Home Decor

The Piece of Decor Your Kitchen Is Calling For

Because everyone’s most-used utilitarian space could use a little pretty, too.

January 12, 2021
Photo by Stephanie Brown. Design by Angela Wheeler Design

It’s practically undeniable at this point that kitchens are the beating heart of our homes. They’re where we gather to make delicious food, deepen our relationships, and forge new memories (not to mention, hold 3 p.m. corporate brainstorms and 11 a.m. art class). The fluidity of these spaces is of paramount importance. You have to have enough room to seat the whole family, a table that doubles as an eat/work zone, enough gizmos and gadgets to help you take on all the additional home cooking... the list goes on. But for as functional—and beautiful—as many of our kitchens are, are they truly reflective of our homes, and our style? I’d venture a guess and say, maybe not.

Ask any designer and they’ll tell you the biggest impact you can make in a space is often with art. Not only does it help tie a room together, but it’s a great way for homeowners to imbue their dwellings with their unique taste and point of view. Yet, oftentimes, the kitchen is the last place we add decor layers like artwork.

Luckily, there’s a new trend here to change all that: Designers and influencers alike are turning to framed paintings, unique sculptures, and old-school busts to add an artistic touch to a workhorse space. “Bringing art into the kitchen is a great way to add life to an otherwise utilitarian space,” says Rebecca Gibbs, owner and designer at Gibbs Design + Build. “Try not to overthink it, because perfect is not the goal—something that makes you smile is.”

Whether you style a sculpture alongside your favorite dishware on open shelving, or hang a vintage oil painting atop the hood of the stove, the result is the same: a cohesive, collected feel that brings an additional element of “hominess” to your space. Here’s how to make it work.

Keep the style simple

When choosing a piece of art to work into your kitchen, focus on picking something simple and a bit understated—the goal is for the artwork or objects to blend into your decor, not visually clog an already busy room. Stick to a palette that compliments the existing finishes in your space and avoid anything too eye-catching—vintage oil portraits or still-life scenes typically work great. And don’t forget to have fun with your selection! “Choosing the right piece can add poetry to a place of utility,” explains Katie Bogart of Bogart Interiors. “In selecting pieces for the kitchen, it’s important to choose art that’s not too precious.”

Pick the right size

The key to this look is keeping it feeling small and collected. Stay away from using oversized pieces, clunky frames, or word art. Instead, opt for smaller pieces and natural finishes—flea markets and estate sales are great places to find well-loved artwork at a petite size (and price). And remember, one or two hits of art is all it will take to upgrade your kitchen.

Find the perfect spot

Hanging your artwork is a no-brainer, of course—but it’s not your only option. When selecting where to display your piece, consider unexpected locations like the hood of your oven, an open shelf, or even the countertop. “I like to find little corners or small spaces to tuck an unexpected piece of art and capture the eye,” says Bogart. The goal is to add dimension and interest to your space, so the more “ah-ha” the spot, the more impactful your piece will be.

Think outside the frame

The best part about art? It is totally subjective, and is about whatever speaks to you and your style—and that may not be a framed painting or photograph. If you think your kitchen is the perfect place for a beloved tapestry, memorialized hand-written recipe from your grandma, or vintage bust, go for it. At the end of the day, your kitchen—and the artwork in it—should be something you love and enjoy.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I love art in the kitchen but if you do actually cook then it is truly important to choose pieces that can be washed. Tight frames with glass, something fabric that could go in a washing machine, ceramic pieces. If you are a takeout only household then it wouldn't matter too very much. Similar to a art in a powder room vs. a full bath. ”
— Allison S.

What kind of art adorns your kitchen? Tell us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mary Ellen Olbrisch
    Mary Ellen Olbrisch
  • Stephanie Danesie
    Stephanie Danesie
  • Rosalind Paaswell
    Rosalind Paaswell
  • Kendall
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    Allison Sturgill
Writer, Editor and Stylist


Mary E. June 29, 2021
I have several colorful “Talavera wear” plates in grouping, two sets of blue and white tiles, one round, one square, that I collected on my travels, and a couple of shelves above the fridge with blue and clear glass wear and ceramics. Maybe too much, but in downsizing it is curated from the things I treasure that I enjoy seeing every day.
Stephanie D. February 5, 2021
I agree - art is an integral element in kitchen design. In my own kitchen, I have a unique deviled egg platter on display, as well as an inexpensive print of palms. The platter is easy to keep clean and I won't be heartbroken when it's time to replace the print because my kitchen is always on duty, too.
Rosalind P. January 20, 2021
Best bet is ceramics, metal, plastic. Plenty out there, vintage or new.
Rosalind P. January 20, 2021
Oops. Others already said that. Sorry.
Rosalind P. January 20, 2021
But where is real kitchen where the work is done? 🙂🤗
Kendall January 19, 2021
I love the tabletop, do you mind sharing where you purchase it? Thanks
Allison S. January 19, 2021
Absolutely not raining on anyones parade. I love art in the kitchen but if you do actually cook then it is truly important to choose pieces that can be washed. Tight frames with glass, something fabric that could go in a washing machine, ceramic pieces. If you are a takeout only household then it wouldn't matter too very much. Similar to a art in a powder room vs. a full bath.
jpriddy January 19, 2021
Thank you for this. Yes, art. Always art.
jpriddy January 19, 2021
Most of the art in my kitchen and dining space is ceramic. Art painted on tile, platters and plates, and three dimensional work.
Lorie January 15, 2021
Hey Food52- any suggestions or links to finding well-curated vintage art like this for our own kitchens? (eBay can be a bit overwhelming.)
Alyssa L. January 19, 2021
Hi Lorie—

I love that you're on the hunt! I always have really good luck on Etsy for pieces like this, though sometimes they don't come framed. Another favorite resource is Juniper Print Shop and BFF Print Shop, both of which have downloadable reproductions of vintage artwork like you see here. When printed well (I love Framebridge and Artifact Uprising) the texture comes out amazing and they look just like the real thing. Happy shopping!
M January 14, 2021
It's the attractive decor that can come at the cost of the piece itself. The safety of tapestries, rare items, etc, should be considered.
Alyssa L. January 19, 2021
That's a great point, M! You definitely want to take care to protect any piece you choose to display in the kitchen. Often times vintage pieces might just get better with time and exposure to the "elements" of your home, but if you're framing something truly irreplaceable, I would definitely take it to a professional framer who can recommend special add-ons to protect against humidity, fade and more.
Merod January 13, 2021
I tried adding fine artwork to my kitchen in the 80' s later in the 90's and I still now add watercolors under glass. The problem is that no matter how clean I am, and I am very, and no matter how pure I cook, oils inevitably settle on what is most difficult to maintain. My art work was ruining I became frustrated and the dust gravitated to every crevice. Everyone has an opinion on hiw to maintain but my restorer suggested the kitchen is the least ideal location for any canvas.
Alyssa L. January 19, 2021
I hear your frustration! Canvas is ultimately probably pretty tough to make work in a kitchen, I hope you have better luck with your future pieces!