Welcoming Islamic art into your home

SHAFAQNA – Home decor with religious stylings can sometimes make a home look outdated. But with moderation and a little experimentation, they can add life and meaning to your home, says Nicholas Ferguson.

Displaying art in your home is an exciting prospect, but when the artwork has religious overtones, there is always the fear that your home will end up looking a little too traditional. There are a couple of guidelines to consider if you want your home to look classy and modern with Islamic art.

Experiment with Size and Colour

The two major criteria for choosing a piece of art are size and colour. A piece that is too large will overwhelm, and one that is too small will look lost and out of proportion. As a rule, paintings should be hung such that the centre is at eye level. Sculptures can be put on the floor, a table or pedestal, depending on the design and the size of the base. Of course, these are merely guidelines, so feel free to experiment! Above all don’t let convention blind you – for example, a painting that is not too small can also look great placed on the floor against a wall.

When trying to match paintings with the colours of the room, keep in mind that their colour schemes need not match exactly. A painting with one or two of the same colours as the room can already communicate the idea that it belongs there. Another option is to choose art with muted tones, such as black and white art, or art that is framed in a way that mutes its colour impact – a wide light-coloured matte frame works well to ‘contain’ the art within, for example.

Contemporary Ideas

Few people intentionally want their home to look old-fashioned, and just because you’re displaying Islamic art in your home does not mean you have to go down that path. Basically it comes down to choosing the right pieces, not going overboard, and ensuring that your home retains its modern flavour even while proudly displaying your heritage.

It is fairly easy to find Islamic pieces that match a modern interior. The key is not to overwhelm the space. For example, in the living room, you might consider placing three square pieces of wall art above your couch to heighten the area’s interest. You could go for geometric patterns, which are common in Islamic artwork, and present them in muted tones against a light wall.

How an artwork is framed can significantly alter how it is perceived. For instance, more traditional pieces of Islamic art look modern when placed in simple subdued frames, or in frames that are larger than the artwork itself,  thereby offering breathing space around the actual piece.

When considering display items, crystals make for a wonderful choice. A classy engraved vase or a hand-engraved crystal plaque can give an elegant touch to your living room. Also, think about what theme you want to apply to each room. For example, in your dining room, you may decide to use only black and white pieces and frame them in dark colours, whereas in your living room you might restrict your Islamic artworks to only display items. Again, simplicity (and moderation) is key if you wish to maintain the modern look of your home.

Maintaining the Pieces

Regardless of what kind of art you use, there will always be a need to maintain your pieces. If your pieces are not framed, remember to always get them framed by a professional framer who uses non-acidic backing to preserve the artwork.

Also, make it a point to check your pieces at different times of the year, as seasonal changes can have unexpected effects. For instance, a display that looked fine in December may find itself in direct sunlight and bleached of colour come July. Another piece that looked fine in the dry season might suddenly warp and distort when the rains come.

Selecting and displaying art is an art in itself. Experiment, so you learn what pleases you and what doesn’t. In exchange you’ll be rewarded with the knowledge that you have found a way to mesh beautiful pieces of Islamic art with your modern dwelling, thereby making the sum (ie your house) greater than its parts.


The original version of this updated article appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of Aquila Style magazine

To fill in the area above your sofa, try three square pieces of art arranged horizontally (Allah Wall Art & Alhambra Wall Art)

When considering display items, crystal makes for a wonderful inclusion

Bring a narrow wall space to life with small pieces of artwork arranged vertically (Mohammed Wall Art & Iznik Wall Art)

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