Celebrating the unique character of spaces and the people who inhabit them is one of the things we love best about our COLLECTIVE’s approach to life, living, and doing business. As the pandemic shook up our content creation world with limited opportunities for accessing the spaces of others, we started the Collective Casas series to open the doors wide to the unique abodes of our team members, with full disclosure of all of those curiosities and quirks that make a home, well… feel like home. From adaptively re-used historic storefronts to sprawling mid-mods, lovers of downtown-adjacent SLC living and those appreciating some elbow room in the foothills. It’s made us fall in love with and appreciate our Salty City and her environs all over again from the perspective of our own doorsteps.
Recently, we checked in with one of cityhome’s OG real estate agents, Mark Seely. In addition to being one helluva home consultant for over a decade, many may know Mark’s work in fashion design, and as a conceptual multi-media artist, photographer, and painter. For this feature, cityhome founder Cody Derrick sat down with Mark to chat about his converted Central 9th commercial building that has served over the years as a small warehouse, storefront, and showroom. In the 13 years Mark has lived in the space with his beloved diva of a dainty dog, Edie, he’s cultivated an always-evolving art installation and revolving collection of curiosities.
Our “quick interview” about space and why he loves it so damn much turned into a couple-hour-plus convo about life, death, art, bourbon, old dogs, fashion, existential crises, commitment, and what makes the world go ‘round. (Short answer: Love.) Here’s a very abridged peek into Mark’s uniquely suited casa filled with oddities...
"Your space is like clothing; everyone will wear it differently."
Cody Derrick: So, tell us a bit about the bones of your space.
Mark Seely: This building was built in the 40s and was set up with a showroom front and a warehouse posterior, with my unit utilizing half and half. The front is my gallery/studio, and the back yields a soaring ceiling for my living space and loft. A mutual friend, Erik Steffensen, did the residential conversion, and broke things up with a keen eye for light, purpose, and presentation. All the walls are situated for display, and each nook for collections of fun little things. The long and short of it is that you can still see the history that exists here, the way things used to be as an industrial space in juxtaposition to clean and sleek modern design.
CD: Yeah, we both dig the history of places and objects. Weaving ancient and modern elements.
MS: There’s so many little pieces, little objects, that take up a lot of space here and there. Taxidermy and found objects. All the dirty, pretty things. I’m in love with deeply personal items that are representative of people who are important to me, history, and art. Everything here has a very specific story and meaning, and that’s related to where I’ve placed it. I like things that have experienced life and that aren’t perfect. The wabi-sabi notion of beauty.
CD: And books. Especially old ones, right?
MS: Yes, and always books, like Ginsberg or a vintage Grey’s Anatomy. Bukowski to photography. I love to have books everywhere. If you sit down and you’re in the kitchen or wherever, you should be able to reach out and pick up a book. I’ll pick up something and read it for 10 minutes, starting somewhere in the middle or whatever. I’m a bit of a goldfish in that regard. I am always seeking inspiration and will often paint or write throughout the day.
"Edie and I are very fond of late-night walks, stumbling around, listening to music, soaking in the riff and the raff, taking photos, writing poetry."
CD: It sounds like you get pulled back into your art whenever you are inspired, which is often.
MS: Constantly. It’s fantastic to have immediate access. It’s like bringing your work home all the time; I’m constantly poking at and reassessing my art.
CD: So, you were doing the whole live/work thing long before Covid.
MS: I have shown work at other art galleries over the years [before purchasing this space], and it always seemed like a good business move to have my own studio space to be able to paint where I live. Have my own gallery space to present art when I want to and the way I want it. Now, I really only do shows here once or twice a year. Most of my focus is on galleries on the coasts, or I work directly with collectors.
CD: And you’ve been successful in real estate for over ten years. How do you fit it all in?
MS: 13 years! Almost all my creative activity is night based, leaving my days open for working with my real estate clients. The whole Batman/Bruce Wayne scenario. I’m definitely a night owl, though, so mornings are rough for appointments. Edie -- my three-legged 14-year-old fox terrier -- and I are very fond of late-night walks, stumbling around, listening to music, soaking in the riff and the raff, taking photos, writing poetry.
CD: What have you learned from living in this space, and what kind of advice do you have for people who may be considering the leap to a unique or non-traditional living space?
MS: Your space is like clothing; everyone will wear it differently. I think that no matter where you are, you can transform it, right? You can make a space your own and it doesn’t take a lot of money to make it a brilliant, significant space to you. A home is bullshit without loved ones in it. The most important part is that it’s interesting to you and suits the way you want to live.