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When it comes to furnishing a home, most of us can’t rest until every square inch is finished. But not artist Jeanne Oliver. She decided to embrace the notion of empty walls and corners as she outfitted her family’s Castle Rock digs—because sometimes finding the right piece can’t be rushed. “I’m someone who believes that you don’t just redesign everything all at once,” she says. “We took time to live in the house as we slowly put it together.”
For Oliver, her husband, and their three kids—ages 11, 15, and 18—that process began with a simple refresh of the 20-year-old space: painting the walls and baseboards white and the window frames black, replacing the lighting, and adding built-in bookshelves and a new fireplace. From there, Oliver began the work of curating an easy, spirited mix of clean-lined and vintage pieces—perfect for a painter and her artsy brood, who all contribute to the family business of running an online art school and hosting creative classes and workshops. Even today, you could say they’re still (happily) home-making.
5280 Home: Your home proves that family life and great style can coexist. How does your crew live in the space?
Jeanne Oliver: We run our own business from home, homeschool our three kids, and entertain family and friends in our home. There really isn’t a space that doesn’t get used daily. I didn’t want a home that was just for show. When our kids were little, we decided not to save our “best” for other people. We have a big drawer of cloth napkins—I don’t iron them!—that we use with nice dishes for our meals, and we like to have flowers and candles around. It’s not that other people aren’t special, but the most special people in my life are my husband and kids, and I never wanted them to think the opposite.
How would you describe your approach to decorating?
I love shopping for vintage pieces and repurposing them in new ways—bringing in some worn, wooden touches really makes a space feel livable and approachable. And I don’t think you have to spend a ton. We have furniture from flea markets, stuff from Urban Outfitters, things from Restoration Hardware. I find the pieces I want and then search for them in the price range we can afford.
Your home feels creative but not chaotic. What’s your secret?
I’m not big on knickknacks. I don’t have a lot of things that are just dust-collectors. One of my biggest pieces of advice is to be careful you’re not just buying things because they’re in front of you. I would suggest taking a printout of a vision board for your home with you when you’re out looking at furniture. That will help you say no to 99 percent of things—and say yes to what you really hope your home can be.
How did you curate your home’s eclectic art collection?
My grandma, Jeanne, was a pianist and a composer, and her home was filled with art: pieces by college students and by Picasso—anything that she found lovely. She was my biggest inspiration to buy what I love, and to not worry about who made it. I have a few pieces that have been passed down from her, but for the most part, the art is from our travels, whether it’s a sculpture or sketch I put in my suitcase to bring home.
Tell us about your artwork. Where do you find creative inspiration?
I’m a big gatherer. I always carry a notebook with me, and I constantly write down ideas. I collect color combinations I see out in the world or thoughts that become the jumping-off point for the title of a piece. I’m a better artist if I step away from my painting and go hiking or journal or create with my kids.
Your studio is a creative’s dream.
It’s a complete joy. I can’t even believe I have this kind of lavish studio! After nine years of running our business out of the unfinished basement and dining room of our last house, I love that I can come in and close the doors. Things don’t have to be picked up; nobody else lives in the space. I can put on my music, or be quiet and still, or tinker. Yet I don’t need it to create. I tell people who want to create to just find a place to do it.
It seems you’ve been able to find a not-too-perfectionistic approach to life and design.
If there’s anything about a home I’ve come to believe, it’s to make people a priority over perfection, and to welcome people in even when the floors aren’t clean. Nobody’s looking at them anyway. I have to make the choice daily to not apologize for messes. I want to choose gathering with people, and being with my kids and husband—and life—and not worry about perfect spaces. Our home is a work in progress, like we all are.
What are your tips for newbie art-lovers wanting to start a collection?
Don’t just think “painting.” We have a massive, old, black church window frame, and it fills a really large wall beautifully. That’s art to me, too. If you have a beautiful piece of linen or tapestry passed down from your grandma, have it framed and put that on the wall. If you have kids, buy a massive canvas and let them come up with something fun. And don’t be in a rush to fill every space in your home—leave walls empty so that over the years, you can find those perfect pieces.
Interior design: Jeanne Oliver, Jeanne Oliver Designs