Since opening her eponymous art gallery a year ago, Martine Chaisson has built a successful business from beautiful, thought-provoking and unusual art. She also brought her discerning eye to bear on the elegant apartment above the gallery, where she resides. Working with Atlanta-based designers John Fernandez and Jennifer True of Fernandez and True Interiors, Chaisson made sure her home, like her gallery, was a place where she loved every piece she included.
"I think it's part of being a gallery owner," she says. "I have to have things a certain way or I just won't have them at all. I knew what I wanted. If something wasn't the right look, I'd hold out and wait until the right thing came along."
Having worked with Fernandez and True on her previous condo, a youthful, modern loft, Chaisson did not hesitate to use their expertise again. This time, five years later, her aesthetic had evolved to a look Fernandez describes as "chic Parisian pied-a-terre." "This was a departure," Fernandez says. "This was a very sophisticated grown-up woman with a strong point of view. She commissioned us to design her space, but she was involved in every decision."
The look of Chaisson's living quarters was inspired by the architecture of the 19th-century building, which her family purchased after Hurricane Katrina and is still in the process of renovating. Once the home of the Old Bible House (a center for Bible study), and later a stripped-down sheet metal shop, the faded jewel featured 25-foot ceilings, tall windows overlooking St. Patrick's Church and a 1,300-square-foot ballroom. Its once-grand framework called out for elaborate crown moldings, plaster medallions and crystal chandeliers.
The glamorous, feminine design was also inspired by Chaisson herself. An avid follower of design blogs, she gravitates toward a variety of styles. Her mantra: If you love a piece, you will find a place for it. "My apartment is very Parisian, but at the same time I see Hollywood Regency, '70s modern and art deco," Chaisson says. "It's a combination of things that look special when they're all together."
With a list of contemporary artists that includes internationally renowned Hunt Slonem, the gallery's design is clean and contemporary. Glass facades showcase the art within and invite foot traffic; glossy, powdered-resin floors provide a durable foundation for constant movement, and an illuminated desk creates an ambient glow by night. In contrast, the apartment was conceived as a place to leave the cares of the day behind.
"It's so great to be able to come upstairs and detach from work," Chaisson says. Though she characterizes her personal style as "extremely girly," she points out that much of her decor is streamlined and masculine. Feminine flourishes are usually found in the details: the texture of a fabric, the pattern of a wallpaper or the sparkle of a vanity sconce dripping with crystals. Her taste in clothing follows a similar vein. Dresses are a staple, but on workdays, she forgoes her frilly frocks in favor of tailored pieces (often with a '60s Mad Men flavor), accenting them with flat sandals or 4 inch heels. "At 5' 2", I feel awkward in anything in between," Chaisson says. For casual pursuits like walking Baxter, the chow/hound mix she shares with fiance Juan Linares, Chaisson typically pairs skinny jeans and T-shirts with Converse Chuck Taylors or her favorite Hunter Wellies.
With two wedding ceremonies in the works — a February wedding in New Orleans and an April wedding in Guatemala — Chaisson rarely has free time, but when she does, she shops online (Gilt Groupe and ASOS are two of her favorite websites) and peruses wedding blogs. Now that she's celebrating her gallery's one-year anniversary and her home is nearly complete, Chaisson is happy to watch her dreams come to life. "There was no way this apartment wasn't going to be a reflection of my personal style," she says. "John would say, 'Let's find you the most amazing pieces you love more than anything in the world.' And every piece was something I adored."
1. There are many places to find great art. Galleries are the obvious place to start, but do not overlook auctions, local fairs, student shows and home decor stores.
2. Narrow down which genres of art speak to you. Once you know this, it will be easy to start a collection for your home.
3. Pick pieces that are important to you. Do not try to match your art to a couch or a wall color.
4. Don't be discouraged if friends disagree with your taste in art. It's only important that it is special to you.
5. Move pieces around in your home. Make room for new work and rearrange old pieces. It can change the entire look of your space.
Martine Chaisson's favorite blogs: