How to Buy Art for Your Office

Jan 9, 2024

In a few weeks, I’m moving into my new office.  My colleagues only see me on Zoom, so I need the background to convey personality and professionalism in the same breath.  I need it to feel warm and inviting, but also like a workspace.

Luckily, this is the fourth office that I’ve decorated and I’ve learned that if you choose the right wall art for the space, the rest is easy.  The trouble is that most of the wall art for sale in stores in pricey and generic, a great combo.  So here are my best tips for buying art for your office that won’t break the bank.

First, skip TJ Maxx, Home Goods, or Target.  Some of the pieces at big box retailers are nice, many are bad hotel art.  And once a piece from one of these retailers becomes popular, it pops up everywhere (every AirBnB in Montana has the photo of the highland steer from Target).  I recommended avoiding the shops entirely, there are often more interesting pieces in similar price points to be had elsewhere.

The one exception to this guideline is if you love the piece.  Sometimes we just swing into Target because it’s there and snap up the first thing we see that we like okay.  Since you can live with a piece of art for so long, you should want to look at it every day.  If a loved piece of art comes from Target, so be it.

Second, think about size and style.  The art you choose for your work space conveys a message to your boss, your clients, your colleagues and yourself.  Choose something you like, but keep in mind who else will see it and what the impression you want to leave is.

As for how to pick art, Emily Henderson and My Domaine both have great how-to guides to walk you through how to pick art for your space.  They talk about tone, color, size and more to make sure you get the mechanics right.  Nothing looks quite as bad as a small piece of art on a very big wall.

For my office, I’m mixing a pair of simple landscapes that I already own with pieces that have a bit more pop.  Since my office is in my home, I have a bit more freedom to branch out than I would if my office was in my firm’s building.  I think I’ve decided on this print that features a quote from a great legal scholar, but I may change my mind.

Third, downloading art is cheaper than buying it printed.  The art in my last office was purchased from Juniper Print Shop and downloaded onto my computer for less than $30.  This allowed me to print and frame it without having to pay a premium.  Downloading art is an affordable way to buy unique pieces of art.

I also purchased this painting from Juniper Print Shop,  It feels like a Holly Addi or William McClure piece, without the toe-curling price tag.  The neutral color palette and abstract print would look great in an office.  The shop’s selection of landscapes gives you lots of great options for the office as well.  A friend printed this photograph of a calm sea onto the largest canvas the shop offered and then put it into a floating plexiglass frame.  It looks spectacular.

You can also find lots of great art available for digital download on Etsy.  A friend is getting her first office with a door (she’s toiled in a cubicle for almost two decades), and I picked up this seed print that I’m having framed for her.  She works in agriculture and it’s a nice sentiment in a unique piece.

Fourth, buy a real frame.  The cheap, plastic frames from Ikea don’t do your art any favors.  A great piece in a plexiglass frame doesn’t look as good as a decent piece in a better quality frame.  Professionals with real offices can amp up the look by framing their art under real glass with real wood and metal frames.  My two go-to spots for framing are Michael’s crafts (thanks to the coupons in the paper) and Framebridge.

Simply upload your downloaded art to their site, choose your frame and matting, and in a few weeks, beautifully framed art arrives on your doorstep.  (It’s also a great way to send relatives who live far away pictures of your family.) I’ve framed eleven pieces with Framebridge and I’ve never had an issue.  Every piece has looked great, and with only one exception, every framing job has cost less than $200.

Finally, the primary place I buy wall decor. If this is all too much for you and you just want to ordered framed art from one store for delivery, you may need to spend a bit more money to get good art.  My pick is Crate & Barrel, which features pieces from lesser known artists that are perfect for the office.  I bought this Beverly Fuller reproduction a few years ago for my birthday and so many of our guests comments on it.  The color palette is really pretty and fresh; it’s a simple piece with a bit of flair.

If you have tips for where to buy art for your office or how to choose the right pieces, leave them below.

{this post contains affiliate links that may generate commission for the author}

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  1. Sara says:

    This is super helpful, but I’m at the point in my life/career where I would love to buy one of kind pieces of art. I’ve never collected before and I find the gallery system intimidating. Are there any ladies that could give some tips? I’m based in DC if that makes a difference.

    • AJT says:

      I’ve gotten cool art from this site before: https://20×200.com/
      Not one of a kind, but limited editions, and a whole range of types of art!

    • SMR says:

      @Sara also based in DC and think the easiest way to discover local artists is via markets (Eastern Market, Holiday Market, etc.) and festivals (Takoma Park Street Festival, etc.). Usually from there, I’ll follow the artist on Instagram, which sometimes leads to finding additional artists. In my case, I recently purchased two pieces from this artist: https://www.carinatenaglia.com/ I also enjoy Cup of Jo’s House Tours for ideas and sometimes attempt to track down art displayed in these homes. Here’s one sourced this way (also local to DC): https://www.joshyoungdesignhouse.com/ There’s also a robust art/antiques/vintage scene in Old Town (check out the Torpedo Factory!) and Del Ray. Finally, I sometimes browse Kaiyo, AptDeco, and Chairish just to see if anything interesting is available. Hope this helps!

