When she left Brazil and moved to Westchester, artist Simone Kestelman, who works in glass, ceramics, and photography, knew she had to revamp herself. While known in her native country, she was a new face here. So, she decided to make her home her “business card” or portfolio to display finished pieces, while working from a studio in a separate location.
Kestelman and her husband built a stunning new 10,000-square-foot French-chateau-style home (“I always like a fresh canvas”) on almost an acre of land. The interiors, she decided, would be open-plan, modern, and as light as possible, the better for her art to shine. “I love to live in clean, uncluttered spaces, particularly as I am surrounded by a lot of visual stimulation in the studio,” she says. Indeed, the ambience, while inviting and functional, also calls to mind that of an art gallery; with its clean white background, her works are clearly the stars of the space. Kestelman, who designed the interiors herself, chose a black-and-white color palette with pops of a more dramatic red. Many of her furnishings and decorative items were brought from Brazil.
Visitors to the home are greeted by a dramatic multi-level entryway full of light and open sculptural stairs of steel and oak designed by the artist. The space, which also features a contemporary gray area rug, is home to Motherhood, an oil-on-wood painting by Brazilian artist Carlos Araujo that depicts a mother with baby. The rust-colored citrine stone beneath that painting has always been placed close to the front door wherever Kestelman has lived; citrine is associated with abundance and prosperity. The black blown-glass vase was bought at a Brazilian flea market, artist unknown. Kestelman, who does not herself blow glass, loves the color black. The chandelier, custom embellished by the artist, is made of powder-coated steel with mesh and glass accents to suggest upside down trees. Most visitors mistake the modern shiny white bench for a sculpture and have been encouraged to sit on it.
Durable Corian counters and white lacquer cabinets create a functional clean-lined space in the kitchen. The artist printed the melamine under the island with a photograph of wood grain to give it a more artistic look. The red porcelain discs were designed by her daughter and then actually made by the artist. “I was getting bored with the back-splashes available — and I think these discs give my kitchen a futuristic look without being overwhelming.” The steel and white island stools impart a similar sensibility. The chandelier was created by taking two existing fixtures and hooking them up end-to-end to create a modern wave effect.
On Display in the Gallery
The centerpiece of this serene space, used for displaying a rotating selection of the artist’s work, is the puff-like coffee table, made of aluminum and black faux fur, and the stylish black and white geometric area rug on which it is placed. Seating includes comfy armchairs upholstered in cherry-red velvet, and an armless black leather and steel chaise lounge. Displayed in an alcove is the artist’s Caged Girl hanging sculpture. Composed of a handmade ceramic dress inside a steel cage customized by the artist, it was part of an exhibition about violence against women. “It is a haunting piece that always sparks contemplation and discussion.”
The artist designed this stunning 170-square-foot, temperature-controlled, 900-bottle wine cellar she calls a one-of-a-kind piece of art as a gift for her oenophile husband. She created each of the glass panels and used wood doors hung with titanium pins. All the glass panels were handmade by the artist using a process of fusing the glass, painting it, and then applying powder glass to make textures and effects. Because she wanted to do everything by herself in this room but didn’t know how to lay tiles, Kestelman created a backsplash from cardboard. She seamed all the cardboard pieces and painted them to match the grayish color of the porcelain floor. The cobalt-blue countertop of the magnum cabinet is also one-of-a-kind, custom designed and cast by the artist. The figurine glass sculptures on top of it were acquired from the Urban Glass School in Brooklyn, an institution that the artist likes to support.
Ten Top Tips for Collecting and Displaying Art
- Buy only what you love and want to live with.
- Do not worry about matching your pieces to your home’s architectural style, interior décor, or color palette.
- Cut down on the clutter. Interiors don’t have to be antiseptic but fewer “tchotchkes” mean more attention for the art.
- If possible, use professionals, such as a fine-art framer and a fine-art hanger, to frame and install your piece(s); ask the gallery or artist you purchased them from for recommendations.
- Be aware that many contemporary paintings don’t need framing; ask the artist or gallery for guidance.
- With abstract pieces, know the orientation of how the piece is meant to be viewed — either vertically or horizontally — and which side is up.
- Hang your piece at museum height: 60” from the floor to its center. If the work is primarily viewed while sitting, consider adjusting that downward.
- Consider waiting until you have a collection to hang your pieces. A professional art handler will move the pieces around to determine their best placement in relationship to one another.
- Don’t place photographs or light-sensitive work in areas that receive a lot of sunlight unless you have protection on your windows.
- Before hanging heavy or unwieldy art, make sure your wall can sustain it; it may have to be reinforced.