Design Timeline: An Artist’s Style Evolution Over Six Homes

published Apr 25, 2017
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(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

“Like a great dinner party you want a varied guest list…someone is larger than life, another is quiet but fascinating, another brings beauty, or brilliant conversation, or humor,” artist Judith Bigham says, describing her philosophy of decorating. “If a piece of furniture or art doesn’t work because it’s too big or too exaggerated for a room I often say ‘oh she’s the loudest girl in the room!’ I love a large piece in a small room or a rich vivid color or pattern…but, you must balance; add another ‘loud girl,’ metaphorically speaking.”

It’s interesting that Judith would mention a great dinner party when revealing how she decorates, because the 1,650 square foot home she’s lived in for the past two years looks exactly the way spending a shared dinner feels: warm, cozy and relaxing.

Judith also revealed that she feels that she lives “in an edited collection of beautiful and meaningful objects, paintings and furniture from all of the different homes and lives I have lived”.

So, because I absolutely love her style and the collection of objects she’s surrounded herself with (take the full tour right here to see what I mean), I asked her to share photos of previous homes she’s lived in and decorated to get a sense of how her “edited collection” came together over time to create her current style..

(Image credit: Judith Bigham )

Family Vacation Home

This was the first home I owned with my late husband, a two-year rebuild. We transformed an old ’60s ranch home, building up and out. We kept part of the footprint and that’s about it. We designed everything in this home from the railings, sinks, countertops, built-in bookcases to the curtain rods and even painted the kitchen floor. It was our first and very ambitious project. A true labor of love!

(Image credit: Judith Bigham )

Hillside Family Home

This was our home in the city (Portland), we had it at the same time as the vacation home. It was a nine-month long remodel. This 1910 home had great bones so we had a lot of good things to work with. We touched every surface, creating built-in shelves to house plumbing, recreating a new kitchen and sitting area and second fireplace. We were inspired and obsessed with beauty, comfort and gorgeous design.

(Image credit: Judith Bigham )

Urban Home

My first home in Seattle. This was a stunning and stately old home. Like an old gal with great bones she just needed a bit of major surgery!! Wallpaper was removed, light fixtures were added, walls freshly painted and my furniture from the other house felt very much at home here.

(Image credit: Judith Bigham )

Urban Condo

This was my first rental and my first attempt at downsizing. I stored a lot of furniture and chose my fave pieces and they looked great in this contemporary space.

(Image credit: Judith Bigham )

West Hollywood Townhouse

This was an adorable 1920s apartment in West Hollywood…great bones. And another attempt at downsizing! My theory proven again and again is that if you just buy/acquire/manifest the things that make you happy in life…they will fit in all sorts of spaces, interiors and climates!

(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

Her current Seattle home

She describes the style as “Soulful, comfy elegance with a touch of the flawed. The signs of a life lived. I love a scratch, a chip or a dent in things. I like my homes like I like my friends…with a bit of a tattered past.”

You can see more photos of these homes on her website. And you can see more of the current home she lives in, in her house tour.

Decorating wisdom from Judith:

Her one constant:

My style has grown over the years, but it hasn’t changed drastically. I’ve become braver. I’ve taken risks. It’s a good idea to try things… take a chance! When it doesn’t work, it becomes an education or a design dilemma to be solved in creative ways.

My one constant is Beauty, Function, Comfiness!

“Here are some sage words…trust your instincts! And then see what works, open your eyes and heart. A home not only has to look good but it MUST feel good.”

Her secret to bold decorating:

I was not always so bold. It grew naturally. There was not a big switch… The real answer is that I am a thief! I nabbed a lot of my creative ideas from my children. I gave birth to three creative daughters. My darling girls have always been making movies, shows, art, dance performances, music and mini “Ted Talks!” Children come to creativity with no restrictions. I learned (and appropriated wildly) from my three daughters’ approach to creating.

What she wishes she had known about making a home from day one:

Nothing!! If I had known it I never would have had to go through the mistakes, the worry, the angst!! Here are some sage words…trust your instincts! And then see what works, open your eyes and heart. A home not only has to look good but it MUST feel good.

More great advice:

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.