San Antonio Express-News

8 ARTFUL DESIGN TIPS

Interior designer mixes the functional with the fashionabl­e

- By Diane Cowen STAFF WRITER

Some 20 years ago, Houston interior designer Kelly Gale Amen got a call from Traditiona­l Homes magazine, which had named him the designer of the year.

Amen jokes that his response was to ask if they had called the right number.

“I’m so far from being traditiona­l that I can’t tell you what it is,” Amen quipped during a recent Access Design presentati­on in

Houston. “They said, ‘Traditiona­l is what stands the test of time.’ ”

While Amen’s presentati­on was about art in home design, the out-of-the-box thinker defines art broadly, putting as much effort into creating a stylish dog bed as he does a living room and seeing something artistic all around.

In his years of creating attractive homes, Amen also has designed fabrics and functional art, from bronze benches on display in parks and public buildings to oversize ottomans that are easily converted to dog beds. (The conversion takes place when the dog simply takes it over.)

He also founded and supports the Cancer Below the Belt non

profit to encourage screening and early detection of cancers that occur “below the belt.”

Here’s a sampling of his approach to thoughtful, artful design:

Focus

Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking clients what they love and what they hate. Toss out the “hates” and focus on the “loves” and you’ll find success, he said.

Take inventory

New design projects don’t have to start with an empty shell — though sometimes they do. Amen likes to assess what a homeowner already has and determine if it works well in another room.

“It’s like the flip in real estate. I switch the energy of everything and show how it can work in a different position. It’s a dance, a really wonderful dance,” he said.

Spotlight collection­s

One client had an extensive collection of art, so they decorated in a more minimalist way around it, using vertical stripes to play with color.

Repurpose

When a client hated to part with a lovely but old bedspread, Amen turned it into pillows for a new bedding arrangemen­t. Creating new uses for old things is an easy solution.

Go classic

Don’t overlook classic style if you’re in search of something new. Maximalism may be creeping back in, but it’s not for everyone. Have understate­d taste? Then stick to simple wall colors and counters; a burst of color on the backsplash is enough.

Go country

City homes and country vacation homes serve different purposes. For one Hill Country home,

Amen kept a bedroom calm and serene in a monochroma­tic palette of celadon. And the oldfashion­ed wooden rocker in the corner? It stayed. “Everybody needs a rocker,” said Amen. “If you don’t a baby, you soon will the baby.”

Shop wisely

Amen purchased a rug for one client in Kashmir in 1986, and they have taken it to every home they’ve had since; it’s always in use.

“If you buy wisely, you will keep those pieces forever,” he said.

Use mirrors

Smart use of mirrors is Amen’s signature. Sometimes he uses them to make a room seem larger, and other times, they’re used to reflect something beautiful, especially trees and gardens nearby.

 ?? Photos courtesy Kelly Gale Amen ?? TOP: Interior designer Kelly Gale Amen believes that home furnishing­s should be works of art. ABOVE: He recommends showcasing and designing a look around collection­s.
Photos courtesy Kelly Gale Amen TOP: Interior designer Kelly Gale Amen believes that home furnishing­s should be works of art. ABOVE: He recommends showcasing and designing a look around collection­s.
 ?? Kelly Gale Amen ??
Kelly Gale Amen
 ?? Photos courtesy Kelly Gale Amen ?? Amen believes in working art into design, whether through traditiona­l paintings or functional items, such as this painted umbrella.
Photos courtesy Kelly Gale Amen Amen believes in working art into design, whether through traditiona­l paintings or functional items, such as this painted umbrella.
 ?? ?? Amen’s bronze benches are also found in libraries and in public buildings.
Amen’s bronze benches are also found in libraries and in public buildings.
 ?? ?? Interior designer Kelly Gale Amen of Houston defines art broadly.
Interior designer Kelly Gale Amen of Houston defines art broadly.
 ?? ?? This bronze bench designed by Amen outside a library is another example of art with a function.
This bronze bench designed by Amen outside a library is another example of art with a function.

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