If you’ve ever witnessed an artist at work you know it can be a spiritual experience. For artist Angela Chrusciaki Blehm seeing an idea finally take shape is one of the most rewarding parts of the creative practice.
"Often in my imagination, but also in the games and pastimes in which I engaged growing up," explains the Gainesville, Georgia-based creative. "As a child, I illustrated my poems, published pretend newspapers, and drew house plans and treehouse designs that involved indoor koi ponds and hammocks." This curiosity eventually led Blehm to study studio art in college but not before she spent years studying to be an English professor. "The art pulled me; and, really, I had a hard time deciding if I wanted to major in interior design or painting," says Blehm. But painting won out in the end and she graduated in 2000 from the University of Houston. Since then, her work has evolved from a decorative painter and children’s space designer to a stay-at-home-mom, homeschooler, and now full-time artist from her home studio.
Tucked away in the rural area of town where it tends to be historically traditional in design, Blehm's color-rich and whimsical approach definitely breaks the mold. But you wouldn't know it from the outside. "Our exterior blends in with the surroundings, but there are outdoor hints that things might be more playful inside," she adds. "Like our stripe awnings and stripe ceiling on our side entry porch." But one step inside Blehm's home and you are instantly transported to the set of Alice in Wonderland with large-scale art, mood-enhancing vibrant hues, prints on prints, and titillating texture.
It's certainly a departure from their previous 1956 ranch house. Blehm was looking for a place for their growing family to "stretch a bit"— she lives with her husband, three teenage children, and three cats—and this five-bedroom house certainly fits the bill. "We loved the traditional structure of the home, and the central entry hall felt like a fun design moment to have after being in homes with no real entry space," she says. "We also love the tall ceilings and large lot that offers privacy."
In fact, Blehm's passion for color and print truly informs the space. "It is the guiding source!" she explains. "Everything hinges on color, then texture, and pattern. I might take reference from a piece of art or simply the desire to work with a color I haven’t used before. So much is feel for me that it is hard to articulate. I know my affinities with color are rooted in playfulness and joy and finding a way to mix them up for an ultimate visual delight."
Who else could pair a nine-foot red console with a canary yellow pendant light and graphic black and white wallpaper? And yet, somehow, they all work together so seamlessly. While pretty, Blehm doesn't forgo function. For example, when she designed the red console in collaboration with Chris Lund, practicality was front of mind. While it is obviously a statement piece, it also serves as storage which is especially needed in the entryway.
It's not often you see a home packed with so much visual food but for Blehm, color has also served as a form of healing. After a period of depression, the visual artist wanted her surroundings to "spark delight and wonder." She continues: "I wanted our children to grow in a beautiful yet unique space that embraced the importance of quirk and authenticity. While I have fluctuated through many styles and flavors over the years, my most recent landing has felt most authentic to me. Primary colors, artful pieces, and curious juxtapositions fill me with immeasurable joy!" And the happiness is palpable.
Everything in this artist's home can be summed up in three words: playful sophistication, wonder, and joy. While she's not one to play favorites, she does have a soft spot for the largest of the main spaces: the kitchen. And it's easy to see why. Bright and happy was the design memo here and Blehm's visually arresting aesthetic really comes to life in this room. There is a fairytale whimsy that takes guests down the rabbit hole to join the famous Mad Hatter's tea party with Alice and the Cheshire cat—it's truly magical. Knowing the room needed some kind of soothing anchor, Blehm added mint cabinets and designed a neutral island lighting system with Chris Lund to balance the color.
If you've never experimented with color at home, or you're intimidated by it, take a hue from Blehm's paint palette. "I urge people to indulge their favorite color whether it’s on-trend or not," she encourages. "No color is off limits and can look fresh in the right application." Still not convinced? The secret according to Blehm is to balance a lot of color with a grounding color—something that works as a neutral whether it is or not. Think black, gray, and white or red, burgundy, and mint. Also, layers of one color add dimension—like burgundy, red, and pink, she says.
However, Blehm's playful approach to design doesn't begin and end with color. The talented creative loves to punch up the personality of a room by fusing sculptural pieces, unique shapes, forms, and texture to bring much-needed dimension and warmth. Vintage furniture shopping is her love language and where she really puts her artistic eye into practice but sourcing unique pieces takes time which she has less of as her business grows. "So lately, I mainly source with vintage dealers online," explains Blehm. "I especially love all the dealers at 214 Modern in High Point, North Carolina. Nothing can add soul like the history of vintage." We couldn't agree more.
This sense of whimsy and sophisticated playfulness flows effortlessly from the entryway into the rest of the house until you reach the bathroom where you're met with a slightly muted approach. The color and pattern are still there but this time the focus is on tonal variations and patterns of the one hue, blue. The large windows flood the room with natural light and luscious views of the Gainesville region, which is the one thing Blehm would miss most about this home if she were to ever move out, adding: "We love the peacefulness of the area and the mountain views."
This peacefulness also lends itself to the creative process which for Blehm is key considering her packed schedule. "If I’m motivated, I’ll exercise first thing, and that’s a good day," she begins. "After that, I help the kiddos get out the door to school, then I can settle into the studio for work." Morning is her most productive time — answering emails, engaging with social media, painting or cutting wood for art, and sometimes she's also packing and shipping. Lunch is usually a quick sandwich, salad or smoothie because the afternoons always fly by.
"I try to wrap up work by 3:15 p.m. when I need to get the kids from school, but one of the perks of having a home studio is my ability to pop in and out as needed," she continues. "I usually try to fit in another hour and a half after the kids are home from school. I'll do subsequent coats of paint on pieces or pour resin on art at this time of day. Then it’s maybe a little seasonal poolside time with the mister and dinner. I go to bed excited about the next day’s duties because I’m a work nerd like that!"
While there are some convenience trade-offs, Blehm has surprised herself with how much she enjoys country living which she is especially grateful for since COVID. "Overall, it is so peaceful and beautiful," she says. "I’m so thankful we’ve had a comfortable place to shelter in—a real privilege. It's been able to handle Zoom calls and remote learning and a little art business while being a safe haven for us."