Use 3-D art to create cohesive design

The selection of paintings and other types of art is usually left for the final stage of the interior design process. A recent project for the lobby of a high-end residential building in Las Vegas was no exception to that pattern.

The space was mainly traditional and the goal was to bring it up to date with classic but transitional furnishings, underscoring the quiet elegance and sophistication that the tenants were hoping to see realized.

It was in this final stage of design that I turned to several 3-D art pieces to lend some glamour and pizazz to a serene environment . For me, 3-D art is not only visually interesting , but also exciting from every angle. I live with it and encourage clients to consider using it.

The actual term “3-D art” is too vague to place a specific label on since it can encompass sculptures, pottery and paintings that have a 3-D perspective .

What is the actual difference between 2- and 3-D artwork? Simply put, 2-D artwork is the kind of art you typically see in a frame — it’s flat and on one plane. Examples include watercolors, photographs, lithographs, oil paintings, etc., which I talked about in a previous column. This type of artwork has a length, width and height, but no real depth. On the other hand, three-dimensional artwork has depth and height in addition to length and width, such as a sculpture.

Design, by its very definition, is all about using 3-D elements in concert to create a design that holds together as a cohesive unit. The design grows out of and is infused by those elements. Three-dimensional shape and space is the basis of architecture and most designed objects. Naturally, there are added design considerations when the object can be experienced from more than one side.

And while it’s true that 2-D art forms (such as a picture or a television screen) can often create the illusion of 3-D shapes and spaces, nothing takes the place of actual 3-D art .

In my lobby redesign there were several large blank spaces that I felt called out for art and interest beyond typical framed art. I instinctively knew that 3-D art would stand out against the walls and that adding needed dimension to them was the only way to go. And you can do the same in your own home.

You’ll soon come to realize that 3-D art is far more compelling than simply hanging art, displaying books or framing photographs. Your walls will absolutely come alive as this type of art actually adds dimension and texture and can even turn them into a show while making a powerful statement.

I chose to fill the soaring space over the mantel with an arrangement of brilliant gold metal disks. I knew that tall 3-D art was a sure way to pull the eye from the mantel up to the ceiling just as it does when placed above the back of a sofa.

In the process I discovered that the key for success with this kind of display is to keep the arrangement of multiple pieces loose but the spacing somewhat tight so that the overall effect is one large focal point .

Sometimes 3-D art is displayed in a frame, such as collages and masks . With this in mind, I used matching resin sculptures that were woodlike in appearance (creating a warm and elegant look) mounted on a linen-covered canvas in a frame of a contrasting color to the rest of the wall to keep them from getting lost while adding another layer of interest .

Some quick tips for using dimensional art in your home include:

n 3-D art displayed in a niche has a big effect because the alcove can frame the art making it feel large and important. Masks are great and so are hats, plates or anything that you love and collect. Woven baskets can create wonderful texture, dimension, interest and shadows on a wall when multiple pieces are grouped together.

n When art protrudes even a few inches from the wall, it can cast fascinating shadows that add another layer of interest to the wall.

n Matching the color of the art to the wall color makes you take a closer look and emphasizes those shadows. Using a light color against a dark wall is another idea that can be exciting.

n Don’t overlook the simple-but-clever concept of displaying a keepsake such as a wedding invitation attractively mounted in an acrylic box so it can be preserved for years .

In a word, it’s not only walls that come alive with 3-D art, but entire spaces . No matter the material, it’s a sure bet that 3-D art will always take your décor to a new and exciting place.

Stephen Leon is a licensed interior designer and president of Soleil Design; he has been designing and manufacturing custom furniture and cabinetry for more than 25 years. He is president-elect of the Central California/Nevada Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers and is a certified professional in green residential design. Questions can be sent to