The Art of Design

By / Living / February 22, 2018

With so many different tastes and aesthetics, are there really any rules when it comes to hanging art in your home? We asked a pair of experts to weigh in, and pegged a few of our favorite local artists to get you started

The designers

Michelle Jolas (left) and Lauren Lozano Ziol, founders of Roscoe Village-based interior design firm SKIN (, both have backgrounds in art — graphic design and history, respectively. Their aesthetic and love for all forms of art come through in their designs, such as this Wilmette home.

Which should come first: the art or the rest of the design?
It depends, Ziol says. For this project, the homeowners had a large collection of art in their basement that they weren’t sure how to incorporate. Jolas and Ziol handpicked their favorite pieces and pulled the design’s color palette directly from the art.

Where should my biggest pieces go?
“Larger walls call for large pieces,” Ziol says. “I love to do a big dramatic piece in an entryway or dining room — somewhere that’s a focal point of the house.” An oversized piece can serve as a design anchor throughout your space, carrying into other rooms. “It’s nice to be able to see a piece of art from another room if there’s a clear pathway.”

What if I can’t pick just one?
A gallery arrangement on a large wall is a great solution. Start by laying everything out on the floor and arranging the pieces like a puzzle, working from the center outward, Ziol says. On the wall, leave three to four inches between each piece of art, and aim for equal spacing on all sides of the arrangement.

To frame or not to frame?
Simple frames — or no frame at all — play to a more modern aesthetic, while ornate or gilded versions are more traditional. But you don’t have to choose: “We love to mix old and new,” Ziol says. Case in point: In the room pictured above, she hung an oversized, unframed abstract work — the epitome of contemporary — on the left wall, and a classically matted gold frame on the built-in shelves.

Three local artists we love

Lydia Cash | @lydiastudio
You’ve likely seen Cash’s work throughout the city, most recently in a series of custom paintings lining the walls at Gibsons Italia (she also did the restaurant’s Chicago-icon toile wallpaper that hangs near the bathrooms). She works with clients to create original works for their spaces, starting around $2,000. 

Mari Orr | @meanderingmari
A chemist-turned-artist, Orr creates geometric and abstract designs bursting with color. Original pieces start around $140, but Orr also sells pretty prints, accepts commissions and even offers a free monthly download for use as a computer or smartphone background.

Harmonia Rosales | @honeiee
Inspired by her Afro-Cuban heritage and a passion for social activism, Rosales’ art is traditional at first glance, but nuanced upon closer inspection. Her most well-known pieces place black women at the center of famous paintings by Michelangelo and da Vinci, but in all her work, she uses vivid realism to make powerful statements. Original pieces are sold through LA’s Simard Bilodeau Contemporary gallery (, and limited-edition prints are released periodically on her website.

Looking for art on a budget? Here are three great resources

Randolph Street Market
Don’t rule out vintage and antique shops on your search. This monthly market is one of our favorites for unique frame-able finds, from antique maps to vintage postcards to funky textiles. There’s still time to hit the market this weekend, or check it out when it returns March 24-25. 1341 W. Randolph;

The European company makes limited-edition photography accessible for the art novice. Its Wicker Park gallery offers a rotating selection of pieces by up-and-comers and seasoned photogs alike; the website has an even bigger selection, deep discounts and easy search features to find exactly what you like.
1721 N. Damen;

Exhibition A
Founded by Chicago native Cynthia Rowley and her gallery-owner husband Bill Powers, this site is like Groupon for art. They collaborate with artists to introduce a new piece each week — everything from surrealist paintings to cheeky graphic art — and offer digital prints for a fraction of the gallery price.

Designer and home photos by Andrew Miller


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