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?
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 artists 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.
Some years ago I had art at an interior designer convention in our state capitol.(Our local art association took a booth there.) I was approached by the owner of an interior design business and shop. She asked me to bring some abstracts which I did. She was unable to sell them (she went out of business a few months after I met her) but a demo I did in her yard sold later in my home town. So it was not a waste. Also, When we drove the 65 miles to reclaim my art, ( in a snowstorm), we were diverted on the way back and stopped by our local winery, where I also had art, to wait for the road to clear. A man from Chicago came in and bought a large diptych! He probably would not bought it if I hadn’t been there in person. So it was serendipity that we had been to the designer’s and also faced a snow storm! The moral is, you never know when unplanned sales can happen, so take every opportunity you can to get it out there!
It seems to me that what an interior design store sells is their design services.
Most of that is furniture and staples like rugs and wall coverings, lighting, etc.
Art is there not as emotion but as suitable decoration focusing the client on the stuff of interior design they are trying to sell.
I watched in horror, am HGTV show where the designer “made abstract art” at the very last with a roller and paint for the wall. It took a couple of minutes.
That is seared into my mind.
Interior design shops are the high end.
I’m not that hungry.
I have a gallery which had placed my paintings in a high end interior design and furniture store
They have sold nothing in 2 years and I feel it is a waste of time
The store wants to sell furniture
The gallery has now left marketing to a third party
So I’m pretty negative about this especially if your art doesn’t fall into an easily defined genre
I do think abstract art might have more success or very clean designer art but I’m concerned about whether the store really takes as good care of things as the gallery would
Also I have no contract with the store
Hmm. As an emerging artist, I’ve sought out alternate spaces to show my artwork. I’ve had success in cafes, lighting showrooms ( where interior designers were a majority of the clientele), a health center and studio open houses. Each sale was a bonus in my eyes. Covid wiped out the usual venues and these helped during difficult times. People were still doing take out, going for health appointments and redecorating their homes.
I have a couple of perspectives. One is my friend, who owns her own furniture store. She sells her art routinely. I doubt it would be as effective if I put my art in there with hers. Second, I am showing art in a Design Showroom which is an amalgam of galleries, artists and antique sellers. Because it is a place where designers go for their clients and not just one designer’s staged showroom it is a decent opportunity for exposure. Luckily they have built their mailing list by producing an Art, Antiques and Jewelry Exhibition at the Convention Center locally and in other high end cities. The women who run the showroom are enthusiastic about the art there and tireless to take it to home showings. They have introduced my work to several designers and architects. Since I do large scale works this is optimum exposure.
I am an artist and retired interior designer. (30 years)I also owned a “to the Trade” design showroom for 20 years. We serviced interior designers suppling everything from furniture, carpeting, cutom everything.
We had many artisans and artists ask to show their work in our showroom. We held programs to encourage designers to sell original work.
We were not successful. Designers bought plenty of very moderately priced prints and mass produced accessories.
Usually wall art is purchased at the end of the project when the budget is exhausted. Also, many customers think art matches the palatte of the room rather than add adding a point of interest or a peek into the personality of the owner.
Designers must have a keen interest in art as it takes great expertise to sell it. It is an easy way out to open a framed art catalog of prints and pick something.
The value of galleries can be underestimated.
I have no experience with this type of venue but I notice the high end interior store where have very contemporary abstract art – not what I paint – and the price for those paintings are much lower that what I get for my paintings. So I decided not to pursue that type of vendor for my art.
A few years ago after the gallery I was in had to close I took a number of paintings that had not sold and placed them with a high end resale furniture store. I sold most of my paintings but at a lower price than I would normally sell them. I do more impressionistic art and because the wide range of style of furniture they had more a variety of clients. I stopped selling with them after most of the paintings I wanted to sell sold. About 6 months ago I was contacted by a client that had bought two of the paintings at the store. She commissioned me to paint two more paintings and was happy to pay my current prices.
I was approached by a large, national furniture store and looked into it. One of my former clients was an interior designer and she sold my work, but she told me I wouldn’t get good results and should not waste my time. I did not pursue it.
I suspect that customers in a high end furniture store are people who want everything in their homes to be of high quality. They will also most probably expect the staff in the store to be experts in all the products. Thus for art purchases they will go to an established art gallery for the quality, expertise and the emotional experience. I believe that the initial emotional, sometimes an almost spiritual connection with a piece of artwork might not happen in a staged setting.
I agree with this. My mother (Who was not a rich woman) purchased a large Jonas Gerard painting in his gallery in Ashville, NC. She was moved by it spiritually.
I recently approached a local design center that also sells furniture and accessories. They carry high end furnishings with a coastal vibe, very well appointed, and walking in there is like walking into a page of Architectural Digest. I had been wanting to do this for about a year ,but was reluctant because I am still in the “not sure my work is good enough” stage, and was intimidated. So I was pleasantly surprised (make that thrilled) when the manager of the store whom I met with told me she would be happy to try a couple of my paintings because even though they don’t take all art they do like to support local artists who’s art might be a good fit,and at that point referred to my work as “boho chic” who knew! lol So I brought her florals a still life and a couple of landscapes. She sold 4 paintings since that initial contact and one client commissioned a companion to one of the still life paintings she purchased for her bedroom. The store manager has since asked for more paintings and I dropped off 5 more last week. This not only taught me a lesson to push myself more, but also it has been the boost in confidence that was much needed. So the moral of this small story as the old saying goes is you really don’t know until you try! I have been reading your blog for years and this was the first time that it hit home and was something that I felt I could contribute to. thanks so much for all the great content you put out there for artists…
This is timely for me. I’m in a smallish town (Buffalo, NY) and have joined our local interior design association as a “supplier to the industry”. I’ve been invited by a member who manages a high-end tile shop to place my work in her show room. I’m considering it.
