Have a room that’s falling flat? It might be time to consider how you’re dressing the walls. When it comes to wall art, framed paintings, prints, and photographs are frontrunners. Yet sometimes these options can leave rooms feeling bereft. If you’re saddled with a room the feels one-dimensional, 3-D wall art can be a transformative ingredient. Artist-designed wall sculpture is a foolproof way to integrate dimensional wall art into your abode, but it’s by no means the only option. Baskets, metal signs, taxidermy (real or faux), and decorative shelving, can all make impactful wall art, too. Not sure you possess the chops to make DIY wall art look intentional? We’ve rounded up a collection of designer rooms that make unexpected wall art and wall sculpture look like next-level perfection. Read on for 6 ingenious wall art ideas to enthrall your walls.

Bathroom with brass Golden Gate Bridge sculpture hanging above gray basin tub.
Photo courtesy of Spencer and Wedekind

Metal Wall Art

The least homespun of all the options on this list, metal wall art was particularly popular during the mid 20th century. Large-scale manufacturers like Curtis Jere sprung up, specializing in large and oversized vintage wall art made of metals like brass and bronze. Curtis Jere designs are both figural (think birds, trees, or bridges) and abstract (sunbursts, rippling ribbon forms, interlocking squares). Most metal wall art from this era has a Brutalist tinge, lending these pieces a feel of burnished elegance. Use these Mid-Century wall art pieces in classically-designed spaces to cultivate a bit of ineffable cool. The bathroom above, designed by the firm Spencer and Wedekind, shows how one of these metal wall sculptures can completely change the tenor of an otherwise traditional bath.

White tulip table with modern white dining chairs are placed under shelves made of wood crates.
Photo courtesy of Spencer and Wedekind

Decorative Shelves

As pragmatic as they are stylish, decorative shelving used as wall art is a decorator favorite in playrooms and nurseries. The concept can just as easily be adapted to bedrooms, entries, and kitchens; however. Pass on any shelving that feels overly basic when drafting wall shelves for use as wall art and spring for shelves that pack architectural intrigue. In the bedroom above, the firm Spencer and Wedekind make-shifted wood crates into an imaginative shelving feature. Keep a tight edit on what novelties you outfit your decorative wall art shelves with. Spencer and Wedekind chose to keep the shelves strategically underdressed, only opting for books and toys with a cohesive color story. 

Colorful impressionist painting hangs above a well-stocked bar cart.
Design by Dane Austin Design / Photo by Eric Roth

Animal Accents

Few things polarize like taxidermy, but animal wall accents—whether be they traditional taxidermy or antler trophies—can make an arresting statement. Animal wall art can be used solo, but pay mind to scale. Antler trophies, especially, tend to be modest in size. To derive a bigger impact with one, team it with more substantial wall art. In the room above, designer Dane Austin chose to crown a Postmodern portrait with an antler trophy to give a bar area a touch of irreverence. For those who fear animal ephemera might skew too red-blooded, partnering it with a  playful portrait and pastel palette is an easy way to disassociate taxidermy from its traditionally masculine overtones. A similar dichotomy could be cued up with traditional taxidermy. Imagine swapping antlers with a boar or buck head to achieve a similarly prankish effect.

A modular wood side board is paired with white accent chair and hanging round lamp.
Design by James Duncan / Photo by Mark Roskams

Vintage Metal Signage

Not to be confused with the metal beer signs gracing the walls of your granddad’s garage, vintage metal signs can be used in a way that feels elevated with a few careful considerations. First, if you’re using street signs, select a color palette with little variance. Go with all white and black street signs, or blue and white street signs. Introducing a readable element to a room can up guests’ engagement with a space, but sometimes going too literal with verbiage can make a space feel overly academic. Save metal wall signs advertising fresh-picked tomatoes for the kitchen, or subway stop signs for the family room. In more formal rooms like living rooms and bedrooms, consider opting for signs in a foreign language. It can lend more mystique, so to speak. 

Antique wood accent chair sits under mounted straw baskets in a bathroom.

Basket Wall Art

In boxy rooms, nothing busts the status quo like circular baskets hung as vintage wall art. Tactile, textural, and appealingly earth-toned, wall baskets are ideal for those who crave the dimension of wall sculpture, but not necessarily the unconventionality. Many wall baskets hail from Africa, including the Zambia region. Each showcases unique patterns, making it easy to assemble a set that visually compells. Arrange them equidistance apart to create a pleasing sense of symmetry, or nestle them together to form a singular wall sculpture. No matter which option you choose, vary the size of your baskets to create a more multidimensional design. Even small variances can significantly bump the interest level. 

Assorted masks and straw hats hang above this chic dining area with tulip table and zebra hide rug.
Design by MA Allen / Photo by Stacey Van Berkel

Artful Masks

If the charisma of traditional portraits speaks to you, but you prefer something with more dimension, consider affixing masks to your walls. Hailing predominantly from Africa, traditional tribal masks can easily enliven walls. With vintage re-sellers, masks are generally easy to source, which makes them ideal for collecting and filling large, blank walls. Masks co-mingle well with other types of wall art, as well. Intersperse them throughout a traditional gallery wall to lend gravitas. Or, consider doing as designer MA Allen does in her dining room above, and intermix them with other global souvniers. MA offsets the masks’ circular shape with rice hats, but round baskets or other medallions would work just as nicely. 

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Lead design by KitchenLab Interiors / Photo by Michael Alan Kaske


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September 21, 2021

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