  2. Allison says:

    What are your thoughts on framing diplomas in home offices? I’m proud of my academic achievements, but I haven’t done it because I am not sure if it comes off as braggy.

    • Sara says:

      I’m a lawyer who has never framed diplomas. But, we recently bought a house from a lawyer who had her diplomas framed and hung in her home office. They looked nice, and it never crossed my mind that she was being braggy. I actually didn’t think twice about it until you posed this question, which should reflect just how un-braggy it seemed. So I say be proud of your accomplishments, frame them, and hang them!

    • Belle says:

      I don’t think it’s braggy. Maybe I’m so used to it as a lawyer that I don’t even think of it anymore. But if you want to frame em, frame em.

  3. Nadine says:

    You had me at that quotation from a great legal scholar. I love that!

  4. Brittany says:

    I’ve started trying to find print/art galleries in different cities that I visit and picking up a piece there. None are big time art purchases, but I look for limited edition or even vintage prints that remind me of that particular place. I’ve actually found Instagram to be great for this as well. I’ve started following some artists and the algorithm has worked in my favor for once and suggests other artists that I might like (or, I see who they’re following that I might also like). I’ve now discovered and followed a few dozen artists, I can browse their works right from my couch, and most have links to their storefronts/galleries right there. I do need to start getting all my finds framed though – they deserve a good display!

  5. EMM says:

    Minted has a fantastic collection from smaller artists, too!

  6. Andi says:

    This collective is also interesting: You find a piece you like, and the artist then makes an original painting of it for you. So it’s an original painting, not a print, but there will be multiples of it in the world with slight variations. The two works I bought by them are stunning, very large, and less than $1,000. https://artbymaudsch.com/

  7. TheLOOP says:

    Love, love the legal scholar quote choice 🙂

  8. Chelsea says:

    Juniper is a great resource, thanks!

    I don’t have a dedicated office but a niche in my living room that’s facing a window. What’s behind me is my kitchen which, even when clean, isn’t nice to look at. I can’t turn around and have the window behind me because of the light even though that wall has my nice bookcases.

    Any suggestions on how to make that setup look more professional?

  9. Sarah says:

    I have an artist rendition of Peggy from Mad Men when she’s leaving the agency with her box of stuff and the pornographic octopus picture from Roger under her arm lol. I’ve been a criminal and family trial lawyer for a long time and the level of IDGAF just spoke to me. I DID get a real frame. Sometimes I have clients in my office and they don’t mention that. Or my bright pink light up keyboard. We take our joy where we find it.

  10. Lucy says:

    Oof, I think quote artwork always looks tacky, no matter how cheeky you may think it is. So I would stay away from that.

    If you have artistic friends, purchasing or commissioning work from them is a great way to both source unique pieces for your home and support artists directly! Most of the wall art and small sculptures in my home were made by my friends.

  11. Shri says:

    Great ideas, Abra! A suggestion on one more: Design Within Reach’s art section is remarkably colorful, varied, and affordable. Some items are on sale right now, and I might snag a piece for my own home office.

  12. Chloe says:

    For cheekier prints (obviously dependent on your office culture) I *LOVE* Fy, comes in framed or unframed. Society6 also supports local artists and you can find some great abstracts there. My sister, who is an artist herself, introduced me to the site. Lastly, I do love the idea of buying watercolors or other art from places you’ve traveled to. A little tougher to get the larger pieces home, but I’m starting a small collection of watercolors that are more like 8x10s and hanging them throughout my home.

  13. Rachel C says:

    My favorite place to buy art is Minted. They have SO many styles and artists that it’s easy to find something that fits me. Plus, they come in a variety of sizes so you can scale a favorite up or down depending on space.

  14. Jennifer says:

    Having art that you love in your work office, home office, or alternative workspace is great. But learning to use the background features in MS Teams, Zoom, and other video programs is just as, and often more important. I’ve seen too many bedrooms, messy kitchens, and kids’ playrooms over the past 3 years to count. If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated office, show it off! Otherwise, I recommend a virtual background – or at least blurring the real background to more personal spaces.

  15. Jennifer says:

    A caveat is that “art” doesn’t have to be limited to fancy pieces hung on a wall or sitting on a shelf. I’ve been fascinated by the massive collections of Star Wars memorabilia, Funko bobbleheads, and Pez dispensers owned by some of my colleagues. I work in the behavioral health field and there was a whole conversation about the movie “Inside Out” because a co-worker had the “Sadness” doll sitting on the credenza behind her desk – that was priceless 🙂

    • Belle says:

      My husband has a Lego bowser in his office. So I agree with this. Depending on your work environment, you have more flexibility. In my old law office, I could have put up anything (my Partner had vintage soccer flags), but in this one, I’m a bit more limited if I were in office.

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