the art eclectic – at home (and work) with kathi roussel

November 30, 2011

Kathi’s studio

When it comes to being creative with a capital “C,” Kathi Roussel is a protean talent. A notable ceramicist, she has more recently turned her attention to metal smithing and the creation of beautiful jewelry. In addition Kathi is the proprietor of one of my favorite vintage shops, 5 Gardenias.

As you might imagine all this talent could make for some pretty interesting and original home decor. But the creativity does not stop with Kathi. That’s because her husband, Peter Fowler, is also a skilled artist. Even the kids, as well as the couple’s artist friends, have kicked in a piece or two. The result is an extremely rich interior, full of original art and artifacts (that didn’t actually cost a lot of money). With its open spaces and extraordinary light, Kathi’s home is not only a personal gallery, but a work of art in and of itself.

Kathi and Peter live in an upper story loft in Allentown, an historic area of Buffalo, NY. The home was once six individual apartments which Peter spent two years demolishing and reconstructing into one open space. Kathi helped with the finishing touches, which continue to morph and progress. Kathi’s tastes tend toward eclectic objects and vintage pieces, while Peter is more decidedly modern. But in working together on the space, the couple managed to blend their tastes and art seamlessly, sometimes to intriguing effect. The patchwork floors, for example, came about organically as Peter “let loose” with left-over paint from several different projects.

The results of all this raw creativity and sweat equity is a rare home full of color and form and expressive force. It is the kind of energy and personality I think we’d all like to achieve in our homes. Perhaps we are not all professional artists, but that doesn’t mean we can’t think as originally as Kathi and Peter. This talented couple has certainly inspired me to think outside the box. Through them, I understand even more that our homes really are blank canvases for our lives. Clay waiting to be molded in our hands. Metal ready to be formed.

Some of Kathi’s earlier works hang in her studio. For 15 years Kathi worked in clay, making both functional and sculptural pieces. Her work can be found in many private collections as well as in the following books: The Ceramic Design Book, 1998; Making Ceramic Sculpture, 2001; 500 Bowls, 2003.

While Kathi’s house is a riot of color, she keeps her studio fairly zen so as not to distract from the work. The white walls enhance the light pouring in from the windows, adding to the serenity of the space. Here she also photographs vignettes for her vintage shop.

The center room in Kathi and Peter’s home used to be a gallery before the couple took over the entire space as a dwelling. I love the play of textures and materials here, of natural hues and bold stripes, as well as the exchange between the dynamic art and areas of calm. The large canvas is by Peter.

A sun filled skylight illuminating the living room, perfectly showcases a hanging mobile by Graham Sears and another painting by Peter. Here Kathi and Peter’s eclectic mix of vintage and modern really shines in the colorful afgans which mirror the painted plywood floors.

Art, books, and elements from Kathi’s vintage collection set next to Peter’s painting create a dynamic yet cozy corner.

This mixed media hallway with some of Kathi’s pieces is one of my favorites. The painting is by Bruce Bitmead.

Here in the dining room, you can see how with only low divisions in between, one room flows into the next. Each area used to be its own vibrant color, which was fun, but Kathi learned a lesson from her serene studio. Now uniform gray walls unite the space. Art reigns against this more neutral palette, while the block painted floors still keep it colorful and fun. The awesome “skate egg” sculpture on the shelf is Kathi’s own.

Above and below: Kathi’s signature style – art with vintage ephemera – on a dining room shelf.

This image in particular demonstrates Kathi’s talent for “layering” objects. Despite the diversity of elements, she achieves harmony and balance with the use of palette as well as a mix of vertical and horizontal.

Lively, mixed media elements in another corner of the dining room include art, weavings, an antique shovel, and Maria the cat. The little red painting is by Kathi’s son.

All rights reserved. Photos used with Kathi’s permission. To see more of her wonderful home and studio, click here.

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