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Condo Scene: Choosing art is its own art form for both first-timers or downsizers


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OTTAWA — Although there are many types of condo buyer, this article is aimed at those who are either downsizing or upsizing, often first-time buyers who want to switch from renting to owning. While the upsizers may not bring a lot of art with them, the downsizers will likely have collected many pieces over the years. But what looks great in a large two-storey home will differ from what complements a smaller condo space. Which brings me to the art of the matter.

Condo buyers may want to reinvent their art pieces by reframing or grouping them in a new way to give a different perspective to their collections. Whether you display your art solo as a statement piece or in a grouping determines its impact. By making one wall a gallery wall, for instance, you can completely change the look of a hallway.

You may want to seek the help of an art consultant such as Lauryn Santini, who has a degree in art history and a masters in art business. She just opened her own Ottawa-based consulting firm, works with both private and corporate clients and is knowledgeable about local and international artists (; her website has not yet launched).

When it comes to condo art, Santini recommends an eclectic look. She suggests “a mix of either bold, dynamic, modern art, with traditional furniture and decor, or vice versa.” In her opinion, the way the art is hung in a condo is nearly as important as the items themselves, as wall space is a limited commodity.


While first-time buyers or young professionals may want to start acquiring an art collection in a systematic way, they may also run into issues with cost or decision making. Many people cannot afford to walk into a gallery and buy after they’ve already put a bundle into their condo, moving in and furnishing it. I suggest adding an art subsection into the overall furnishing budget.

If this is not possible, there is an alternative: renting art. The Ottawa Art Gallery ( arranges rentals of pieces with a value of up to $12,000 for a monthly cost of between $20 and $155 per item. Rental intervals range between one month and one year. The Art Bank ( also rents art, although it primarily services businesses. This is a wonderful way to rev up your condo’s artistic quotient without destroying your budget. The gallery features contemporary work by both emerging and established artists and has a large collection of local talent. For new collectors, there are opportunities to connect with the artists and have studio visits.

But how do you decide what kind of art to hang? Scoping out The National Gallery of Canada is a wonderful way to hone one’s taste. The contemporary collection, in particular, is a great place to start. Commercial galleries on Sussex Drive also offer inspirational ideas. You may also want to check out long-admired local artists Philip Craig ( and Gordon Harrison (

Other galleries include Cube Gallery (, Wall Space Gallery and Framing (, Orange Art Gallery (, La Petite Mort Gallery (, Galerie St. Laurent + Hill (, Terence Robert Gallery (, Patrick Mikhail Gallery ( and Wallack Galleries (


It may seem like there’s a lot to think about when it comes to art, not the least of which is how to hang it. But hang in there and use the following guidelines for a headache-free experience.

If you have a lot of art, consider turning one wall into a gallery as mentioned. To create continuity, use similar frames for this gallery wall — by simply reframing you can create a spectacular look. A gallery wall may include art that is hung high and low, however, remember not to hang solo or focus pieces too high as you will see and enjoy them more at a lower height.

If you’ve moved from a house and have a lot of art, you may find it doesn’t look quite the same in your condo. But don’t despair — reframing your art can be a great way to freshen up the look and renew your appreciation of the work. Different frames and gorgeous mattes with filets will not only change the look of the artwork but may also better suit the new rooms and lighting patterns of your condo.

On the flip side, if you don’t have any art, consider investing in some large pieces that may fill up a focal wall and add colour to a minimalist condo that has minimum furniture. Sometimes artwork can change the look of a space more than furniture.


Framed posters and blown-up photographs also count as art. If you have taken beautiful landscape photos in Costa Rica or absolutely adore The Godfather, consider framing your photos or purchasing classic movie or theatre posters. Large mats and ornate frames can make a poster look like an expensive focal piece. Also consider framing multiple posters or photographs and hanging them near one another for consistency. The National Gallery of Canada bookstore carries wonderful art museum posters that, when elaborately framed, can be sensational.

Though outfitting your condo with art may seem like a daunting task with many steps, it will definitely be worth the effort and investment. Decorating the walls will elevate the space from a condo unit to home sweet home. Artwork will not only help express your personality and serve as something you can enjoy every day, but it will also tie your furnishings together. So visit our local galleries and have some fun with art.

Marilyn Wilson has been selling real estate for more than 23 years and owns Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. Brokerage, an Exclusive Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. She can be reached through or follow her on Twitter@marilyn_wilson.

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