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Collecting Art on a Budget | Q&A with Interior Designer, Kimberly Biehl

Collecting Art on a Budget | Q&A with Interior Designer, Kimberly Biehl

About Kimberly Biehl

I have known Kimberly since the mid 90’s and met her when she was interior designing Madonna’s house. As well as her career in interior design, she has great taste and connections in the art world and has helped me, over the years, build my art collection. I remember one time she asked me if I would like to buy some photographs from rock and roll photographer Jim Marshall. I said yes! She ushered me in a hotel room where I bought the prints directly from him. Let’s just say it wasn’t your usual art buying experience.
Kimberly was recently nominated for the top 12 interior designers of 2022 in Architectural Digest, with her home featured in the editorial as well, and she now has an art consultant business. Below, she gives her advice on collecting art and on how you don’t have to be rich to do it!


Tips For Collecting Art Without Breaking the Bank

How did you start this business and incorporate it into your interior design world?

I have been collecting art since I turned 16 and got the keys to my parent’s car, I headed straight to garage sales! About ten years ago, tired of the art options available, I started collecting interesting art pieces for my design clients. My husband and I would go art hunting every weekend, I wanted their homes to feel layered and unique. Ten years later, it turned into two storage units full of art and a small business where we curate and sell art, at a reasonable price. I still buy for clients, but also sell to other designers, friends, friends of friends, and strangers who want great pieces for a reasonable price! We find great starter pieces to auction-level pieces, and everything in between.


Do you have to be rich to have an interesting art collection?

Absolutely not. If you look at my wall in my living room, for example, I have pieces that range from $0 to $2500 max. Most are between $50-$400. Interestingly the free piece, which I found next to a dumpster, is one of my most popular and asked about pieces! If you are on a budget, I suggest garage sales. You must be patient, but I have found some serious treasure at garage sales, they are my personal favorite. Remember, not all art has to be highly collectible and valuable to make a statement, there are lots of spaces that need “filler art”, but it doesn’t need to cost a fortune! The key is making each space feel important. Put your biggest investment pieces in areas like the living room, dining room, and primary bedroom.


How would you describe your taste in art?

I would describe my personal taste as eclectic and a little odd-ball. I love so many different styles of art, if you walk through my house, it is eclectic but, there is a thread that runs throughout. I collect paintings, portraits, photography, nudes… a wide range. I need more wall space!


How do you find great art?
There are so many ways to find great art, everything from a gallery shopping to hunting at estate sales or garage sales, to small businesses who do the leg work for you, like I do.
There is no right or wrong way, I personally prefer the hunt and the score when you find that treasure! There is a real feeling of satisfaction when you finally find that special piece! Art is also a great conversation starter. In my home, everyone asks about my gallery wall… they want to know who the people are, where I got the pieces and the story behind them. Often when I buy, I am just reacting to the quality, color, and feel of a painting. I might not know the artist or the value, but I can tell it is a quality piece and well done.

What is trending in art right now?
Honestly, I try to avoid trends, whether in my interior design work or in art. I believe art is so personal and we should have pieces that move us. If that happens to be trendy, fine, but I want to be moved by my art and that is far more important to me. Go with your gut on subject matter, color, and style. If you are investing, absolutely go with investments that move you, if you don’t like an artist, don’t buy it. Who wants to live with art they don’t like just because it is going up in value? Ideally, find one that is an investment that you also love. Also, trendy will need to be replaced and often goes down in value when the trend is over!

How do interior design and art intersect?
They intersect in the biggest possible way! Art is the jewelry in the home, it is what pulls it all together and makes your home look polished, finished, and hopefully interesting. It often is what people notice first when walking into your home, it instantly makes a statement about you. One of the biggest mistakes a few of my clients have made, is stopping before the art… save some money in your budget for this incredibly important last step!

If one wants to start collecting art, what would your advice be?

When I work with clients and they are overwhelmed, I tell them to start pulling photos out of magazines or create a Pinterest page. When they do this, we quickly start seeing patterns… do they gravitate to dark or light rooms, or a certain color, or style. Doing this will allow you to see repetition. It is the same with art. Likely if you think about the famous artists you have seen in museums, that you already love, you will see a pattern, are you drawn to classical or abstract? If you look at enough, your taste and style will begin to emerge. Depending on your time, patience level, and budget, then you can go to galleries or estate sales armed with information. Buyer beware – buying art can be like an impulse buy when standing in line at a market checkout…you want to know the direction and the areas of your home you are shopping for before walking in the door, then you can let your heart take over.

You love an estate sale and I know you have found wonderful pieces. What the weirdest story you can tell me about finding art?
Hmmmm… the weirdest? As a portrait collector, it is always strange to me when people don’t care about saving family portraits. I got one of my favorite portraits at a garage sale… I asked the man if this fab portrait was for sale, he couldn’t believe I wanted an old portrait of his Aunt Isadora… he said take her for $40. She is a real beauty. I have also found several pieces for $5 to $20 that I sold at auction for $6500. So many of my pieces on my kook wall have a Hollywood tie-in. Most of the time I find that out after purchasing or while purchasing them. I should call it my Hollywood Wall of Kooks… they are definitely all pretty weird!


How do you pick a good piece of art?
Picking a good piece of art is tricky because there are lots of factors. Where is it going, what colors are in the room already, the size, the theme, do you love it? All these questions are why it is so challenging finding just the right piece. I would first figure the size that makes the most sense for each area and determine the general color palate, then start the hunt. Fastest route would be a gallery or even online you can look at art that a shop has available. I always scan auctions if looking for a specific style. Ideally, you would be looking in a place where there are lots of options available, like a gallery, auction, even possibly ebay… Or check out my website, you just might find something you love!

Do you have any favorite art galleries in LA?
  • I love Fahey Klein for art photography, fantastic selection.
  • The Morrison Gallery for rock-n-roll photographs, they can’t be beat. The gallery co-owned by Henry Diltz, one of the all-time great rock photographers.
  • Julien’s Auctions for art and celeb items
  • Abell Auctions for paintings, photographs, etc.

Kimberly Biehl | Contact Kimberly directly if you are interested in purchasing any of the pieces on her website.

Instagram: @kimberlybiehl

Email: heykimberly@gmail.com
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Juliette Hohnen

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