Learn How Art Teaches You About Your Home Design Style

Struggling with how to spice up the design of a plain room? Atlanta designer Melanie Millner explains how art can show you how to take a blank canvas and turn it into your favorite space in your home.

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It's a common affliction for homeowners looking to furnish and decorate their home — having an empty room or bare walls and no idea where to start. But for Atlanta-based interior designer Melanie Millner, it's the perfect launching point for beautiful design.

Transitional Living Room Embraces Woodsy Surroundings

Transitional Living Room Embraces Woodsy Surroundings

This living room's color palette of soft neutrals and sage green pulls from the home's woodsy surroundings to create a calm, nature-inspired atmosphere. A vaulted ceiling lends a sense of grandeur to the space, while upholstered seating ensures the room feels cozy and inviting.

Photo by: Emily Jenkins Followill

Emily Jenkins Followill

Millner, founder and president of The Design Atelier, loves to start with clean, white walls when working with clients. Where does she go from there? It's all about finding the right piece of art.

"We try to find that thing that resonates with the client and try to build the room around that," she says. "It’s so personal, and it makes a room interesting. It has to have meaning."

When a client falls in love with a piece of art, it reveals more about their tastes — colors they love and styles that make them comfortable — which then sets the tone for the design of the space.

Colors in the artwork inform fabric choices for window coverings, colors of accent pillows and sofas and even wood tones for furniture. Shapes in the brush strokes of paintings can be echoed in the shapes of table legs or in the prints and patterns on the rugs. 

Spacious Living Room With Built-In Bookcases

Spacious Living Room With Built-In Bookcases

In the pretty living room, color unites different details for a balanced whole while collectibles add a hint of personality to the off-white bookshelves.

Photo by: Melanie Millner

Melanie Millner

Artwork can even inspire the overall style of the room, such as a painting of a cow presiding in a rustic room with wood paneling or artwork of cranes in flight inspiring an open, airy feel in a living room.

All of those design decisions creates a personal feel for homeowners. "You can’t really pinpoint it," Millner says. "It just feels a certain way. I don’t really care to just come in and design a space that I like. I want them to feel like it’s truly theirs."

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Muscogee Living Room with Modern Fireplace

The heart of this contemporary living room is its modern fireplace, accented with bold artwork above. The furniture and rug serve as a cool counterpart.

Photo By: Melanie Millner

Contemporary Man Cave With Eames Chair

This contemporary den serves as a home office and safe haven for watching Alabama football. Sleek furnishings and minimal decor keep things simple and all eyes on the game.

Rustic Chandelier Crowns Transitional Living Room

A rustic wood and metal chandelier adds a casual, authentic feel to this lovely living room. Clean-lined furniture gives the space a crisp and uncluttered look.

White Farmhouse Bunk Room Feels Fresh and Spacious

The same white paint used on the beds in this farmhouse bunk room also covers the walls and ceiling, making the small room feel spacious. A small antler mount above the door adds a whimsical touch, while brightly colored quilts invite guests to relax.

Photo By: Melanie Millner

Gray and White Farmhouse Pantry With Ample Storage

Gray cabinets, butcher-block countertops and white walls combine to create a beautiful neutral pantry in this farmhouse. An under-counter wine cooler provides extra storage, while a Dutch door opens to bring the outdoors inside.

Photo By: Melanie Millner

Inset TV Wows in Transitional Living Room

Hinged doors fold back to reveal an inset TV just beyond the seating area in this living room. Built-in shelving showcases various forms of artwork, adding visual interest to the white space.

Bright Bay Window Houses Game Nook

A game table is tucked into the beautiful bay window in this living room, providing the perfect nook for afternoon puzzles. A whimsical mobile adds a playful touch overhead.

Open Plan Kitchen With Sunlit Breakfast Nook

This open plan kitchen feels fresh and energized thanks to an abundance of sunlight and an all-white interior. A slipcovered banquette and nearby work station keep the multi-purpose space both casual and comfortable.

Private Pool Patio With Brick Retaining Wall

In addition to the lush surroundings, a brick retaining wall provides privacy for this elegant backyard retreat. Lattice-inspired masonry and a mounted water fountain add a decorative element to the traditional hardscape.

Photo By: Emily Followill, Capture One PRO

Pet-Friendly Window Seat

The family pooch favors the window seat in the mudroom, which is topped with ultra-soft textiles and downy pillows.

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