I've been writing for Apartment Therapy in one way or another for the better part of a decade, and even as our little community grows to help more people make their homes even better, it still feels like my favorite cozy chair. Warm, comforting and a place that truly gives me butterflies.
That long-lasting fuzzy feeling is thanks in no small part to stories like the one I'm about to share. A story where a few strangers on the internet connect from far corners of the Earth over one particularly lovely blue kitchen.
It all started with an Apartment Therapy tour of Ciara Elliott's United Kingdom home. The rural Essex home is gorgeous — no doubt thanks to Ciara's talented eye honed from her time as editor for leading UK interior magazine Essential Kitchen Bathroom and Bedroom — and it's a treat just to flip through the slides and pin a few of the snaps for later inspiration. But one artist far away in Arvada, Colorado, took one of the tour photos and saw it as a bit of a muse.
"The one criteria I have for a subject is that I feel an emotional connection to it," said Hannah Gunzner, a self-taught illustrator who's recently taken the plunge into making art full-time. "I knew from the moment I saw [Ciara's kitchen] that I wanted to capture it! Something about the richness of those blue cabinets, and the detail-laden, lived-in charm really touched my imagination. I could practically smell fresh bread cooling on those countertops!"
So she drew the kitchen, in a teeny-tiny 2-inch by 3-inch format perfect for sharing on her Instagram page, @the_actual_banana, and tagged Apartment Therapy and photographer Cathy Pyle. And that's when homeowner Ciara first spotted it.
"I immediately loved it and was so touched that someone had loved the vibrant blues of our funny little kitchen so much go paint it," said Ciara, who goes by the handle @ciaraelliott on Instagram.
Soon after, Hannah and Ciara connected over direct messages on Instagram, with Ciara asking if she could buy the drawing as a keepsake of her blue kitchen — which she would tell Hannah is about to be remodeled, as luck would have it. Hannah agreed to paint a bigger postcard-sized version and send both off to Ciara.
"I didn't realize until it came time to ship them just how far my little paintings would be traveling!," Hannah said. "I ended up having to google how to address post in the U.K. The whole process has been such a joy, and I've loved the beauty of connecting across the world with lovely people like Ciara through this little painting!"
As for where the painting will go, Ciara said she's going to frame it and put it up in the new kitchen when it's done.
"I am so happy to have it, as actually we are about to move out and have a massive job done on this house and this funny blue kitchen will be rubble, along with the whole back of the Victorian extension," Ciara said. "The Royal Academy artist Peter Coker, who lived here before us, spent 40 years in this kitchen — well, most likely his wife, Vera did — and I am so glad we will always have a memory of it — and of him — through this beautiful mini canvas."
Tour more of Ciara Elliott's historic home: A Magazine Editor's "Grown-up Boho" UK Home
And lest you expect this story of strangers connecting over Apartment Therapy photos ends here, Ciara had another thought about working with Hannah again.
"I would like her to paint the front of our house now actually," Ciara said. "I might have to ask her!"