Emotional Investment

Art procurer encourages a “love at first sight” approach

Hanna Manes in her own art-filled home.
Portrait by Rachel Pressley

Juggling new motherhood, a design business, and a love of art collecting — a passion she shares with her husband, Blue Spiral 1 Contemporary Fine Art + Craft Gallery Director Michael Manes — is enough to keep anyone busy. But Hanna Manes, owner of the recently launched company Hanna Manes Design, seems to thrive on the happy chaos. 

“It’s an extension of the interior styling work I’ve been doing privately for years, to accommodate the art procurement side of things,” says Manes, a proponent of the “super eclectic, stylish-lived-in look.”

Part of Manes’ mission is encouraging clients to trust their instincts when choosing art — including two-dimensional, sculptural, and functional pieces; installations; and site-specific commissions. A self-described “nester by nature,” she says that “helping to create balance and promote functionality within a home, while still maintaining style and warmth, is where my strengths lie.”

Most kids love to make things, but it sounds like you were drawn to constructing visual vignettes early on.

I’ve always been into collecting and staging. I don’t even know what most kids were asking for around the holidays, because I had things like quilts, pillows, and new lamps on my list.

Can you say more about what prompted you to launch Hanna Manes Design? 

I was getting asked more frequently by friends and clients to help guide them toward art that fell in line with their current collection and aesthetic. Over time, what was just a casual endeavor of curating and rearranging people’s homes turned into a more formal practice. 

So looking deeply at a client’s current collection, and their particular aesthetic, is pivotal to your work.

Yes. The way I style a room is dictated a lot by the art that will live in it. Art procurement goes hand in hand with my design style. [But] a client does not have to have a robust collection for an inspiring design to come to fruition.

Sometimes the choices paralyze us … 

Choosing and buying art can create a lot of self-conscious emotions for people. [Questions arise like], “Is this ‘good’ art? Does this match my style? Is the piece inherently ‘me?’” 

I find clients looking to me for validation on pieces they’re on the fence about purchasing. The only thing it boils down to for me is, “Do you love the piece or not?” You have to go with your gut. Fill your life with things you love — there’s no way there won’t be a sense of balance.

Yours and Michael’s interior choices are as gut-based and eclectic as they come.

Everything I’ve added to my personal collection has been without hesitation. Love at first sight is totally possible with art. There’s always the chance that I’m helping [clients] acquire art for investment purposes, but even then, there’s a level of passion. I think these same sentiments ring true for furniture and décor. 

Are design services out of reach for the average person?

There’s definitely a stigma that design services are unattainable without an enormous budget, but it’s so important to me that people find my services approachable. I work on a broad scope of projects and consult closely with clients to set realistic budgets. Sometimes that means working in phases and prioritizing things on your wish list, which can be a very practical approach to creating your dream space. 

Are people changing how they live in their homes because of the pandemic?

Functionality is everything. People are needing multi-purpose spaces. We don’t have a designated office in our home, so a work space became essential during quarantine. We transformed our dining room into a pseudo library/office/dining-room hybrid, and it’s incredibly cozy. Finding some happy in your home is necessary with everything people are enduring these days. 

Is the art you procure primarily local?

Most of the work I source for clients comes from local/regional artists, but not exclusively; I have connections with artists all over the country. I firmly believe in advocating for and investing in high-quality craftsmanship, and that’s something the artists of Asheville and WNC always deliver. I count myself super lucky to have such an extremely talented pool of makers in my backyard.   

Any interior trends that irk you? 

I just can’t get behind faux plants. I’m a big proponent of real greenery in your home.  

Hanna Manes Design, Asheville. For more information, see Manes’ Facebook page (Hanna Manes Design) and website (hannamanesdesign.com). Also on Instagram: @hannamanesdesign.