Locals + Culture

When we help our clients purchase a house, we know it may not always be their “forever home.” We aim to help our buyers find resonant, intentional spaces that suit (and hopefully, elevate) their desired lifestyle and fulfill their needs, however, it’s inevitable that seasons of life shift, families grow or circumstances change - and soon it’s time to move on. 

But just because our lives are transient, doesn’t mean our homes should reflect impermanence.

Who is this mysterious future buyer who only wants white walls and generic minimalism? In my experience, homes that draw the most intrigue are the ones that have been truly loved and lived in – spaces where the owners are brave enough to express themselves with tasteful yet dramatic design choices, unexpected art and authentic style. If this is the goal, our clients Janelle and Zach have set the bar with their Spanish-style mid mod in Foothill, previously sold and designed by cityhomeCOLLECTIVE. We were lucky enough to spend an afternoon here talking all things art and home with owner Janelle.

When buying art for her home, Janelle selects pieces she connects with on a visceral level or that speak to a personal experience. She rejects the notion of buying art as decoration, which suggests a pleasing yet secondary consideration to a home’s design; instead, she’s drawn to art that stands out, creates tension, or tells a story. As a result, her collection is full of statement pieces that grab your attention as you move from room to room, where art inevitably becomes the focal point of every space.

Andrew Alba’s installation in the living room is a prime example, consisting of twelve panels that form an abstracted figurative painting. The raw gestural style and simple color palette contrasts the home’s surrounding eclectic design, yet somehow offers a feeling of completion to the room. Initially created as a performance piece at Vis, the painting’s construction is somewhat haphazard and wasn’t necessarily intended for a home setting. But Janelle loved the interactive element it brought to her space, and the idea she could easily swap the panels and change up the composition when the mood strikes. She also found a connection to her family in the figures. “I buy art that speaks to me,” she says of her collection, which ranges from pieces by established artists to sketches found in thrift shops. Acquired on a budget, accessibility is also an important factor when it comes to collecting art. “I don’t want it to feel so precious or that I have to protect it – I want to live and connect with it.”

In a true commitment to living with art, Janelle and Zach have fully embraced the fact that their home prominently features a permanent mural, which was commissioned by cityhomeCOLLECTIVE for the previous owner. Painted by Berlin-based artist Andrew Moncrief in his strangely beautiful and visually seductive style, the piece requires close viewer confrontation as it extends floor to ceiling over the home’s main stairwell. Janelle loves that it creates tension and intrigue, aligning with her belief that good art shouldn’t be passed by unnoticed. Leaving the piece behind for the next owner is a bittersweet gift, with the hope that its third guardian continues to acknowledge its integrity to the home.

We finished our visit in the home’s lower living space, where, as you descend past Moncrief’s mural, you’re met with an unexpected portrait of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. This was a piece that Zach immediately connected with when they encountered it at the Utah Creative Chamber, and Janelle is drawn to the drama it brings to the space. The artist is Daniel Salah Tomas, who was born in Sudan but is now based in Salt Lake City. Most pieces in their home were discovered locally and purchased either directly from the artist or from independent art spaces. Zach’s strong response to this particular piece stemmed from his personal interest in Douglass’ life, and it’s now a prominent fixture in their collection.

Unlike the figures in Moncrief’s mural, Janelle says she doesn’t intend to be a fixture in this house forever, which brought up interesting conversations around the attachments we have to our houses and the things that fill them. When we design and live in our homes with intention, it can be hard to let them go. And while each art piece in Janelle and Zach’s collection feels like it was meant for that very spot, maybe it has yet to find its perfect placement. We’re eager to continue telling the story of this space, and are equally excited to follow the future projects of this creative couple.

Other artists in Janelle and Zach’s collection include Mary Ellen Hogle, Thomas Aaron, Tom Jean Webb, David Raleigh, Melissa Peck, Ashley Sophia Clark, Mallory Morrison, and others.

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