September 2010: Bright moves

 Some people decorate their houses because it needs to be done. Others truly relish the task. Beryl Solla and James Yates are in the latter camp. 

“People ask me, in terms of art, what I’m doing, and the thing I’m most interested in doing as an artist is in my house—building stuff, changing stuff,” says Solla, who heads PVCC’s art department. The home in Ivy she and her husband bought 11 years ago bears the marks of their vision on every surface: boldly colored walls, hand-tiled backsplashes and tabletops, artwork that reflects a folk-art sensibility as well as their connection to their previous home, in Florida. 

It’s a cheerful effect, all the more so when the gardens are blooming outside, an echo of the bright patterns inside. At a kitchen table covered in red floral oilcloth, Solla likes to sit with her computer and take in the view while she works. The table’s also the center of family gatherings: The couple’s two sons, ages 28 and 25, both live nearby. In fact, the younger of the two held his wedding at his parents’ house in May. 

“We spent a lot of time here, all of us, planning and organizing,” she says. “It always feels so idyllic. This is where we spend our time.”—Erika Howsare

“When we bought this house, it was crazy bland. We gutted the kitchen. Our first week, the cabinet doors fell off. It was like a movie, and not in a good way. 

“It was my husband who wanted to do the saturated colors, and I was afraid. I jumped in and I’m glad I did. We wanted white between everything to keep the colors crisp. Everything centered on the visual. In Florida our house was very pastel. When we moved to Virginia we went nuts—when our Florida friends visit, they call it ‘Virginia ham.’

“I have a lot of art I’ve collected over the years. [Above the doorway] is a piece I made for my husband—a Howard Finster-like angel. The message is ‘Say Yes’ because I’m always working on his default answer being ‘yes.’

“[The figures on the walls] are by this artist Susan Banks. She calls them lures—like fishing lures, but the feminine lure. They’ve all got the long Barbie legs. They’re so weird but so colorful too—that mix of disturbing and pretty. 

“I painted the chairs, and I covered my table with oilcloth. I used to paint it white every six months—it never looked pristine. It would get coffee stains, tea stains. This is perfect, except it’s easy to lose stuff on it, like your glasses.

“I bring the geraniums in every fall [from the window box]. They’re great. They’re so hardy. They look cinematic, don’t they? Like a set designer put them there. They’re so willing to please.

“[When I sit here] I have a cup of tea and my laptop. I do email, design work, digital artwork. I just did a fun thing—myself as Ripley from the Alien movies. I’m thinking about self-portraits as heroic women. 

“When we have the kids over, this is usually where we eat. Everybody’s into local and organic. Everybody cooks, and we have a vegetable garden and an herb garden. 

“As a kid I moved around a lot and never had a sense of stability. I didn’t have any control over my surroundings. As an adult, that was a priority—once I realized that when you own something, you can do whatever you want.” 

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