By Nancy Meyer
NEW YORK--Wall decor appears to be more prominent in lifestyle specialty stores these days.
While certain specialists like Z Gallerie have always been strong merchants in wall decor, others such as Crate & Barrel, CB2, Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma Home seem to be placing a greater emphasis on the category.
Industry sources suggested this could be because of sluggish sales in higher-end goods, such as furniture. Wall art, with lower price tags, is much less a commitment and budget-breaker, and is being positioned as a decorating essential, particularly for the holidays.
"Freshening a room with new art is a very inexpensive way to change the look of a room," said Gordon Andahl, spokesman for Z Gallerie, which does a significant business in wall art.
"Art is wonderfully objective and brings pleasure to people who live with their collections," he said.
Through its assortment and presentation, Z Gallerie encourages its customers to establish collections, by not only buying multiple pieces in the same genre or by the same artist, but also mixing and matching styles in a room in an eclectic fashion. Additionally, Z Gallerie updates its mix on a regular basis, so the artwork looks new and fresh each time a customer walks in.
This is a key to success in the category: keeping up with trends in color, design, motifs, textures, several industry sources told HFN.
Lifestyle retailers truly view art as a key decorating element in a home.
Z Gallerie encourages customers to use artwork as they would other seasonal decor, and put new wall art up as the seasons change.
"Changing art with the season is a fun and colorful way to create dramatic moods in a room," Andahl pointed out.
While Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn and the like have complemented their home goods with artwork, perhaps what's changed is the way art fits into their overall mix.
"I think they've always been focused on wall decor," said Kathleen Koszyk, principal of Art Dreams Home, a private-label supplier to top retailers. "What's different is where their focus is within wall decor."
Anyone can pick art and image under glass and put it up, but the lifestyle retailers have sharpened their sense of creating proprietary artwork with the right "look and feel" for their stores, Koszyk said.
"They're going more for proprietary art, private-label art, and getting it to work with their product," she said.
"What Art Dreams does is work within the personality of our customers to know what their look and feel is. You see the Pottery Barns of the world and they have their own personality. It's important to work within that personality. One size doesn't fit all.
"There is an aesthetic that resonates with their customer," she continued. "It's been one of the priorities of Art Dreams Home, the ability not only to paint their paintings, but to do it to their specifications, and work with the artists to get the right feel," Koszyk said.
Sometimes these retailers have very specific guidelines for artwork, in terms of color palette and exact motif, but other times it's more general, like "forest" or "trees," and the vendor has to understand the retailer's aesthetic to get it right.
"Knowing their look and their feel and what has to pass the test for them in what's authentic--that's becoming more and more prevalent but also more important to the retailers," Koszyk said.