The Interior Designer Market Is Potentially Lucrative for Artists

Guest post by Dick Harrison
Interior with Painting #16801-B

Are Interior Designers on your prospect list? If one of your objectives, aside from becoming “famous” and sought after by top galleries and serious collectors, is to sell the beautiful art you create, you should consider the following stat provided by the Department of Labor: In 2008, there were 6,600 Art Galleries in the US and 71,700 Interior Designers.

You Cannot Ignore the Size of the Market

Though the number of galleries and design firms has probably taken a “hit” because of the weak economy, where do you think you are most likely to make a sale if you haven’t already established a base of buyers or a “famous name”?

Selling art to this lucrative market requires an understanding of how an Interior Designer perceives the artwork he or she must usually purchase to complete a design job for a client.

Success Requires Collaboration and Flexibility

Let’s compare the “composition” she is working on to the one that’s on your easel now. Both you and the designer have considered the design or theme you are creating. Yours is the canvas you are finishing up, adding the final details to complement the Center of Interest – the main subject – in your painting. That doesn’t mean you haven’t put a lot of effort into making those details just right.

The “composition” the designer is working on a single room, a whole house, an apartment, or a business office. She, too, has given careful thought to the design or the theme – “the look” of the total project, as you have for your painting. Her distinctive look consists of many parts – color coordination, furniture, carpets, window treatments, and finishes from paint to wallpaper. Moreover, yes, the artwork she will hang on the walls – possibly yours. It all has to “work together” to create the perfect look her client expects.

Art to Interior Designers Is a Detail — Not Necessarily the Focal Point

Here’s what you must know if you want to sell your “composition” to her to hang on a wall in her “composition.” Your painting is one of the “details” – probably not the Center of Interest, nor where she or her client has spent the more significant part of the overall budget. That doesn’t mean your painting is unimportant! If it’s wrong for the spot in her overall composition, it can detract from, or ruin, the whole – but it’s still a “detail.”

That’s why to make the sale of your art will depend on how well it coordinates with her overall theme – it’s color, size, shape, proportion subject and PRICE, compared to the budget she must work within. Sadly, art is often the last detail chosen, so the more you understand and are willing to work within her perimeters, the more likely you are to make a sale. She won’t buy it if it isn’t right, any more than you would introduce a jarring or sloppy note in a detail in your painting because she’s a professional, too.

Success Rule for Selling Art – Go Where the Buyers Are

Nevertheless, remember – IT’S A HUGE MARKET – more than ten times larger than the gallery market you may be working so hard to break into and your “fame” as an artist is far less critical to the designer than it is to a collector.

By Dick Harrison (Full-time Successful Art Rep to Interior Designers for more than 20 years)

I met Dick Harrison years ago when we were both trolling the Wet Canvas boards seeking eyeballs for our first art marketing books. I don’t think he had yet celebrated the 40th anniversary of his 39th birthday then. That way of putting things in a humorous, clever manner speaks volumes about what a smart, delightful character he is.

Dick has been a tremendous source of inspiration to me. I marvel at how he has taken to learning new technology and is reinventing what he calls his last career writing books and advising visual artists. I only hope to be as active and exciting as he is when I celebrate the 40th anniversary of my 39th birthday.



Design Market, Designers, Interior Design, painting, sell art

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  • So how does one find the Interior Designers to sell to? How does one go about breaking into this market?


    • Hi Pat, It is a matter of research and prospecting. Anyone who is serious about a career as an interior designer is easy to find when you start looking. I recommend you start off trying to meet one or two designers who would be willing to help you gain insights on what they are looking for, how to approach them. The more you do it, the easier it becomes and the better you get at making valuable contacts. My Guerrilla Marketing for Artists book is full of information on how to prospect and network effectively.

      • My interior designer found my work in our coop gallery and borrowed a couple of pieces. That was 8 years ago and and many paintings later. Mostly commissions. She gives me colours and sizes and I paint what I think will work in the space. I also get commissions from other clients who see the finished design and want me to paint for them. Pricing is important as the designer has one in her head.

        • Great news! It is always wonderful to hear about success stories. Designer can be fickle. But, if you find one who is really busy and with whom you can meet their needs, they can be a steady source of business, as you report.

  • Thanks for the article Barney!

