Let’s start here – I HATE cheap art. A live, laugh, love canvas from Home Bargains or even a generic Desenio print of a Swiss cheese plant is my own personal hell. However, I believe it’s totally possible for someone on a budget to find affordable artwork that isn’t unbelievably dull.
The number one most important rule of choosing art is to only buy what you love. What I love won’t be what you love, BUT I have all the tips and tricks to get interesting prints and posters to help your walls reflect your own unique style. Only a tiny fraction of the art in my house was bought brand new, so I’m claiming this post for #SecondhandSeptember.
Vintage can be cheap and chic
This is my kitchen. In case you haven’t noticed, I love old tat, especially when I can mix it with something ultra-modern. The two posters I have up in my kitchen are both originals from eBay – one was £12 and one was £18. The Bollywood poster is actually from Israel in 1978, and the Cyrillic one is a propaganda poster about melioration (which is something to do with farmland, I had to Google it) from 1984!
Original gig posters for bands can be really expensive, but it’s still relatively affordable to pick up other types of advertisements. There are LOADS of old Soviet posters out there, if that’s your sort of thing too.
If you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, I love searching antiques stores. In my experience, they’re never as expensive as you think they might be. The one in these pictures is The Old Forge in Swanage, it has loads of great weird stuff and it’s worth a visit if you’re in the Purbecks.
Framing your art is the most expensive part
If you’ve ever had something professionally framed, you know it can be incredibly pricey. The frames for the posters in my kitchen were twice as expensive as the posters themselves, and I just got them online. This is why when I’m buying prints I look at cheap frames before I decide on the size to get.
In the photo above, the picture of the girl holding a telephone was something I bought new from Royal Design for £31. The frames for this picture on the same site are £39, but because the pictures are a standard size, I was able to pick one up in Wilko for £10.50. Make sure you consider the size of the frame with and without a mount before you buy.
Not all art in charity shops is bad – but a lot of it is
I’m in a pretty funny Facebook group called Terrible Art in Charity Shops. And yes, most art in charity shops is either the most generic boring “picture of a rose” rubbish you’ve ever seen, or a horrible window into the imagination of an angry GCSE art student.
HOWEVER, despite me never finding good art in a charity shop, three of the items on my IKEA picture shelf were picked up for £2-ish during a charity shop browse.
The artwork on records can be really beautiful. Madonna’s True Blue is one of my favourites anyway, and despite not owning a record player, I think it was worth buying to give it a new life. You can buy square frames for them, but leaning your LPs on a picture shelf is a cheaper alternative.
Proper wooden frames are expensive but you can easily find them in charity shops. The small pink frame above was second hand. I just have a favourite birthday card in it for now, but I’m keeping an eye out.
Mirrors are very commonly donated to charity. I’ve had better luck finding them than frames in good condition, if I’m honest! Although they’re not ~techically~ art, you can hang them on a wall so I’m claiming them!
Beautiful art can be found in unusual places
Not all art is bought off the shelf, in a frame. I love these ideas from Jenni at Can’t Swing a Cat.
She saved pictures she liked from old magazines and framed them. I think they look really cool and unusual. I love seeing something unexpected like a pulp cartoon elevated to become something worthy of being hung in your living room.
I couldn’t find where she explained this on the grid, but on stories she said she bought a David Hockney art book and cut her favourite pictures out to frame. Buying prints of even very well known artists can cost a fortune – but this is a clever way of filling out a gallery wall on a budget.
Inheriting art is cool, too
You might recognise this painting as like, THE cliche piece of artwork to have owned in the 50s. It’s called The Chinese Girl, and my one used to hang in my maternal grandparents’ house when my mum and her brothers and sisters were growing up in Barry Island.
My aunt ended up with it after her parents died, and it was just sitting under her bed for years until she offered it to me last Christmas. It’s not really the sort of thing people of my parents’ generation are into – but look how beautifully it matches my bedroom… It’s hard to believe the walls had been painted this colour three months before I knew this picture existed.
My family aren’t the type to have loads of fancy artwork in storage, but I’d imagine many normal families might have something like this tucked away. As I said earlier, this was the Live, Laugh, Love of its day! Free art is the cheapest type of art, after all.
Don’t discount discount retailers
The latest artistic addition to my house has taken pride of place in my bathroom. This untitled Keith Haring lithograph print was surprisingly bought from BrandAlley. It was only £19, framed! I found similar ones on gallery sites for £120.
I’ve always liked Keith Haring’s work – any friend of Madonna’s is a friend of mine! What an incredible bargain.
Where do you shop for affordable art? Let me know in the comments…