Artfully done: How to buy art for the home without spending big

Buying art for the home doesn’t have to be intimidating or scandalously expensive.

Artfully done: How to buy art for the home without spending big

Buying art for the home doesn’t have to be intimidating or scandalously expensive, writes Carol O’Callaghan.

The idea of buying art might feel a bit daunting if you haven’t done it before, in part due to news reports of paintings by famous artists selling for vast sums, which gives a skewed view of what is an equally vast price scale available.

If you’re a first-time buyer, start learning what’s out there by visiting commercial galleries, especially local ones, and familiarise yourself with local artists. This will help to train your eye and decide what you like. Yes, it’s that simple: buy what you like. Even the noted art auction house Sotheby’s will tell you this.

Online research opens up far more to see without the intimidation of walking through a gallery door for the first time, not knowing what you want. Photographs, however, might not always offer a true representation of the art, but by all means do your research online, then visit the gallery to see the work in the flesh.

Do sign up to gallery mailing lists so you know what exhibitions are coming up, then check the websites for pricing as details become available.

Deirdre Breen, ‘Whirligig’, five colour screen print on 300gsm polar munken rough, €150 (unframed), Edition of 40 original prints.

Knowing your budget is critical, more so if you look to buy at art auctions, and will help you avoid getting carried away bidding for what you can’t afford. Familiarise yourself with how auction rooms work by sitting at the back of a few, but do practise your poker face beforehand to make sure you don’t nod off or absentmindedly touch your chin, only to find yourself the buyer of something you neither want nor can afford, and likely burdened with a pricey buyer’s premium on top. Equally, when buying new art, don’t be disappointed to find it comes unframed. This is another point where a budget can burst its boundaries.

Now for the good news.

It’s not often a new art genre comes along, but there’s something trending which is sure to suit a modern sensibility and a more modest budget. It’s called print art, not to be confused with art prints which are copies of an original art work.

Craig Carry, ‘Lisa O’Neill, Sirius Arts Centre’, two colour screen print, €30 (unframed). Edition of 63 original prints.

Print art is where the printing process - screen or lithograph - is the art medium, where more than one is made but each is an original as they have been made by hand.

Among up-and-coming print artists based in Ireland to watch are Craig Carry and Deirdre Breen.

Craig transferred his skills as a graphic designer to print art, training at Cork Printmakers to learn the screen printing process.

He’s now enjoying commercial success by tapping into the huge concert and gig poster scene Europe-wide, making anything between 25 and 150 individual and original posters for an event, signed and numbered, and priced from €20-€30. Other works range from €45-€145 depending on the number of colours and edition size.

Craig Carry, ‘Amina, Cyprus Avenue’, two colour screen print, €30 (unframed). Edition of 62 original prints.

Deirdre Breen also comes from a graphic design background. “I had always loved making more abstract work and that’s what took me into print art,” she explains. “It’s accessible as it can be sold anywhere, in a gallery or online. More galleries are taking an interest in this medium, and I’d advise anyone to walk into a gallery and look at the paper it’s made on and the vibrancy of the colour.

“Print art is where art and design meet and I’m finding it really appeals to architects and designers, and also people who are putting down roots and want to buy something original and affordable for their home.”

Gallerist Sheelah Moloney of 2020 Gallery, says, “Many younger artists are exploring this medium. For buyers, there’s something in it you won’t find in other mediums - colours and combinations you won’t find in paint.

“The price is also attracting buyers as it’s cheaper than traditional mediums, like painting and sculpture for what is an original piece, even though there may be several of them.”

But for canny buyers who hope their purchase will increase in value, there’s a detail to be aware of when deciding. “Higher numbers of editions should be priced slightly lower,” Sheelah explains. “For example, if you own an edition of print art from, say, the first 10 made, the quality and clarity may be better than higher editions. Over time, it’s possible that the earlier editions may become more valuable should the artist achieve great success.”

Snug as a rug

There’s something about winter that makes our practical wooden and tiled floors a little less attractive and begging for a cosy rug.

Enter Danish design house Normann Copenhagen and its new Pavilion range made from soft bamboo silk to give it a velvet-like surface. It’s just the thing to land toes on first thing in the morning and not be jolted awake by a chilly floor.

Designed by Britt Bonnesen who is also responsible for the company’s Rocking Glass and Swing Vase, she takes her inspiration from the fashion world. Featuring broad stripes in edgy colour combinations which include blush and dark green, yellow and pale pink, and petrol and magenta, they make a statement even though the design is simple.

Prices from €400 from

The Pavilion range of contemporary rugs from Norman Copenhagen offers striking colourways, and start from €400.

Sale on

The winter sales continue with more bargains to lighten your wallet. Check out these decorative but practical beauties from Meadows & Byrne.

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