For interior designer Jeannette Andamasaris, the decision to work from home was an easy one. “I surround myself with things that inspire me, and since my job is all about creation and inspiration, being able to spread out in my apartment is a luxury.” Andamasaris lives in a converted loft-like warehouse on the Downtown Mall. She’s got access to a roof space overlooking both the mountains and the hustle and bustle of the Pavilion below.
Andamasaris made her way to Charlottesville in 2008 after working as an in-house designer at a design build firm on the Outer Banks. She’d quickly found herself stifled by the beach aesthetic. “The beach is great, but talk about being pigeonholed into one kind of look. Everyone wants shells!” Through occasional escapes to her roommate’s house in Gordonsville, she fell in love with Charlottesville.
Fast forward five years, and she’s actively designing here through her own firm, JAID. She works out of her intricately cultivated apartment, appointed mostly in black, white, and neutral tones. “It’s sort of a designer cliché, but it’s one that rings true for me: I spend so much of my time dealing with color for my clients that I need my own space to be clean, sparse, and a place where my eye can rest,” she explains.
The bones of the apartment include three oversized windows, white painted brick walls, and an open staircase that leads up to her bedroom; she’s painted the wall in front of the stairs a striped black-and-white pattern. Her love of black-and-white movies and travel is evident throughout the space. Cherished treasures include an oversized carved camel in the corner from India, engraved antique wooden furniture passed down from her grandmother, modern orange chairs that flank a Chinese cabinet (despite constant compliments, she actually plans to re-cover the chairs because they are too “bright”) and her most favorite item of all: a gilded icon hand-painted in Greece. It’s easy to get lost in it all, which is sort of the point. “I want my space to always be evolving, which is why I don’t put too much on the walls or in the space. There’s always room to add more or to take away,” she said.
In terms of her work process, it’s all about making sure there is order at the end of each day. In her room, a desk flanks her bed. “What I make sure I do every night is clear off my desk, so that when I wake up in the morning, everything is organized and put away.”
While JAID is a one-person company, Andamasaris considers design a communal process. “Just the other day, an architect friend was over, and we had this entire apartment covered with things. I make a big effort to keep creative people close to me. We spent nine hours yesterday and eight hours the day before spread out all over the floor working on a project and it’s really a creative, collaborative process.”
A very orderly person by nature, she also recognizes that allowing for temporary chaos is necessary. And while using her apartment as a solo office lets Andamasaris stay focused, she sees colleagues in her future. “I know that I work here alone, but my ultimate dream is to someday have a communal space in a Charles and Ray Eames-esque fashion where you can come in and it’s just creativity pouring out of the seams,” she said. “Where like-minded people are surrounding each other, pushing and challenging each other to make great art.”
Kiki Slaughter probably couldn’t live anywhere but in the country. “I tried living in New York City, and got completely blocked creatively. I ended up coming home to my parents’ house in Charlottesville every weekend in order to paint,” Slaughter said. That’s why the contemporary cottage she rents with her husband, Hunter Murchison, on the property of a farm out in Ivy suits her perfectly. “If I ever feel uninspired, all I have to do is step outside.”
Slaughter paints large abstract oil paintings that are full of layers, textures, and horizons. One gets the sense that the tactile quality of her finished pieces involves an organic process that goes beyond a little easel and paintbrush. For the past year, she’s set up shop at home, in the upstairs spare bedroom of her house. “The floors are covered with tarps, and then canvases are laid across the ground, which allows me to work on multiple paintings at once. My work is so layered, having my studio steps away is ideal because it allows me to work in stages.”
The rest of her home serves as a gallery of sorts; she’s got her work hanging on many of the walls in the main living room of the house, which conveniently enough is an open, airy space with soaring ceilings. “It’s actually really important for me to be able to have a place where I can invite interested clients over to see work within the context of an interior. It gives them a sense of what the painting might look like in their house.”
So how does Slaughter manage having her studio right above her bedroom? Well, her husband helps keep her in check, especially late at night when inspiration hits. “I can get so into it at times that hours will go by late at night and it’s hard to peel myself away. But Hunter’s been good about keeping me in line and saying ‘O.K., now it’s time to come downstairs and hang out together and wind down.’” And he understands: for the past year he has also been working from home on a start-up company.
Working at home together, they often find themselves playing off each other for advice. “I’m always asking Hunter what he thinks I should do about this painting, or advice on how to price something, that kind of thing. It’s actually been a really productive environment for both of us.”
Her main rule is to keep the downstairs “nice, orderly, and pretty.” In addition to art, she loves décor. Highlights from the living room include a black geometric Chinese coffee table passed down from her mother-in-law, a clear acrylic box from And George that’s been filled with strips of canvas from discarded paintings, and a long, colorful Ikat pillow centered on a simple upholstered linen sofa. “I grew up in an old farmhouse and definitely gravitate towards classically country austere design. But I’ve found myself choosing more modern pieces in this space.”