Name: Mary Sprague
Profession: Artist and Art/Art History professor (retired)
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Size: 4500 square feet
Years lived in: 27 years; owned
Mary's home and
studio is an aggregation of 50 years of art. An active and longtime member of
the St. Louis artistic community, she's also one of those women you want to be
when you're in your 70s — whip smart, creative and kind. While many of the
features of her space can be described as utilitarian – even her bed is
a twin — the luxury comes with the amount of space she has to work with, and
how the light moves through it throughout the day.
northern Californian moved to St. Louis with her four children and then-husband
in 1968. In the mid-80s, when all her kids moved out, she decided to invest —
with a handful of other art-centric and forward-thinking folks — in a
five-story former lightbulb warehouse in a rough and mostly commercial
neighborhood in midtown St. Louis. The building was totally raw, with just a
freight elevator and no interior walls.
Over the years,
Mary carved out a home in her portion of the building, as need and
opportunities arose. This included trading artwork for a 50s-style metal
kitchen and "wallpapering" with printing plates left behind by
another artist friend. In the process, her paintings and sculptures grew up
around her, as much a part of the space as her furniture or fixtures. Yet the
large, mainly open space is carefully organized, with distinct areas for
sitting and sleeping. Even the many bits and pieces of found objects that
comprise her sculptures are carefully displayed.
Creativity runs deep in her family, as shown by
her daughter's realistic sink sculpture in the bathroom (complete with ceramic
toothbrush and holder!) Similarly, her mother’s collection of Kachina dolls,
and trinkets from her own travels, encompass her sleeping area. A small-scale
totem pole, hand-carved by her father, occupies another honored corner.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Just about everything I see.
Favorite Element: Right now, form.
Biggest Challenge: Finding the right tool, either mechanically or in
What Friends Say: "Are you out of your mind?"
"I don’t know what you are, but you’re no minimalist."
Proudest DIY: What’s that - do it yourself? That was my major you know.
Biggest Indulgence: My summer house on the St Lawrence River which I actually bought before my place here [in St. Louis].
Best Advice: Try to keep it fun.
Resources: My mind, my library, my memory, the dumpster, the bottom drawer.
(Images: Ann Manubay and Dabney Frake)
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