September 22, 2022
Style Notes

The Art of Style: 3 Interior Designers Share Their Approach to Decorating with Art

From small decorative pieces to oversized statement stunners, art continues to play an influential role in interior design. Four Hands Art Studio, a full-service commercial art studio from Four Hands, has curated hundreds of pieces from more than 175 independent artists from around the world, with new partnerships every season. Each piece is thoroughly scanned, reproduced with state-of-the-art printers and technology, and handcrafted in-house to create reproductions that accurately mirror the artist’s original vision.

Through a new series, “The Art of Style”, Four Hands has partnered with three interior designers – Sara Malek Barney of BANDD/DESIGN in Austin, TX, Nicole Ficano of Workshop/APD in New York, NY, and Susie Novak of Susie Novak Interiors based in Oakland, CA – who’ve curated their favorite pieces from Four Hands Art Studio. Read on for these designers’ favorites and learn how art influences their designs every day.

Sara Malek Barney: Play with personality

Sara Malek Barney

When it comes to art, Sara Malek Barney, Founder + Principal Designer BANDD/Design, gravitates toward art that is silly, unexpected and playful.

She loves combining both comfortable and approachable design with a touch of quirky personality, but she realizes that art is subjective and that everyone responds differently to it.

Her advice: Get personal. “I really take some time getting to know my clients and sharing a lot of art with them to see what resonates with them,” she says. “From there, I pare it down to a detailed, 
thoughtful curation.”

Barney's Picks

Head in the Clouds by Getty Images

Head in the Clouds by Getty Images

“This black and white piece is just so playful and silly. I imagine this piece would be a huge topic of conversation in someone’s home.” 

Saint-Tropez Boucherie by Slim Aarons

Saint-Tropez Boucherie by Slim Aarons

“I would be out of my mind if I didn’t include Slim Aarons in my curation — I even have a piece of his in my own home. This particular photo is a bit of a departure from his usual work and I love the quirk and sassiness of this piece.” 

Anthony, NM by Ryann Ford

Anthony, NM by Ryann Ford

“I’ve worked with Ryann a number of times on my own projects and her talent is absolutely killer. I love the depth and high contrast of this landscape photo.” 

Talent is Luck by Annie Spratt

Talent is Luck by Annie Spratt

“I love the message and format of this street art photography. At first blush, it seems like a mixed media piece, but upon closer examination, it’s the most interesting photo.” 

Nicole Ficano: It starts with art

Nicole Ficano

Some designers might think of art as the final finishing touch. But Nicole Ficano, Design Director at Workshop/APD, suggests you start with art. She says she and her team often begin the design process with a focus on art, allowing a client’s existing or new pieces to serve as a key inspiration for a space.

 “This allows furniture and materiality to complement and play off of the art, as opposed to fighting it or even simply coexisting in the same room,” she says. “Art can define a space and its color palette (or lack thereof) within the room, and it can change a design drastically too. It’s a conversation we start with when working with clients.”

 Ficano says she’s drawn to mixed media pieces — particularly works with texture, movement or a three-dimensional aspect.

 “Don’t underestimate art’s ability to activate a space or even highlight areas of interest,” she says.

Ficano's Picks

And All The Stars in the Sky By Gold Rush

And All The Stars in the Sky By Gold Rush

“This painting is so versatile, and would work well in any number of interiors. The painting’s composition gives the impression of texture and depth. Though there’s an appealing simplicity to it, there’s also a ton of movement.”

Saint-Tropez Boucherie by Slim Aarons

Color Form B By David Grey

“I really love the play on materials and the folded form with solid bold coloring. I can imagine so many uses for this versatile piece.”

Expansion XVII & Expansion XVIII By David Grey

Expansion XVII & Expansion XVIII By David Grey

“These pieces are a beautiful, impactful injection of color. I chose them for their sophisticated palette and their soft abstract forms, which would echo some of the more organic, curvy furnishings in a space.”


Susie Novak: The bigger, the better

Susie Novak

Interior designer Susie Novak has always been a fan of art. “I’ve been collecting art since my college years, and I spent a decade in the art world in New York and San Francisco,” she says. “I love being able to bring that experience into my work every day.”

 Known for her love of clean neutrals, bold pops of color and modern sculptural forms, Novak creates beautiful residential designs that span a variety of budgets, styles, timeframes and requirements. As a result, she’s had to find creative ways to bring art into her designs.

 Novak’s tip: Go big. “Fill a wall with one large piece and let it breathe. The bigger the scale, the better,” she says. “And when you need more than one piece to anchor a space, select a grouping of two or three pieces — don’t go too crazy with a gallery wall.”

 She also recommends mixing art types like photography, painting and mixed media. “Have fun and enjoy every piece!”

Novak's Picks

Reality Unfurled By Toni Toscano

Reality Unfurled By Toni Toscano

“This feels so painterly but it’s a photograph. Printed on ChromaLuxe, it gives the piece so much movement and depth.”

Tree Sketch II By Coup D'Esprit

Tree Sketch II By Coup D'Esprit

“I’m always looking for smaller, beautiful drawings or paintings to fill out a collection and this is such a sweet piece.”

Beach in Positano By Slim Aarons

Beach in Positano By Slim Aarons

“Would you want to be anywhere else? Stunning beach, coastline, people having the time of their lives, gorgeous colors — take me there now.” 

Triangle Left By The Holly Collective

Triangle Left By The Holly Collective

“I adore minimalist art. I love the simplicity of the shapes here and the amplification of the brushstrokes. It’s subtle and beautiful.” 


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