An Insight into Buying Art – What, Where and How?


Today we have a real treat! One of our incredibly talented BuildHers, Emily MacAlphine, an interior designer and art advocate from MARG.Studio has written a guest blog post on how to choose, buy, frame and hang artwork!

MARG.Studio is a Melbourne based interior design studio specialising in designing for a long time and a good time in older, character homes. After originally studying architecture, Emily found her passion in interior design but not before working with Australia’s best art consultant and she continues to teach the Diploma of Interior Design at both Collarts and Redhill (where she was awarded educator of the year 2019).

We know this is an area which we need to plan for at the beginning of the project, but is one of the final things that we will complete on a project!

Photographer Bianca Virtue


As BuildHers I know we are always looking for ways that we can grow and learn more. After joining BuildHer I have been exposed to a wide range of talents, projects and above all creative people. With experience in both the art and interior industries it gives me great pleasure to be able to share what I know about buying art with you. 

There isn’t a lot of emphasis placed on art in interior design education so it’s not surprising that there ends up being a fair bit of guesswork that happens when it comes to art. With a little information and practice I believe this shouldn’t be so, there are a few simple rules I use.

The clients I work with are mostly completing big renovations on character homes much like you guys. After going through months (sometimes years) of design and building it’s time to style their new home. They are often at the life stage where they are looking to buy their first “adult” piece of art but hit the roadblock of “where do I even start!?”. Or they have one or two pieces they treasure and are not sure how to start hanging them in their new space. I’m not talking about people who have squillions of dollars for art but people who are looking to spend their hard earned money on something that will give them great pleasure for years to come without breaking the bank.

As an interior designer I am not a style dictator but rather I tease from my clients what it is they like and how we can apply that to their situation.

Here are some of the common questions I get asked:


It’s important to get an understanding of what you like before rushing into a purchase. You wouldn’t buy or build your house without checking it aligns with your values and what you like; apply the same policy to art and you will find something you don’t get sick of.

The hunt for your artwork can be just as enjoyable as the work you purchase if you do it right. I encourage you to explore broadly across a range of mediums (photography, painting, sculpture, textile art etc) and observe what makes you not want to look away. Also appreciate that just because an artwork hangs in a well known gallery or institution doesn’t mean you have to like it. You can appreciate art for the talent the artist has or the ideas it engages with but that doesn’t mean you have to live with it. One of the most personal investments you will make is artwork so it only has to make sense to you.


Understanding the structure of how art is bought and sold is an important step in knowing you are making the right choice. Purchases can be made from a commercial gallery, direct from the artist, at auction or can even involve getting your hands dirty and creating something yourself (even if you think you can’t draw a stick figure!). Being such a big topic, I go into more detail about where to buy art here.


Thinking of creative ideas like framing this William Morris “Strawberry Thief” wallpaper and hanging it properly will help complete your space without blowing the budget

Art ranges from $10 Op Shop finds to million dollar paintings that invoke the “you can look but don’t touch” feeling. Being such a subjective market, the hardest part is discerning what works are worth paying $50, $250, $3000 for. Value can be determined by the artist’s career achievements, size of the work and the skills of the medium used, just to name a few. Research broadly and ask lots of questions of artists, gallerists and industry professionals before committing.

I also think it pays to highlight the balance that can be struck between art and decor. We can frame a piece of wall paper, postcard or kid’s art we love in inexpensive frames that will still bring us enjoyment beside a piece of art we saved for if it’s hung properly. Knowing this, it’s actually surprising how few pieces you will actually need to complete your space.


Make a plan for where you want or need works to give yourself a clear, achievable goal.

As an interior designer nothing compares to getting the perfect artwork, on the perfect wall, at the perfect height for a client. I am constantly rearranging my own small collection of works to get them “talking” properly to each other or so I can get a better view of them.

Just like building your projects, it’s all about having the right plan in place. So to get started, identify opportunities in your home where you could hang art. 

Once you know where you could hang works it’s then crucial to understand what size and shape of work would make the most of the space. 


Your framing choice should reflect the investment into your artwork.

Your frame should match your investment. Are you framing that wallpaper we talked about earlier or have you just saved and bought a painting from an artist you’ve long admired? The wallpaper won’t be offended if it’s in an off the shelf timber frame but your painting might feel undervalued if it isn’t given the love it deserves so take it to a professional framer like Forman Picture Framing (Kara and her husband Nick really know what’s what).

I could go on all day, so I will leave you here, but find out more on my website including my tips and tricks as I release them. You can also use my 5 Secrets for nailing your art hang

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