There are few galleries here and most of the populace does not go to them. I’d also like to develop relationships with these folks even if my work doesn’t sell. In addition, It will give me some exposure to a target market, as you said.
This all kind of reminds me of the broke out of touch urban street painter in Chicago 25 years ago who couldn’t GIVE AWAY his soulful paintings of homeless bums there in Chicago.Turns out, a well to do Frenchman bought up an original for 7,000 dollars and started a new career for the painter. People ALWAYS wan’t what they can’t have; or is in short supply!! Remember THAT when dealing with strangers!
As a caveat to my previous blog, I had a businessman from Hawaii make 3 trips in 3 years here to Florida to watch his favorite alumni football games.Each time he visited, he asked the small gallery owners ‘ ‘How much was my 3x6foot oil/canvas Gator painting?” NOT a print!! He ONLY wanted the original!…His last visit was in the rain 5 pm on a hot football afternoon.He left the gallery frustrated AND infuriated at wasting his time! Gallery called ma at 7pm on a Saturday night to bring the original unframed and hang it in their back room.I did, and at 9am on a Sunday morning i was told to come pick up a check for 8500 dollars. He threw in an extra 500.to box and ship it to Hawaii….You just never know!!
There is a Phoenix hotel that is now providing artists with the “opportunity” to hang in the rooms. They want to keep the art for 3 years. Three YEARS. I believe they also charge you to apply for this “opportunity”. IMHO if they want to showcase local art(ists) as they say they do they should have shows, curate, and purchase art. Otherwise you are decorating their rooms for free.
I took a peak at this market a few years ago & decided I couldn’t compete with their present super low cost sources. But your questioner’s situation sounds a bit different. If she knows someone there it makes a big difference if they’d be interested to steer some work her way.
I sell a lot of artwork at a high end furniture store. That said, the owner likes and promotes my art and includes it in her designs and bids. I also receive a fair amount of commissions. I think it’s fair to say that you need to show at places that wants to sell your art. My Aspen gallery almost never sells a piece for just that reason.
I have had great success with prices up to $4600.00. Clients buy mainly large pieces. I don’t do abstracts but local scenes. I do try to put current colors in my paintings. If I have 2 scenes to choose from that I want to paint, then I choose the scene that has the more current colors. The design shops create the whole decorati g package for the client and push my work. It is the last piece installed. I develop a relationship with them so that they look out for me.
I had a designer/event planner approach me a few years ago to show my work in her shop. At first nothing happened, but this past fall she sold a $2000 piece to one of her clients. She has a good clientele, although often they’re in her shop for small things, not big furniture. Still, I consider her a great contact, and she did set up a solo show for me also last year. It didn’t do very well. Her staff is unfamiliar with how to hang and light art well, so I had to get in there and make it happen (perfectly okay) but she also prefers to have only large pieces (her space is in an old railway station and has very high ceilings). There have been pros and cons, but overall, my experience has been positive. I think it helps that she’s local and constantly involved in what’s in her shop.
I’ve had much of the same experience as afore mentioned artists. I was in a high end furniture store in Utah owned by 2 designers. After being in the design center and having NO sales in 2 years I pulled out. I think they wanted nice artwork to showcase their showroom — but they wanted me to lower my prices significantly and that didn’t work for me. As others mentioned, having the artwork is great to showcase the furniture— but it seemed they wanted me to ‘throw in the artwork’ for very cheap because they wanted their clients to buy their furniture and pay their design consultation fees.
Most of this market is met through the wholesale purchase of large giclee prints chosen not by the designers but by the vendors. The price points are low to accomodate the average client who is not there to buy art and must also allow for profit to the store operator and commission to the interior designers. The profit split does not generally allow an original art producer to do anything but starve. Volume demands profit from the least effort and expense. Through the poster giclee producers virtually any image can be supplied in both the size and colors to suit the designers/clients taste or theme. There is no incentive for them to sell original art. This same type of clientelle is serviced through the online art sellers enmasse approach to placing both prints and original works. it always maintains an equilibrium of value at the low range as it is the law of averages on sales. in the 80s print business models did well in this market, today its giclees .
I think a decoration store or furniture store has diferent definition about art is. They look for make money with afordable prices wall art, so the way it could work is selling high-quality prints for decoration porpuses. You have to have a product not an art, capable to do the job in decoration industry. Get good prices on materials, have a wholesale price, logistic, and other things. What do you think?
Seems the variety of possible responses have been given. My past life & career was as an interior designer, space planner.
I agree these are not best venues for selling your art . If your art fits in with the current trends in size, style & colour you may do just fine . The thinking us – yes I’m buying real art but I’m really decorating a space.Higher prices asked in a high end shop but not where a serious art buyer goes looking.
Better is a designer who knows artists of different styles and who then takes the client to those studios.
Thank you Caroline for your realistic and honest feedback….I think establishing relationships with individual designers who know our work is the way to cultivate business. Putting art in show rooms really is to make the furniture look better and not to sell art!
I had my art in Beverly Hills Fine Art and Antiques and did very well there making $3 yo 5,000 mo
Unfortunately he lost his lease and I lost the venue. But it was great while it lasted !
My classic horse paintings went very well with their high end European antique furniture.
I believe it can work well if you choose your store well.
Until recently I had many large pieces of work in a To the Trade interior design showroom in NC. Almost every piece sold. It was great for me. I even had one designer come to my studio for a commission piece. She worked it out with showroom on her end.
As far as furniture stores I do not have any experience.
Are the home interior shops wanting a commission?