    To respond to Patricia’s question, I have been researching the interior design market by for one joining some interior design groups on linkedin. There’s been one very interesting thread where a photographer asked about buying art online versus in a gallery or shop, and there’s been a lot of responses and different info. about this new phenomenon of buying via internet, that’s useful to an artist wanting to sell art. It’s real useful to “get inside the designers heads” as far as seeing what issues they’re posting about, to learn about how to market to them and fit “into their world.” I also am on the site, meaning I visit there and look at art there, that’s been included in design projects, to see what is going on as far as art choices in the interior design market.Just so I don’t sound too over the top here, I want to also say that I have a background in graphic design, and I currently love interior design, hence my keen interest! -KW

    • I always thought that was the whole purpose of Linkedin… to get to know those who can influence your career. I suggest be respectful, not greedy and don’t overdo your prospecting. That is, do it a little at a time. I devote a whole chapter in my new book to networking. Although I am talking in it about in-person networking, the same principles apply. Gest to all who try using Linkedin. It would be great to get some reports back here on anyone’s success, or failures for that matter.

  • I had never thought about the ratio of designers to galleries before, Barney — thank you for pointing this important fact out!

  • michael ward says:

    It would be nice to get your thoughts on pricing works for interior designers. I have sold a few works to interior designers through a gallery that carries my work. The IDs ask for, and get, a 10-20% discount on the gallery’s asking price, which they split with me. No doubt the ID bills their client full retail, or more, for the art. So, if approaching an ID, what price should we quote on a work relative to what it would sell in a gallery?

    • Good question. I think 15-40% is the range most designers are looking for. They are billing their clients full price. The commish is how many of them get paid. That is, they earn their living on the difference between your price and full price. Galleries get 50% because they are inventorying and marketing your work. A designer may only inventory for a few weeks or months. Respect the ID is trying to make a living, and go from there. If your pricing is consistent, giving up 40% to an ID shouldn’t kill you to do it. You’d pay a gallery more and most often wait longer to get paid.

  • Barney, excellent suggestion about marketing to Interior Designers who are a much bigger group than galleries. It certainly represents a good potential market for sales.

    But also let me suggest that a artist may need to be prepared in a different way for this than selling to individual buyers. A local friend of mine, a very good painter, has sold a few works to ID’s and says she does not like doing it because the ID’s are a tough lot to deal with. She was asked by one to repaint a work in different colors to match certain room colors. Others wanted her to lower her prices or no sale. Now I am not saying that Interior Designers are not a good market direction but that the artist simply needs to be prepared to deal with them, maybe more so than with individual purchasers. Have your prices down and know what you are willing and not willing to do to make a sale.

    • Hi Stan, you have made good points worth considering. The market is bigger, but repeat sales can be less frequent. And, you are right IDs can be picky, but so can many other types of clients. Having thick skin and being flexible, to a point, are good attributes to have.

  • Hi Gil, Glad to know you got the commission and were flexible enough to make it happen.

  • As an artist specializing in ‘Metal’, I was a ‘happy camper’ reading the In’s and Out’s of targeting Interior Designers. I’ve read your books and found them to be a most valuable source of information. But in order to approach designers, I was often referred to Art Consultants first, which can be very cumbersome. Gail Taylor

  • Hi Barney, when approaching a ID, should your first focus be on the business end or the art end? I have attempted to focus on my art & have include the business side by have many different colors and sizes of the same abstract art works. Here is my website to see what I mean.
    L.J. Smith

    • The only way approach an interior designer is to learn what they need, and find out if they can use your work. If your art fills their need, you have the possibility to create a profitable business collaboration.

  • Hi Mel,

    I would defer the answer to your question to Dick Harrison, the author of this post. I will ask him to comment here.

  • says:

    Selling prints through interior designers is a lot easier with newer designers. I find they’re much more eager to develop new business relationships along with the opportunity to get referrals from you for future clients. You can find new interior designers through the schools they attend and even online classifieds such as Craigslist etc. Always be sure to ask them if they have any interior design “friends” that they think you should contact as well.

  • I am an artist working in wood for over fifty years. My current work is to make well known art into 3 “D” , framed in wood and with a resin finish. Chagall’s figures fly off the surface as well as Lautrec dancers kicking feet into the air.They have made sales and are very attractive. Have contacted museum stores but there seems to be a problem with reproductions. Photos do not show the space between images..where do I go??
    Bernette Rudolph [email protected]

    • thank you for your informative reply. On a side note, I am able to receive your emails. However, when I attempt to reply or send to you Direct I get a bounced message.

