Of passions, pets and of course…a plethora of plaid.

I think what I enjoy most about the transition from Fall to Winter might just be that fact that it’s the ultimate exercise in layering. From fashion to furnishings, it’s the perfect blend of style embracing function, assembled and coordinated with a sense of purpose. And in the Midwest, other than the traditional celebration of the Holidays, the main objective is obviously warmth. Large or small, the artist’s studio can be an intensely personal space. Often times the environment itself is its own creation. Designed to evolve and take visual risks in search of inspiration, it tends be a reflection of the artists current passions and creative path. In some cases, it even reveals clues as to the artistic inspirations and influences of their past. This season, my creative studio definitely embodies all of that, as well as the celebratory spirit and functional requirements of this amazing time of year.

Starting in early October my arguably subconscious salvage search begins. I don’t even really think about it…it just happens…my mind, body and spirit begin to crave a level of authenticity only items with a curious history possess. Something I don’t seem to relish quite as much in the heat of Summer fun. With each visit to the small shops, markets, outposts and passionate purveyors of vintage inspiration, I’m emotionally nourished by the assembly of this seasonal and evolving collage. Nostalgic, reflective and colorful the environment that is my artistic home feels close to perfect. At least for the time being. And now that the snow has arrived, I thought I’d share the vision that surrounds me this season, and a few of the elements I thoughtfully and somewhat accidentally collected to create it.

It all started with the reclaimed shelf above the sofa in my studio. For this very personal space, I loved the idea of a shelf with reclaimed corbels versus a large piece of art, a mirror or other flat grouping. I wanted some dimension over the sofa, a kind of cozy and decorative canopy. The functional and visual advantages of a statement shelf both inspire and challenge me to change the theme in search of new groupings.

From the vintage images of the military jets I built as models as a kid, to the antique snow shoes, ski poles, English trophies and other curiosities…I add and subtract from this living display on a regular basis. As a firm believer that the best interiors always leave room in their design for evolution, the shelf, like the blank canvas has come to symbolize the promise and acceptance of the next new idea. For me a new thought, idea, vision or perspective has always been my True North. As for the vintage boxing gloves…I guess they’re reminders that sometimes you’ll need to fight to stay true to your artistic self. Something easier said than done as creativity can be a contact sport, worth the mental and even physical blows you may take along the way.

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This vintage Hardware Store ladder was one of my favorite finds of the season, and will be put to good use in the studio as both a functional and decorative element. I think what I love the most about it is the simplicity of its primitive design. Sturdy and Nostalgic. It’s like a monument to a “keep it simple stupid” mantra, as so many of us, especially artists tend to overthink and complicate just about everything.

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These vintage oil paintings of an unnamed dog were just too interesting to pass up. I laugh every time I look at them. Detailed, textural and well executed they were painted in 1935 by a Mrs. Floyd Vermilyea. The vertical portrait gives the terrier an almost human posture and facial expression. And in a way, don’t we all see our pets in that same way? I don’t know much of anything about the artist…and it really doesn’t matter. It’s likely she isn’t around anymore. I’d like to think she’s looking down and laughing that another artist actually bothered to purchase a pair of paintings of her prized pet. I guess the joke’s on me. So be it. And from the expression on the dogs face, I bet he’s laughing too.

I’m a sucker for old, large paint brushes made of horse or badger hair. They remind me that the contractors and craftsman of the past often used far less sophisticated tools to create things of incredible beauty, quality and value. For fun, try actually painting with one of these. The weight of these brushes loaded with paint will make you appreciate their efforts all the more. The vintage typewriter is no different. Another technological relic of an era when things were less disposable. Including the words pressed into meaning by this beautiful ancestor of the laptop from which I hammer out this blog.

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The pair of vintage space heaters have been with me for sometime, they will eventually be turned into light fixtures. Stay tuned. Until then, I just love their industrial vibe and soft metallic green paint color. My house growing up had radiators that from time to time would make the house unbelievably hot…or leave it ice cold. This pair remind me of a time when I would heat up my pillow in front of a similar heater before heading off to bed. Yeah, just file that memory right next to the one that has me and my four siblings fighting in the station wagon with no seat belts on. We survived…like so many great memories from my childhood. Familiar objects like these seem to settle my soul, helping me lay the foundation for the creativity to come.

I consider the collection of vintage keys and salvaged corks a bit like cooking spices. You don’t immediately notice their presence, but when you do, you soon appreciate the complexity and flavor they add to an interior. Plus, I love to imagine the stories they could tell. There’s something so intriguing to me about their mysterious past. Where were they from? What did they open? When you think about it, wine corks and keys do have one thing in common. Both possess the ability to open doors and unlock secrets if used correctly.

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I come across vintage spectator chairs all the time, but not quite like these. The pattern in their wooden construction and unique seat shape made them an instant studio mainstay. I’m quite certain they’ll still be welcoming guests far beyond this season and this latest version of my studio. Simple. Useful. And at home in just about any setting. I have a set of four, and like my siblings, are often at their best when we’re all together.

And finally, it was the collection of vintage wool blankets from iconic American mills like Faribault and Pendleton that gave this interior it’s true identity. Colorful, perfectly patterned and as tasteful as they are timeless. And like my family and good friends…I simply cannot image going through a Winter season without them around.

It looks like Cody & Tucker would most certainly agree with me. After all, nothing quite seems right without a proper parade of pets in plaid this time of year. Stay warm. Be safe…and go create something beautiful. -The Design Coach