Joan’s Artist Abode

updated Jul 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Joan Hiller
Location: North East, Portland, Oregon
Size: 432 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year; rented

Joan is a music publicist, painter and all–around creative, energetic lady. Her apartment functions as her office and her painting studio; she shares the space with her companion of almost thirty years, her turtle Sheldon.

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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)
(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Spending time in Joan’s apartment was like watching her consciousness explode into a living space. Never before have I met someone through their home and had such a clear idea of who they were judging by their ‘stuff.’ Joan’s a painter, so her apartment is hung salon style with a cacophony of her own work as well as trades and gifts from other artists met along the road of life. She’s got vinyl and gold records everywhere too, expressing her profession in music. And then Joan’s got her own vivid interests in all things mystical and vaguely astrological in the form of books, crystals and sacred objects. The combination of wares and personality is arresting in the best possible way.

I loved this home because it is clearly the homeowner’s treasure palace, a refuge and container for the life’s work of an artist and music publicist. As an entrepreneur working from home Joan spends a lot of time here, surrounded by all the pattern, mystery and intense creativity just jumping from every surface. Cheers to living what you love, Ms. Joan. And thank you for opening up your place to us viewers.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style:
I’m a giant fan of clean lines, neutral but super-textured palettes with pops of color, large-scale pattern usage, incorporation of organic/natural but minimal elements, and having LOTS OF ART up. When in a home, your eye should be able to move fluidly between the home’s cohesive elements — and the more those cohesive elements have a story behind them, the better. Mixing forward-thinking and clean, clean, clean minimalist pieces with earthy, storied, old stuff is a big yes. Balancing weight and form is key. Light glass next to heavy wool, shiny next to rough, etc.

Of course, Apartment Therapy’s house tours, also the brilliant Grace Bonney & Design Sponge, Geri Hirsch’s blog, Coco + Kelley, I have been UP ON West Elm’s every move so hard the past few years, the Barnes Collection walls, Nasty Gal’s spot-on stuff translates seamlessly into stuff that I want to incorporate into interiors all the time, the Eames house, classic Swiss design anything, 20 x 200, Fortress Letterpress‘ whole aesthetic.

Favorite Element:
The art on my walls — both the pieces I’ve made and the work that I’ve been so honored to purchase and to have been gifted from friends and artists I super-duper-admire. I am floored that I get to own work by Beth Hoeckel, Bruce Colin Paulson, Ashley Anthony, Derek Erdman, Michelle Muldrow, John Brodie, Luisa Matsushita (aka CSS’ Lovefoxxx), David Greenberger, Kate Bingaman-Burt, Renee Hartig, Jennifer Charles, Mark Menjivar, Lydia Yost, Carson Ellis, Peter Ellenby, Jeanne Ellenby, Rachel Blumberg and my father, Mark Hiller.

Biggest Challenge:
For SURE, the kitchen in this apartment. It’s straight-up wonky. There are no countertops. There’s only one outlet, and it’s positioned at about elbow-level in the middle of the room’s back wall, too close to the fridge for there to be any sort of shelving or table situation to obscure it. The building was built in 1929 (it’s a GREAT building — Portuguese architecture), which means that along with the charming stuff (tall ceilings, built-ins), there’s that thing where all of the sinks, bannisters and surfaces are super-low. I’m 5′ 10″, so having a sink that comes up to my crotch means that I always look like I’ve just pissed myself after I do the dishes. Which, y’know, whatever.

What Friends Say:
“That’s a lot of art, dude,” or “Jesus, Joan, why do you have so many crystals and astrology books?”

Biggest Embarrassment:
Fourth grade talent show. Wait, you mean in regards to this apartment? Hmm. Well, right now, my closet — it’s crammed with boxes of things I’m either shipping or donating in advance of my move to New York in three weeks, which means it’s kind of a mini–Hoardersesque scene in there.

Proudest DIY:
If we’re counting my paintings, then them.

Biggest Indulgence:
The art I’ve purchased, for sure.

Best Advice:
I’m a big fan of the idea that the stuff you have holds and projects great deal of energy, and that where and how you live has a huge impact on your life energetically — the closer you come to living in a space where the only stuff you have is stuff that you use and love, and the better-organized that stuff is, the better and clearer you tend to feel. So, stylistically, the No B.S. rule is a thing: as my wise pal Jenn Armbrust says, “If it’s not a yes, it’s a no.”

Dream Sources:
Anglepoise (I really, really want a Giant1227 in, oh, ANY COLOR), Sprout Home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for plants, The Colour Flooring Company, Popham Design or Pratt and Larson for tile, Pigeon Toe Ceramics or Heath Ceramics for, er, ceramics.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Resources of Note:


    • Columbia Paint: Zen Retreat


    Jonathan Adler vase: a super-treasured gift
    • handmade vase: gift
    • handmade ceramic dish: made by my friend Lara Meyerratken
    • Tibetan singing bowl: gift
    • succulent plant: Artemesia
    • books: Powells
    • records: from all over
    • painting: mine, “Perth” oil on wood


    • Essex Kilim ottoman: West Elm
    • zebra pillow: West Elm
    • kite rug: West Elm
    • Vilmie Figur pillows: IKEA
    • REGOLIT floor lamp: IKEA
    • desk: IKEA
    • vintage dresser: City Liquidators Portland
    • vintage couch: Lounge Lizard
    • vintage coffee table: Lounge Lizard
    • vintage vinyl and wood captain’s chair: (now defunct) The Woods
    • photograph of my brilliant, incredible boyfriend Matt Lemay, taken here in Portland before we were each other’s people
    • framed, folded prayer scarf: a gift to me from the Dalai Lama (THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED IN LIFE; WHOA)
    • the disembodied neck of my mother’s guitar, the guitar I learned to play on.
    • antique Eshu mask from Smut
    • lotus relief carving: a super–treasured gift
    •16th-Century Chinese Buddhist temple fragment: super-treasured gift
    • hammered copper vase: Collective, Seattle, WA (now closed)


    • crystals, gems & minerals: Ed’s House of Gems
    • “Chocolate Rain” painting: Derek Erdman
    • “Nettie” photograph: Ashley Anthony
    • framed Christmas card: Carson Ellis
    • gold records: The Shins’ “Wincing the Night Away” and the Postal Service’s “Give Up” from my days working at Sub Pop Records
    • “Gerhard Richter” painting: me
    • antique elk horns: a super-treasured gift


    • wall calendar: Stenig
    • chevron duvet: West Elm
    • vintage red geometric blanket: House of Vintage
    • army surplus wool blanket: Andy & Bax
    • wool pillows: Crate & Barrel
    • shag rug: Pottery Barn
    • “Sage” limited-edition photo: Mark Menjivar
    • “Untitled” painting: Renee Hartig
    • thrift store “Louise Bourgeois” charcoal: me
    • high school watercolor: thrifted
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks, Joan!

(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)

Re-edited from a post originally published 5.8.12 – AB

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