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A stretched painting

Artist’s home truly a work of art

By LauraMarie Carmody
(PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
(PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
(PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
(PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
(PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
(PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
(PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
(PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
(PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
The Oakdale neighborhood, located on the south side of Fort Wayne, is an early 20th century subdivision with character born from diverse architectural styles including Colonial Revival, American Foursquare, Tudor Revival and Craftsman. The home of Jamie Smead and Faye Westropp is located on a corner lot in this historic neighborhood. It reflects the Arts and Crafts, or Craftsman, style popular through the mid-1900s.

The exterior of this residence features certain classic elements of a Craftsman home — a combination of brick and siding, a low-pitched roof with wide eaves, ample windows and a front porch with substantial square columns at each end. A dormer gives the structure added height. Mature trees, bushes and gardens enhance the cozy feeling created by the façade.

The brick, most prominent as the foundation and support for the screened-in front porch, is coupled with several shades of purplish gray siding and rose-colored trim. The front door, which is visible once inside the enclosed porch, features three vertical windows, a long one in the center and a shorter one on each side, all of which taper into a point. There is a transom above the door and a bank of windows to the right.

Once inside the front door, the scene shifts somewhat unexpectedly to a combination of quasi-Craftsman style coupled with modern décor, original paintings and intriguing wall colors. As artists, the homeowners have infused this space with their own creative flair while respecting the integrity of the structure itself.

“My position is that the Craftsman style is almost like early Modernist style stripped down, so I try to stay with that whole aesthetic,” said Smead. “This house is a modified Craftsman style with some sensibilities of Modernism. I personally feel that these sensibilities fit together.” 

The open floorplan, wooden floors, wide wooden baseboards and trim, built-ins on either side of a brick fireplace, a hearty mantle and sturdy square newel posts defining the staircase all reflect an Arts and Crafts influence. This influence is coupled with an early 1970s Italian glass table, a boomerang shaped couch, a reproduction of a Naguchi table, a pair of Knoll International chairs from the 1970s, an Eileen Gray table and silver lamps representing 1960s Greenwich Village.

The walls of the living room are jade, which makes the wood stand out, according to Smead. He also painted the ceiling pale lavender because white would have been too stark. The lower portion of each wall is painted with muted shades of purples, blues and reds. The effect of the colors and visible brush stokes is a look that resembles stone. A painted brick border is positioned above the stone. 

The prominent colors of the living room flow into the dining and are paired with new colors as well. A light wood dining room table from the Hoffman Collection stands in the center of the room with modern track lighting overhead. Two low-style, organic-looking burnt orange chairs hug one wall. A large, vertical painting ties the colors in the room together, while a bank of large windows ushers in natural light from the outside.

The kitchen showcases more of Smead’s creative spirit. Variations of three main colors were used in the room — a pale green called celadon, a purplish blue and a cool red. One longer wall is purplish blue, as is the trim around the kitchen windows. The red is used for the shorter walls, as well as the tile backsplash behind the stove.

Elements of the base cabinets are pieced together like a puzzle. The wall colors were mixed with mineral spirits and used to stain the doors and drawers in an arbitrary, yet artistic fashion. A few stainless steel shelves take the place of any upper cabinets. 

A narrow portion of a wall rises from the countertop along the outside of the kitchen, stretches across the ceiling in a wide, flat arch and travels down a wider portion of the inside wall. The way it is painted — using washed-out shades of red and purplish blue with visible brush strokes — gives the appearance of geometric cuts of stone pieced together to create a wall.

Directly above this design, Smead painted a series of free form oblong and somewhat round shapes in varying shades of the kitchen’s primary colors. This design continues onto the ceiling.

“I was trying to give the impression of a structure going out and over the room, but using organic shapes rather than hard lines,” he said. 

The kitchen and an adjacent bathroom were originally the last stops on the tour of the first floor. Smead, however, decided to enclose the back porch and garage, creating a comfortable, open garden room with a row of high vertical windows, skylights, a ceiling fan, a transparent floor fountain and plenty of floor and hanging plants. The lines of the newer space expertly mesh with the existing space, both inside and out. The walls alternate between a cool red and a purplish blue.

The three wooden steps descending into the room have a red tone, the result of mixing the wall paint with polyurethane. The floor of the atrium is acid-washed cement. It resembles weathered copper and has purplish red highlights.  

The back wall features a blond mahogany Art Deco bar formerly located in a local establishment. Refurbished chairs reflecting the 1960s modern style and formerly found in the Allen County Public Library line the sidewalls. 

“I wanted a comfortable place to sit,” he said. “The high windows provide light but make it very private. If the windows had been lower, we would be looking at a fence.”
The basement, accessible from the kitchen, reflects a color palette similar to the first floor. The floor features large squares in purple, green and yellow. Several of the walls are multitonal and effectively resemble stone. The wall stretching the width of the basement is covered in corrugated aluminum. 

A desk created from a pair of white Mission pieces and a slab of light teal Pittsburgh glass sits in front of the corrugated wall and serves as a TV stand. A taller version of the same structure is positioned at one end of the room and used for Smead’s art projects. An early tubular steel Heywood-Wakefield couch and 1920s end table are situated across from the TV.

As anticipated, the creative use of color and furnishings continues on the second floor. The landing near the top of the steps features an area in which a portion of wallpaper was removed, but some was left and then painted over in jade and purple, producing an interesting and eye-catching effect. All of the upstairs woodwork and ceilings are painted celadon, while the carpeting is purple. The walls in the hallway and the guest bedroom are a combination of the two. 

A small library with Mission style furniture and magenta walls features an orange, green, yellow and dark red geometric mural on its slanted ceiling. The guest bedroom includes early 1950s Herman Miller furniture, as well as a steel serving cart from the 1920s and an early 1960s Italian metal chair with wavy multicolored stripes on the seat and narrow back.

The bathroom boasts walls painted to resemble stone and appearing to have plants growing directly out of them. A purplish gray sink and toilet, as well as rose and teal ceramic flooring tiles, complete the look.

“I wanted a stone bathroom, so I painted one,” said Smead. “It was plant-inspired, too. I like geometry and using the color the way I did in the bathroom. Those techniques were similar to my artwork.”

The master bedroom, which Smead calls “a work in progress,” has magenta walls inspired by the room’s floral draperies. A sturdy sleigh bed is paired with other interesting furniture, including a wooden seat with a curved back and double drawers in the front. A whimsical lamp featuring a woman with a downturned water urn is positioned in one corner.

“In a way, the house is like a stretched painting and the palette is the colors, furnishings and everything else put into it,” explained Smead. “I try to respect the original house, but I think I can add to it as long as I keep it simple — with a few notable exceptions, of course, like the ‘lady pouring water’ lamp.”

Posted: Fri, 03/25/2011 - 11:56 am
Last updated: Fri, 04/27/2012 - 8:24 am