What makes a house a home? Some would say that it’s art.

“It’s one of the main things in the house that gives it a certain feel,” says Lucy Fenton, owner of interior-design store Fenton & Fenton “When you look around the house, every piece means something.”

Fenton began her art collection at a young age, a hobby that eventually led to her vibrant, eclectic – and often kitsch – interior stores in Prahran and Collingwood, where she sells furniture and homewares, and represents Australian artistic talent.

The Gallery by Fenton & Fenton will be one of the vendors at the Affordable Art Fair, running at the Royal Exhibition Building from September 5 to September 8. Ahead of the fair, we asked Fenton, Anna Prifti from West End Art Space and Beulah Van Rensburg from Van Rensburg Galleries to share some tips on starting an art collection.

Love it or leave it

The emotive nature of art means your love of it should be the primary motivating factor. Anna Prifti, explains: “If you connect with it, buy it. An artwork is an investment in your home environment, so select the piece that you fall for, then when it is on your wall, it will speak to you every day.”

Fenton agrees. While there are no rules, she says, you should let one point guide you when it comes to buying art for your home. “I’ve said it so many times and I’m sticking to it,” she says. “Buy what you love. It doesn’t have to be expensive or big, but if it resonates with you, that’s the number one reason to purchase it.”

If you don’t even know what your taste is yet, get out there. “The more art you see and the more research you do – going to galleries, stores, auctions – then you start working out what you like and what you don’t,” says Fenton.

The cost

Budget plays a role when it comes to buying art, so consider what you’re willing to spend. At the Affordable Art Fair you can expect works that range from $100 to $12,000, with all prices clearly labelled. Anna Prifti says that she offers interest-free loans through Art Money “to make it easier for everyone’s budget”.

But Fenton stresses that cost shouldn’t always drive your choices. “I’d rather buy a small piece that I love, by an artist I really love, than a big piece just because it’s cheap,” she says. “Over time, you could collect a few smaller pieces and have a collage.”

Where to look

Art is like treasure, and you can find it in galleries, artist studios, auctions and even vintage stores. The Affordable Art Fair hosts thousands of artworks from around the world under one roof – you can dip your toe in the art market and see what calls to you.

“I’m a real advocate for looking at auction houses – even vintage stores,” Fenton says. “I found an original piece in an op shop the other day by an unknown artist for $15. I just had it framed beautifully.”

Looking at new talent also has its benefits, as you can often snap up an emerging artist at affordable prices. “If you go to exhibitions of young, up-and-coming artists, you’re going to pick up pieces at a [much] more affordable pricepoint,” Fenton says. “Once they’re represented and in galleries, their pieces generally go up [in value] because they become more well-known.”

Move it around

A reshuffle of pieces around the home is necessary for several reasons. “Don’t be afraid to move your art into different spaces as you acquire new works,” Fenton says. “You might have a piece in your living room that’s been focal for a while, but then over time you’ve been able to invest in something you love more, and you can always move the other piece to your bedroom.”

The same goes for a work that doesn’t seem to match or is too big. “You can still have a really random mix of art in your home and it [will] look great,” Fenton says. “Try not to be too bound by space. You can always find spare wall.”

Have fun

Collecting art should be an exciting process. Beulah Van Rensburg suggests that while you’re at an art show or fair, “grab a glass of champagne, walk around quickly once, eyes and heart open, and see what jumps out at you. Then walk around again slowly and see what it is that really moves you”. As Fenton says: “Be brave, follow your instincts, love what you buy”.

“If you grow out of it, move it rather than sell it. Because art tells the story of your life,” she says. “It reminds you of where you were at a certain time.”

Browse the Affordable Art Fair vendor list here.

The Affordable Art Fair is on from Thursday September 5 to Sunday September 8. Broadsheet readers can receive a half-price General Entry ticket (usually $25) by following this link.

This article was produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Affordable Art Fair.