AT HOME with ARTIST KATE CASTELLI
Artist Kate Castelli was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for us about her beautifully designed home. You should know that in addition to being a fantastically gifted furniture restorer and plant mom (!), Kate creates beautiful expressions in print works, that culminate in the intersection of books, works on paper, and collections that explore poetic and formal juxtapositions. When not making or thinking about art, Kate can be found happily wandering her home city of Somerville. She is rarely without a sketchbook, frequently haunts used bookstores, and is hopelessly addicted to coffee. Check out some of her work in print and design HERE. Kate, everyone has a personal way of expressing themselves, and your home is very uniquely designed. Please talk to us about how you'd describe your aesthetic, and inspirations that have found expression throughout your home. My aesthetic has changed a lot over the years as I transitioned from college to roommates and shared spaces to finally have a place of my own. My space became more important to me as a place to come home to instead of just a place to land. City living and apartment renting have unique challenges to work with but it ultimately makes it more satisfying to create your own space. A while ago I stumbled across an article from the WSJ that described something as “Modern Boho,” and that clicked with me. I’ve always loved the eclectic layered spaces of 20th century artists, writers, and musicians. “Modern Boho” seemed to embrace the curated accumulation of things that mattered to a person: art, books, and objects from travels and adventures. I also love the clean lines and details of mid-century furniture; more saturated colors paired with black, white and grey; and geometric or linear patterns. I love a good throw pillow but I agonize over rugs (so hard to find what I want and so expensive) and have a hard time finding lighting that is both practical and stylish.
My current apartment is a solid mix of ikea, investment pieces (from places like West Elm, Design Within Reach, CB2, and Room & Board) and vintage and antique finds. I love sourcing textiles and accessories from Etsy. And I've found (and sold) so many great pieces of furniture on Craigslist. I once took 2 subway lines and a bus to snag a vintage Eames walnut stool that someone was in a rush to sell because they had to move out by August 31st (aka "Allston Christmas" in Boston). As I lugged the stool home on the MBTA, I couldn't believe my luck in scoring such an iconic piece for about 1/10th of what I'd seen it for online.
You have such great pieces here, and we've spoken about your interest in furniture restoration. Where did that passion come from, and can you tell us about a favorite piece that you have found/restored? My paternal grandfather was a furniture maker, my maternal grandfather was a woodworker, and I grew up in a house filled with antiques, art, and books. So I guess it’s in the blood! Years of antiquing with my mother has given me an eye for good craftsmanship and the potential of pieces. My father taught me a lot in our basement workshop and I’ve always been handy. I started with small pieces that needed minor repairs or a fresh coat and worked my way up to more complicated things. My favorite project was the full restoration and rebuild of an art deco barristers’ bookcase. It was really beat up but had such great lines and was the perfect scale for my living room. It was designed to be portable and could be broken down into modular pieces so that meant the dealer was willing to ship to me really cheaply. I spent 6 weeks over the summer stripping, sanding, staining, and rebuilding it. It was an ideal project for pandemic lockdown since I had a lot of down time and I could walk to my local hardware store when I needed this or that. It was a learning curve but I’m thrilled with how it came out.
Plants. Talk to us. When did you begin indoor gardening, and how did you land on this theme of all white pots - it lends so well to the overall aesthetic! I’m actually quite new to having plants in my space. When I moved into my current place I only had a beloved Christmas cactus named “Rita” that had grown from a cutting of a 30-year-old plant my parents had. Then a good friend gifted me a snake plant as a house warming present and I slowly added new green friends from there. It’s been a lot of trial and error to see what worked for the space and what I could nurture. As much as I love the shape of Pilea peperomioides, I just can’t keep them happy…or alive. I love all varieties of Sansevieria and have recently discovered the ease and beauty of marbled Pothos (Epipremnum aureum). I added a hearty Monstera to the mix at the beginning of the pandemic and I’ve been really grateful to have plants all around as I’ve been working and teaching from home over the last year. The white planters feel modern and neutral at the same time. I have a mix of new and vintage (found on Etsy). Sometimes I have a vacant pot that needs a plant and sometimes I have a plant that needs a new pot, so I’m always on the hunt!
As an artist yourself, how do you find art for your own home - and do you return to artists repeatedly? "Who" is in your home? My collection is an eclectic mix and I love a good gallery wall! I actually only have 3 of my own pieces up on the walls, but lots of original work from friends and students. I love a good trade with fellow artists but I think it’s important to support students and local artists by buying their work. I love all forms of printmaking and editioned prints are an affordable way to get amazing pieces. When I travel I love to hunt in used bookstores, flea markets, and antique shops to find unique ephemera including vintage maps, postcards, and antique prints.
I have a few investment pieces from my favorite artist, the 20th century sculptor and printmaker, Alexander Calder. I have several original lithographic posters from his gallery shows in Paris in the 50s and 60s. In 2019, I purchased a signed original of his from an auction. It was a gift to myself to mark some very big personal and professional milestones. An investment and a celebration!
One of your spaces is your studio. Not everyone reading has one at home, could you remark on why this space is so important to finding creative inspiration - and perhaps tips for others in "creating a space for creating" that is distinct in purpose, but also very "you"? When I first looked at the apartment, my now studio was the current master bedroom. It’s actually the biggest room in the apartment. I opted to make the second smaller bedroom mine and use the larger space for working. I’ve always combined a working studio space with where I live—whether it was a table and bookshelves in my bedroom of a house shared with roommates or converting ¼ of the open floor plan of my last apartment to a dedicated working space with a huge table and lots of supply storage. I’m a night owl so there is some practical element of having a workspace in my home so I can access my materials and resources whenever. I like living with my projects, materials, and “works in progress,” and having a dedicated (or even designated) space keeps them actively integrated in my day to day life. I love being able to switch gears from eating dinner to working on a collage or scanning finished pieces. During the pandemic I’ve been fortunate enough to work and teach from home and my studio space has been at the center of it all.
In my workspace I value accessibility and storage. I like to know I can find tools and materials easily but I also want to be able to shut a drawer and not be overwhelmed by visual (or literal) clutter.
Lots of design choices were driven by practicality: a large table so I can spread out, a cozy chair for sitting with my laptop, and a magnetic wall to pin things up. But I think it’s important to create a space that you want to spend time in even if you are working. I was able to balance out the more practical pieces with elements that fit my overall style: a flatwoven wool rug, vintage inspired lighting, lots of art and plants, and bright pops of color. It was wonderful to get Kate's perspective on furniture finds, and making her space a great reflection of her personality and diverse interests! She even did us a solid and gave a great list of items to view that were featured here which you can find below. Until next time, everyone! LINKS
Yellow chair (similar)