We all know the easy way to decorate a multifamily property: Hang a handful of pretty flower paintings on the wall, maybe throw in a mirror or two, and call it a day. But in today's competitive condo and apartment market, a growing number of developers aren't looking for the quick fix. Instead, they're carefully selecting pieces of artwork that connect with a property's identity and community.

“I am against art as decoration,” says Jules Demchick, president of JD Carlisle Development Group, a New York developer. “It's not a matter of hiring someone who's going to hang pictures on the wall.”

Demchick isn't just talk. The lobby of his latest project, the 28-story Cielo condominium being built in New York, will feature a commissioned painting inspired by the blue skies and open views suggested by the building's name, which is Spanish for sky. The building will also offer residents a free membership to the Whitney Museum and an art concierge with information on the city's latest museum exhibits.

As unusual as that sounds, art-inspired apartments and condos are a must in large, urban areas like New York and Miami, developers say. And for buildings located in urban art districts, an art theme is the perfect way to tie the property into its neighborhood. There's no boundary to where art can pop up, from a building's lobbies and hallways to marketing materials and even the construction site.

SHALL WE DANCE?: Colorado-based artist Gary Alsum created “Promenade,” a bronze statue on the grounds of the affordable Little Lake Village at Santa Fe Springs.
SHALL WE DANCE?: Colorado-based artist Gary Alsum created “Promenade,” a bronze statue on the grounds of the affordable Little Lake Village at Santa Fe Springs.

Browse our art gallery to explore four ways developers are using their art smarts to enhance their properties' appeal and buzz.

If you have $0 to spend... Take advantage of city-sponsored art programs to dress up your grounds.

As you stroll through Little Lake Village at Santa Fe Springs, it's easy to think you're touring an outdoor art gallery. The grounds of this affordable community feature a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of a dancing couple, a bronze-cast bench depicting intertwined foliage from the ancient gingko tree (right), and a seating area with a series of historical images from the city's archives—and that's just the beginning of the tour.

High-end art in an affordable property is usually an unthinkable combination; the finances of building moderately priced housing usually can't support such extras. But Little Lake Village got some help: The city's Heritage Art in Public Places program footed the $150,000 bill. To fund this art program, all developers in the city contribute a 1 percent fee on development projects in Santa Fe Springs.

The artwork—commissioned especially for Little Lake Village —represents the city's rich history. The entry monument signage and fountain, pictured above, depicts two peacocks, birds typically collected by the farmers who settled in the area at the turn of the century. The custom tile mural was inspired by Malibu-style ceramics popular throughout Southern California.

If you have $1,500 to spend... Take a photo and create a sense of place.