FOR THE LOVE OF ART
Designer home fit for art gallery owner
Words by : Darren Ng
Photography by : Kelly marshall
The dining room is trimmed down to a round dining table served by a cushioned bench and armchairs. In the background, Black Light by Jon Schueler is framed, evoking a dramatic exploding sky inspired by the war.
An armchair by the corner of the bedroom is a sanctuary of serenity for light reading.
A simple kitchen setup is complemented by the whimsical crescent-shaped, Moon Sculpture II by Manuel Neri.
Minor structural modifications were made to open sight lines. Furniture was kept low to the floor to maintain that congruity throughout the space, while a hands-free revolving glass door leads one's eyes to the kitchen.
Anchor zones, in which Jones would group stationary furniture together, were created. The niche in the living hall is accompanied by a minimalist wooden banquette and a daybed.
Above the bed, Howard Hodgkin's Lit de Marriage (Marriage Bed) hangs.
The study is housed in an elevator shaft. Exterior windows were added to keep the place light and open.
In the bathroom, Costume pour les 4 Ouvriers by French painter Fernand Leger is positioned at eye-level. His depiction of factory workers in blue overalls inspires modern life.
Through a shared passion and knowledge for art, interior designer Stephan Jones and art collector and artist Francis Mill became the best of friends 15 years ago when Jones was first looking for art to be introduced into an interior project of his. It became clear as day that the pair made a great team considering they were both able to communicate fluently from their similar backgrounds in architecture and training in visual arts.
When Mill acquired a space in San Francisco, Jones was naturally his first person to call upon. The 1,000-square-foot space apartment used to be a former pharmaceutical factory that was subsequently converted into condominiums in the late 80's. It was the perfect mix of eclectic fun that Mill identified with. Despite Mills being as much a creative in his own right, he invited Jones to come in and instill his expertise with space and design on his new home in San Francisco.
space to create
During the first inspection, the pair took note of the original condition of the homes as the previous tenants had left the apartment in bad shape. As the home used to function as a pharmaceutical factory, the concrete cave housed generic cased goods, poorly lit rooms and plenty of "lost space" from the conventional floor plan. Like any other negative situation in life, the pair instead looked to the positives and identified the 11-foot ceilings and raw wooden doorframes that were left by the previous tenants as mainstays for the new home.
Indeed what caught their eye was the fact that most of the original building structure that defined the space had been retained - the concrete columns and walls that gave the space its unique character offered the owners the impression that they were living within a sculpture.
Structurally, the pair decided on an open floor plan, making minimal changes to open up the sight lines by centering the living room as a passageway throughout the apartment, in particular, the hallway leading from the kitchen to the bedroom. The wall and door to the bedroom at the end of the hall were removed to create an uninterrupted continuous concrete wall.
However, it wasn't always one-way traffic in their discussions. Jones explained, "I did propose to add a dropped ceiling, which Mills was apprehensive about. After much discussion, we agreed upon a partial ceiling that gives way to reveal a structural pillar and plenty of concrete".
a blank canvas
What the pair agreed on is that a living space should never be designed around ever-changing artworks. "The trick is to provide a versatile setting," Jones elaborates, "this dynamism is not only crucial to Mill's aesthetic, but also to his philosophy of living with art". To achieve a finely tuned balance, Jones designed many elements in the loft to be modular, flexible and discreet.
In the heart of the home, the living room has been idealised as an extension to the bedroom. A day bed within a niche behind a pivoting steel door offers a place to sit just before bedtime, while two wing back chairs designed by Coup d'tate creates a mini reading area by the custom-designed wooden book shelf.
As Mill works his life onto canvas, his studio has been sculpted in many ways and was re-built into a work area. What used to be an elevator shaft now sits the artist studio. Wedged within a square area that is now lit up by exterior windows, the space is kept light and open for those moments of inspiration to strike.
Like the adage, "Rome was not built in a day", the decorating process for the home had to exist on its own timeline - Mill and Jones treated the task of searching for unique pieces as a slow and organic progression that included scourging the market for one-of-a-kind artworks that would fit squarely into the home. Of course, favourite artworks from Mill's gallery were also incorporated into the home. Without divulging too much, all of Mill's treasures from pens, art supplies and original artwork and quirky international finds have been discreetly hidden within a custom-embedded filing cabinet sculpted by Henry Built.
For Francis Mill, who lives and breathes art, this home specifically designed for him is a fervent expression of his love for the arts. What had been a blank canvas of rooms is now a colourful sequence of uninterrupted vistas, punctuated dramatically by sculptures and deftly demarcated by curtains. Anyone visiting would be introduced to the building's original architecture yet be in full appreciation of the gallery-like sphere. Truly, it is a home fitting for an art gallery owner