Art on the Inside: How Slifer Designs helps bring your soul into your home

In this project at The Hythe, designers from Slifer Designs incorporated wildlife paintings into the overall look.
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Slifer Designs’ tagline, “Designed for Your Story,” applies to all facets of interior design, but one of the prominent ways it comes into play is through art. Just like the creativity, technique and skill that goes into generating a unique piece of art, placing it in the home takes a special eye.

It all begins with deeply listening to clients about what they want and how they use their space. This discovery process acts as an inspiration to start the design process. As they install furnishings and finishes, and handle all of the logistics, they also pay special attention to artwork.

“Art is a great way to bring the soul of the client into the home,” said Oshi Gardarian, lead designer at Slifer Designs.

A feather painting works well in this bedroom designed by Slifer Designs.
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While it’s easy to select appealing pieces, it’s not always easy to know where to place them, how to choose the proper scale for a wall or room, or how to group smaller items neatly.

“We try to think about design as a story. When you walk through the home, you want it to be the same story.” Oshi Gardarian, Slifer Designs

Gardarian recommends first sticking with your region — in this case, art that reflects the natural environment, from mountains and forests to Rocky Mountain wildlife. For example, a recent redesign of a penthouse in The Hythe building in Lionshead includes depictions of deer, from a triptych to Pendelton-upholstered mule deer mounts and a piece portraying mama deer with her babies.

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“We try to think about design as a story. When you walk through the home, you want it to be the same story,” Gardarian said.

The Vail Valley’s story obviously includes skiing and plenty of homes have showcased vintage wooden skis, but Gardarian prefers more unexpected ways of featuring vintage gear. In one recent project, the Slifer Designs team blended a pair of kids’ old red skis with old pick axes and other vintage mountain equipment on a barn wood wall. She has also mounted old family items, like clothing, in a shadow box to display.

Sculptures can become an integral part of a wall.
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“We look for art in unexpected things, not just wall hangings,” she said.

One example that merges industrial items with a mountain feel came in the form of cast iron oil barrel lids with a new finish. A gray fabric headboard that runs the width of the guest bedroom in the Hythe’s penthouse adds a cozy feeling, while the silvery metal brings in an interesting contrast, both visually and texturally. Another recent Slifer Designs project incorporated a 20-foot totem pole people can interact with, while The Hythe penthouse featured sculptural iron climbers hanging from one wall in the three-bedroom residence.

“Art is a reflection of the environment,” she said.

Pulling colors from various paintings or photographs in the form of pillows, area rugs or bedding is also an effective way to incorporate art into rooms. For example, rather than painting bedroom walls a shade of blue or green, which can feel overwhelming, simply adding accessories that match art helps everything look cohesive.

Smaller collectibles are always a bit tricky, but the key lies in grouping them together while still leaving enough negative space around them so they don’t look cluttered.

“Sometimes, when you have an eclectic wall, it’s easy for it to look (disorganized),” she said. “You have to have a good sense for negative space. Don’t fill every space, so that all of the little pieces feel special.”

Artwork sets off a fireplace in this Slifer Designs project at The Hythe.
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Using the same frames also benefits groupings, but when paintings and photography aren’t showcased in clusters, it’s okay to incorporate different frame styles or even print on metal or plexiglass, she said.

Choosing the proper scale for the space is extremely important. A small portrait will get lost on a large wall, and a big piece will look imposing in a smaller area. The main focal point for art often sits above a fireplace in the great room, so Slifer Designs suggests leaving that space empty for a bit if homeowners aren’t sure what they want; that way, they can look for that special piece, which tells a story of their travels, passions or pursuit of art.

Traditional wildlife inspires these mixed-media wall hangings.
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And, of course, lighting acts like jewelry in the home, not only illuminating special pieces, but also standing as pieces of art in and of themselves. In a recent project, Slifer Designs used alabaster as a theme in all of the lamps, sconces and a chandelier.

“Decorative lighting is a way to really make an impact,” she said. “It’s like little gems that help elevate the design.”

Lighting is an important part of any room.
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