Bringing Rooms to Life With Portraits

By: Kelsey Roadruck
Photo by Lynn Goldsmith, courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery

Portraits shine an unapologetic spotlight on people—real human beings—which is why they have such a profound effect on interior design. If you’re tired of store-bought wall decor and want to put a truly personal stamp on your design, look to portraits. The Morrison Hotel Gallery, the world’s leading brand for fine art music photography, shared some of its striking photographs to illustrate five new ways to incorporate portraits around the house.

1. An iconic staredown

We envision this supersized portrait of Suzanne Vega catching our eye at the end of a long hallway. Despite being an area with so much foot traffic, hallways are often overlooked when it comes to decorating. Art is an easy way to make the most out of a space that we walk past several times a day.

When looking for a portrait, find a face with kind features, like a slight smirk or Suzanne’s doe eyes, to avoid that eerie feeling of being watched.

The sky blue backdrop of this photograph will brighten a dark hallway in itself, but you can install a track or canned light above the portrait to get that light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel effect.

Photo by Lynn Goldsmith, courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery

2. Mimic the style of your home

This shot of Keith Haring—also taken by Lynn Goldsmith—is nothing short of a midcentury modern masterpiece.

Organic and geometric shapes are defining characteristics of midcentury design, and they’re reflected in the boomerang platform Keith is perched on. The platform is reminiscent of boomerang coffee tables that were so popular in the midcentury-era.

Bright and Earthy hues are more midcentury traits from the 1930s to 1960s. This combination is splashed across this funky portrait, which was taken nearly 30 years later. The yellow platform frames blue-toned skyscrapers and Keith’s brown leather jacket is the same natural hue as the bare branches that sprawl behind him.

Needless to say, not all of your home decor, furniture, and treatments have to match or abide by the same design rules. Rather, one or two statement pieces, like this portrait, could set the stage and really express whatever style you’re going for regardless of mismatched details.

Photo by Lynn Goldsmith, courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery

3. A sophisticated take on the beach-themed bathroom

Beach motifs are certainly overdone in bathrooms around the world. From oceans to bathtubs, the water elements are key to both settings. Plus, the intention of relaxation makes beach decor all too easy in a bathroom.

Even if you’re hung up on the beach-themed bathroom, you don’t have to settle for cliché “fun in the sun” word art or seashells in an apothecary jar.

A portrait, like this one of David Byrne from the band Talking Heads, is the secret ingredient to a grown-up version of the beach-themed bathroom. The vibrant shore of Yucatan, Mexico will wake you up as you get ready in the morning, but the dramatic clouds and wavy horizon will transport you during your evening soak.

The sharp profile of David Byrne on a beach isn’t too shabby to look at either.

Photo by Joel Bernstein, courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery
Photo by Joel Bernstein, courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery

4. Frame the focal point

Hang these two portraits of Joni Mitchell side-by-side to draw onlookers’ eyes to the center of a room.

Joni is pictured skating on Lake Mendota here. In the portrait on the left, she’s bursting with energy while wearing a big smile and feathery cape. On the right, Joni appears more reserved and almost as if she’s really reflecting on herself in the ice below. When hung next to one another, this contrasting movement allows the spectator’s eyes to gently glide from left to right and left again.

We see this arrangement hung above a living room sofa as a conversation piece. Two similar photographs like this would also work well as a corner gallery.

Photo by Michael Brennan, courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery

5. Set the mood of a room

Photographs are a gold mine of inspiration, so you should be strategic about the kind of art you choose and where you display it.

You can practically hear the sound of the typewriter that John Lennon is diligently working at in this portrait. The texture of the stucco walls, which are common in Beverly Hills homes like this one, and the wood floors and table invite us in. The small mess of a coffee mug, notebooks, and loose papers create a realistic vignette for us that we can all relate to.

The creative type, like writers, musicians, and artists, might find this portrait motivating to their own craft, making their studio, office, or workspace the perfect place for it.

About the gallery

With gallery locations in New York, Maui, and Los Angeles, Morrison Hotel Gallery provides authentic open and limited-edition vintage prints and art while representing over 125 of the greatest music photographers of all time.


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