I had painted it! They are honest and they always pay me when I show up though. Sometimes I have to convince the owners to take something I know will sell, and I even changed a title once because the owner didn’t like it.
    All of this irritates me but I put up with it because it is a great market for my work. My price points there are $1500 to $5500.00. I have shown my work in museums, non-profits, commercial galleries, cooperative galleries, model homes, art associations, business offices, one day events and online. Every single show I have ever done has increased my audience even if it did not result in sales. There is a latent effect. Sometimes I get more exhibition opportunities or sales years down the road, all of which keeps business going. I love what I do and want to earn a living doing it, so I sometimes put up with less than perfect selling conditions. I will continue selling there until my work stops selling or they decide to show other folks in lieu of me.

  31. I was just approached by a store yesterday after following them on Instagram. I am sooooo glad I came across this post and will update!

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