Your House As A Painting: What Art Can Teach You About Decorating Your Home


One of the most important, most fundamental - and most overlooked - aspects of painting is an appreciation of the frame. This does not refer to the wooden strips that a picture is "framed" in, in order to hang it up; but, rather, it refers to the relationship between the body of the painting and the area beyond its edges. Every artist makes the conscious decision to end his or her painting somewhere, to mark off a small area in which to create his or his art, to limit the scope of the painting and separate it from the rest of the world.

In a home, think of each room as a distinct painting, and the boundaries of each room as its frame. When decorating, keep these frames in mind, and decorate within - as opposed to through - them. In other words, keep the elements of one room's décor clearly within that room. You may establish a theme for the entire house, or for one floor, or for one multi-room space, but do not blend rooms into each other. Keep each room clearly defined; keep each painting inside its frame. Make it clear where the kitchen ends, and where the living room begins.

Golden Thirds

One of the first rules (or, less strictly, guiding principles) of artistic composition is the rule of golden thirds: the simple concept that a composition's main focus should be located somewhere on a set of imaginary lines that criss-cross a canvas at the horizontal and vertical intervals of one-third and two-thirds.

In order to apply this concept to home decorating, visualize all the planes (floor, walls, ceiling) of a room, and use your imagination to "draw" the golden thirds across them. Then, try to concentrate your decorations along these lines. For example, establish a line one-third of the way down your living room wall, and use it as guide as to how high to hang a set of paintings or other wall hangings; or, "draw" a line two-thirds of the way across your kitchen floor and place your kitchen table overtop of it. Usually, you'll want to use one or two big elements, such as furniture, in combination with golden thirds so as to utilize the lines without making them obvious.

In a more general way, the rule of golden thirds leads away from static, unimaginative, and rigid symmetry by forcing the artist - or decorator - away from the very middle part of the composition.


After the frame is set, and the composition and concept complete, a painter decides on a palette with which to colour his or her painting. A good palette is usually minimal, featuring perhaps three colours that are then used and mixed to create an artwork with a dominant colour scheme, and therefore a strong character.

In home decoration, a palette can take the form of at least three things: colors, just as in a painting; specific objects, like a collection of spoons or a set of rugs; or themes or motifs, such as seashells for the bathroom or arches for a hallway. The key to using any one of these types of palettes is to pick elements that both fit a room by themselves and that provide ample opportunities for fruitful combinations. And, also keep in mind that because each room is "taken in" at once, it is more important to make sure that the palette in each room is solid than it is to make sure that, say, the rug in the living room matches the one in your bedroom.


Although home decoration is a different art than painting, both are, indeed, still arts. Therefore, the methods, techniques and theories that have been perfected throughout history in painting can be quite easily adapted to fit decorating. As American music composer Lukas Foss said: "Most people think an artist tries to be original, but originality is the last thing that develops in the artist." So, even when no one notices that your beautiful new dining room is based on "a van Gogh", they won't miss that it's still beautiful - and that's all that matters.

Oh, and remember to have fun, be creative, and feel free to break some rules after you learn them!

About The Author

Karen Rhodes is a lifelong resident of the Chattanooga area and is a successful REALTOR®. Check out for more information on Chattanooga and it's surrounding areas.