Warm terracotta tones in the family room complement the detailed metal work on decorative Moroccan doors and Shaman, an oil painting by Max Pernada. Hanging above the artwork is a mobile in Calder style, Weeping Willow, by Lucien. ROB DOWNEY PHOTOS
Artist’s home created from a lifetime of colorful palettes
BY ALISON O’LEARY
There are colorful birds flocking near the headboard in the master bedroom, skeletal Mexican girls dancing atop the kitchen cabinets and a smug-looking pig reclining luxuriously in the lavatory.
Dozens of visitors enjoyed discovering the artwork collected in the Hobe Sound home of artist and designer Celesa Lucien during the Woman’s Club of Stuart’s “Art is Everywhere” tour event in February. It was one of a handful of homes open for ticket holders to enjoy the confluence of art and hearth. This one is tucked away on a cul de sac in The Falls community where no one would suspect its unique allure.
Here, every room is a canvas that has been thoughtfully brought to life.
Lucien, a designer and artist, has gathered her collections and given flight to artistic fancy in this space, adding colors and textures for ambience, warmth, and some disarming surprises. Her choices of colorful or subtle hues also interact with the artwork in each room, creating small galleries. For instance, her kitchen is dominated by neutral tones — if only to highlight the colorful Mexican ceramic figurines and brightly-painted trays lined up atop the cabinets.
The master bath is painted a muted lavender and studded with tiny mirror accents that follow the lines of doors and windows, a string of festive flags hung above. And the guest bedroom is awash in chambray blue — but rather than using traditional paint, she has softened the lines of the room by covering two walls with curtains.
The master bedroom’s elegance is highlighted by white walls and floor and carefully selected cluster of bird paintings from the Virgin Islands, home of Lucien’s adoptive father, Grammy-nominated jazz artist Jon Lucien.
The first few steps inside Lucien’s home requires treading on the underpinning of the art: first limestone tiles, then wood planks, then a fluffy, asymmetrical white faux fur rug. Each has a purpose in the design and tone of the spaces inside the home that she renovated upon moving in back in 2009. In the intervening years, she has been active in the Martin County Arts Council and participated in renovating and redecorating rooms of Molly’s House where families stay during hospital treatments.
“These are European oak floors,” Lucien says, swinging a bare foot along the smooth wide planks that knit the different living spaces together. “I sold my ’65 Mustang for them.”
While the wood floors unite the design of the primary rooms, the wall colors she has chosen set the tone in each. Rather than the predictably neutral hues of many homes, color abounds. Among her home’s more interesting finishes is a wall covered in burnished Venetian plaster for a three-dimensional effect. After completing the multilayered technique, she personalized it further by adding little pencil-drawn birds sitting on the branches of a tree.
The sparkling sky blue-colored sitting room just inside the front door is dominated by an oversized, silver-framed mirror leaning against the wall. Opposite it is a large subtly colored framed abstract work by the artist Slade. Every piece of art in her home is an original.
“Look at this,” Lucien says, calling attention to the sparse lines and subtle color of the Picasso-esque artwork. “It’s called This Child of Mine but there’s a little of everything in it. Some people see an angel, or the pope.”
In contrast, the adjoining study is accented by natural wood trim, oak furniture and a rich cream wall color reminiscent of her years in New Mexico, where she had an art school called La Puerta Azul and taught at Taos Institute of Art. Decorative hammered tin from an adobe home runs around the room at chair rail level. Accent chairs made of hide stretched over rustic wood sit under a painting of a Hopi dancer and on the wide windowsill, Kachina dolls guard a wire birdcage with handcrafted Native American bowls nestled inside.
“This bowl was made by a very old woman. I thought you could just walk in there and buy whatever I wanted, but that’s not the way it works,” Lucien says, cupping a tiny hand-painted bowl in the palm of her hand. “They choose you. They let you buy one. The woman put this bowl in my hand and said, ‘I hope this bowl brings you happiness,’ and I just cried.”
Each section of the home reveals new charm and surprises: The spacious, airy master bedroom is elegantly white and sparsely decorated to emphasize a curved bank of windows overlooking the backyard, while the guest bath is a cacophony of fun and colorful Mexican art.
After renovating the kitchen to create a more open floor plan, Lucien kept the color palette simple to highlight the colorful ceramic figurines and trays above the cabinets. The backsplash and some trim was painted to look like dimpled ostrich skin.
STORIES TO TELL
A tour of her home means stopping for a story or a glimpse into how she acquired each piece of the art displayed. Several are by friends who happen to be artists of some renown, including Barbara Sayre Harmon. Her muted color palette highlights an image of a woman’s face wreathed by flowers in the master bedroom (another by her husband, modernist landscape artist Cliff Harmon, hangs near the baby grand piano in the music room).
On another wall nearby there’s a rendering of the skyline of Naples, Italy, in oil stick that Lucien kept in storage for years until she saw the skyline herself — and promptly retrieved the piece to hang where she could appreciate it and preserve her memory of the city.
“Sometimes you have this serendipitous life. That’s how mine has been,” she says. “You have to pick things you like, not because it goes with your couch. If you pick things that have a spark, that make you react to them, the feeling never goes away.”
And then there are the things that she hasn’t picked up in a gallery or from a friend but has created herself, including vibrant murals that adorn the walls of the poolside lanai. The blasts of color brighten both a sitting area and an adjoining dining table lined with place settings in Caribbean colors of coral and teal.
EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
“Art should be intimate, personal and inspiring,” Lucien says. “I layer it with wall color and utilitarian items to make it speak to its viewer. Art tells a story of one’s life and connects man to memories, adventures and people. I do not use art to fill a space. Most people hang art too high for viewing and either too crowded or too spaced out for a connection. The eye needs places to rest in a room and blank wall space is just as important as a filled space. You do not need a lot of wall space to enjoy art. It can be more casually viewed and brought into one’s life,” she says.
The walls of the guest bedroom, which were softened by covering them in striped chambray curtains, are decorated with a collection of colorful clay masks. Splashes of color offset the soothing blue room, including a bright patterned fabric headboard and lamp with a crowing rooster base.
To that end, a wall of her family room is dominated by a set of doors from Morocco, a focal point as she contemplates leaving this place after almost 10 years. They arch like a pair of hands clasped in prayer, adorned with intricate metalwork.
And the luxuriating pig? It’s both funny and discomfiting to look at, but Lucien has given it just the right treatment — it’s hung in the lavatory within the master bath. Because the pig herself is surrounded by green drapery in the painting, Lucien finished the lavatory walls in a verdant celery color to match.