  • Hi I am an Indian artist.Working mostly figurative abstractions on canvas with oil.I am visiting my son here in Fort Worth and will be staying till may 2015. I have brought some of my works. I would love to get my works out .Where do I go?

    • You do the research to figure out who your best prospective buyers are and then contact them. If you want detailed instructions, the small investment in purchasing How to Sell Art to Interior Designers is a great place to start. It contains a wealth of useful information for artists.

  • Ehssan Subhi Dannouf says:

    Indded you have to keep researching, contacting untill you find the intended interior designer…

    Thank you for the topic, useful enough to start with,

    Ehssan Subhi Dannouf

  • reginald fludd says:

    Hello, My name is Reg Fludd. I am a artist working with collages. The magazine is my palette. The work is abstract. How or who would I contact to market them?

    • Develop an avatar of who is your ideal buyer. If you don’t have enough data to start, then you wing it and continue to refine it with each new datapoint when you find people who are interested and who buy. Then study them to find out what they do, where they live, where they hangout, what their other passions and interests are. Use all this information to start becoming known and connected with your ideal buyer. It might sound like a lot of work, but I always contend it’s easier, less expensive and less frustrating than trying to sell to strangers with no filters on where you market your work. Check out my How to Find Art Buyers and Sell More Art Workshop. All the best for great success with your career!

  • I have the book “How to sell Art to Interior Designers” but I don’t remember if you have information about the Research part. I have performed research in my area as to a listing of interior designers but after you get this information, how do you find out the type of art that they need? Don’t they need different art for different customers? I am just wondering about the approach. How do you approach the Interior Designer? I have done cold calling and they don’t want to see you. What do you suggest?

  • Hi Rosanna,
    If you Google “Interior Designers Your City” you’ll see virtually all listings have websites. Just click the website and look at the designer’s photographs or portfolio. You’ll get an excellent look at the sort of design projects she undertakes. Look especially at the artwork on the walls in the photos.
    These are busy people and not usually open to “cold calls.” If I pass a design firm I’m not familiar with I may stop in just to say “Hello,” and leave a card, a note card picturing my work or a brochure. If there is a conversational opening, say, “I have a portfolio in the car. If you have ten minutes, you’ll see enough to know if I have something you’ll be interested in.” If she has put off selecting art until the last minute (which is not unusual), she’ll welcome you with open arms and probably an open check book.
    If you are telephone prospecting and reach an answering machine or secretary because the designer is out, leave just your name and phone number unless you have dealt with her before. You are more likely to get a call back if she thinks you are a potential client rather than a vendor.
    When you call to set an appointment asking to show your work there are a number of things you should say after identifying yourself:
    1. “I have a beautiful portfolio of art that I believe will be a good source in your design work..”
    2. “Are you working on projects you need to select art for?” That’s qualifying the customer. If the answer is “Yes” ask for a convenient time to show your work. Better yet, suggest a time convenient for you, but be flexible. She has already told you she’s a buyer if you have art that fits job and budget. Try to draw her out by asking if the style is traditional or contemporary. Ask what colors she is using and the sizes she is looking for. You may not get all the answers over the phone, but you may learn enough to know if you have something that will work or pick up a tip to help you do something that will.
    3. If the answer is “No,” ask if she will be working on anything you should note to call back when she needs to see art.
    Sometimes the decorator will say she’s not working on anything at present but would like to review what you have for future reference. Many professionals have an incredible memory for color and style. There have been many times a designer has said. “ I can’t use it now, but I’ll remember for a future job.”
    Please take a look at on Amazon. I’ve just added three quick-read mini-books. They’re just .99 each and present lots more useful information that will help you sell more art to Interior Designers, Decorators, and Architects.

  • Mr. Davey: I am a Landscape/Nature Photographer who lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA. The comments from Artists, and the replies from you seem to reveal a genuine (mutual) respect and a willingness to help Artists understand and, therefore, use your suggestions to increase their short term and long term sales.

    My website is: I really want it to be enticing regarding image quality, diversity,and pricing, so that Interior Designers will consider my art as a ‘first consideration’for their art purchases.

  • Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Anyway, I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info.

  • Thanks for taking the time to share this wonderful information. It is really appreciated. I would be sure to invite my friends to your blog. it is indeed a great writing skill you possess…

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