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OUR FAVORITE VINTAGE PAINTINGS & THE BEST WAYS TO USE THEM

When it comes to vintage paintings, some rely on a soulmate factor—you know, that gut feeling that a vintage painting was just made for you. But if you’re looking to fill an entire home with vintage paintings, you might need a game plan that’s a little more, well, decisive. To help, we’re sharing a handful of our favorite vintage and used paintings along with tips on how to maximize them in your home.

NAUTICAL LANDSCAPES

Question: who wouldn’t love an ocean view? Thankfully, a nautical landscape makes one easier than ever to obtain. A category that’s collectively composed of vintage paintings like seascapes and sailboat scenes, nautical paintings read like portals (portholes?) into the maritime world.

Thanks to their blue-heavy palettes, these vintage paintings are easy to factor into virtually any space, but we personally love the tranquility they lend to a bedroom. While deciding on art for over the bed can be tricky, nautical paintings are practically fail-proof. They’re both serene and dramatic, perfect for anchoring a large piece of furniture like a bed. But the best part about nautical landscapes? There’s no need to stop at just one! Among the most successful (not to mention simplest) ways to create a gallery wall is by collecting several seascapes and arranging them over a credenza or fireplace mantle. While used paintings with no common theme would look messy, a collection of vintage seascapes speak the same language, making them a perfect match.

ABSTRACTS

If you’re looking for a vintage or used painting that will make your room sing, try a vintage abstract painting. Although splashy and stylistically daring, an abstract isn’t the kind of vintage panting that will box you into a single “look.” In fact, these used paintings pair just as beautifully with traditional décor as they do with modern. The trick to carrying off an abstract in a traditional space? Contrasting your colorful abstract with a neutral room, or vice versa. We also recommend swearing off abstracts with colors that detour too far from the primaries to maintain a feeling of refinement.

While we love using vintage abstracts in main living spaces, there’s really nothing like one in an office or study. Because abstracts tend to be simpler than landscapes and portraits, these used paintings will lend an office a major note of Namaste. Place one at eye level across from or next to your desk and not only will it look great, but it will also offer up a hypnotic resting spot for tired eyes.

PORTRAITS

From proper nobles to playful Mid-Century housewives, vintage portraits possess room-making charisma. Although their intent is often serious, vintage portraits speak to our unabashed love of quirk. Happen upon a vintage portrait in a kitchen and it’s likely to draw out a smile, while bumping into one at the end of a hallway will no doubt inspire intrigue.

But perhaps our favorite thing about vintage paintings is that they’re pros at breaking the rules of art hanging. Think art must hang on either side of a window? Not so. Because a vintage portrait doesn’t take itself too seriously, they’re apt for hanging in unconventional spots like under a window or above a doorframe. We also love one used in a kitchen, adorning open shelving, or propped directly on a countertop. Conventional? Absolutely not. But that’s why we love it!

FRUIT STILL LIFE

You know how a kitchen just looks better with fresh fruit on the counter? If that’s any indication to the power of produce, think about selecting a fruit sill life for your kitchen. Because of their well-edited subject matter, these used paintings are usually small in scale, typically only measuring a few inches in each direction. The miniature size; however, makes them perfect for kitchens, where nooks and crannies abound.

Not sure you have nooks? Think again. What about those narrow spaces above your cabinets or behind the sink? Most likely, you’ve ignored these spaces up until now, as nothing’s ever seemed quite suitable enough to fill them. But what about a fruit still life? To further embellish the look, try dressing the space with an unexpected detail like a brass rod. The brass rod can be affixed to your wall with brackets and simple s-hooks can then be used to attach your mini used painting to the rod.

PAINT-BY-NUMBER

If the mere mention of paint-by-numbers already has you cringing, let us assure you that these vintage paintings can look remarkably chic! A popular hobby that emerged in the 1950s, paint-by-numbers encouraged those who were not-so artfully inclined to try their hand at the brush. Although it seems hard to believe now, paint-by-numbers paintings were considered relatively serious décor at the time, and in 1952 one even won third place in a prestigious San Francisco art contest! Unfortunately, since then, these used paintings have fallen into a less-than-serious genre.

So how does one elevate them back to their former glory? Well, for one, keep framing to a minimum. A plain gold frame can do wonders for a vintage paint-by-numbers, as can something as simple as a metal wall clip (in these cases, don’t even bother framing). Next, when it comes to placing these used paintings, choose a casual room like a nursery, playroom, or a laundry room. These rooms typically have happy, playful vibes, which will lend your used paintings a cheeky, all in good fun feel.