- When she isn’t traveling or working in her garden, Vivian Reiss can be found in her third-floor studio, working on luminously colorful large-scale oil paintings imbued with her vibrant sense of joie de vivre.
Real estate agents call it staging—putting furniture and accessories into rooms of an empty house to make it feel more lived-in and sellable. You and I would probably just call it stuff—the things you cart from place to place over a lifetime to make your own formerly empty house your home.
When it comes to the homes of visual artists, however, stuff gets transformed. In their hands, even things like pulp paper egg cartons can end up as massive wall hangings, and squeezed-out paint tubes piled haphazardly on a rolling cart present an appealing, if unplanned, visual vignette.
One of the things we always ask in selecting homes to feature in our annual Art & Design edition is how compellingly an artist’s personal space becomes a visual extension of their creative eye. This year, with the homes of Toronto painter Vivian Reiss and Pittsburgh mixed-media artist Lori Hornell, I think we’ve hit the jackpot.
Historic and with just a hint of the idiosyncratic on the outside, the inside of the sprawling 1870s Victorian that Reiss moved into more than 25 years ago bears the undeniable stamp of her exuberant personality. Stripped down to its bones, then reconstructed room by room according to her exacting specifications, it defies drop-in visitors to remain gloomy for long. Once captivated, it also makes them exceedingly reluctant to leave.
Lori and Alan Hornell’s house is a historic property of another kind. Not all that different on the outside from a host of other refurbished carriage houses on former estates of American business tycoons, the inside is just as much a quirky mixed-media assemblage as the rest of Lori Hornell’s work—only much, much bigger. Tufted velvet settees mix with primitive African sculptures, recycled artworks and a billiard table that looks almost small in the soaring living room. Old haylofts, now balconies, serve as galleries for hanging art. And the dizzying juxtaposition of old and new, contemporary and antique, keeps visitors wanting to just poke around the house and explore.
Both residences are amazing.