Unexpected Guests: Sarah E. Owen
Today I’m excited to share my recent visit to the gorgeous studio of Sarah E. Owen right here in Oakland, California. Sarah is a talented artist in many realms – from traditional painting to decorative interior art to styling pop-up shops and leading the way for art direction on major events, she is now working on renovating and styling her fifth beautiful warehouse space, which you’ll see here, filled with gorgeous floral arrangements around the space from the super talented ladies of Farmgirl Flowers.
What neighborhood do you live in?
I just moved my studio cross country to California from the east coast. I’ve set up shop in a great warehouse space on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland.
What is your idea of a perfect day in your city?
Getting an early start at the Alameda Point Antiques Faire for treasures to add to my stash of salvaged goodies, then heading out on an adventure with my dog, Madeline and my camera to explore Oakland. We’ve covered a lot of ground in the 3 months that I’ve been here, but there are always more neighborhoods, parks, cafes, galleries and shops to visit. Catching up with friends over dinner and drinks would wrap up my perfect day.
What’s your favorite bargain find or product?
The short answer is paint. It’s not only a great way to transform the color of a wall, but with a few fancy tools and tricks, it can make a solid metal door look like a rustic wooden barn door, plain sheetrock resemble layers of aged plaster and turn concrete floors into faux ceramic tile. It is by far my go-to product for immediate, budget and low commitment solutions.
What is your biggest interior design nightmare?
I haven’t encountered a nightmare feature yet in an interior that couldn’t be fixed. As long as you have vision, a fair amount of elbow grease and a few basic tools you can undo most anything. Overhead fluorescent lighting, drop ceilings and vinyl trim would be first on my to-demo list.
What’s your favorite feature in your space?
I love the 100+ year old exposed brick walls. I have no desire to alter them, but just about every other surface has served as a versatile canvas for my design/material experiments. Favorite additions so far: a stack of discarded glass turned into antique mirror with looking-glass spray paint, my studio kitchen wall installation framing old neon words (food, ice and beer), a sheet metal wrapped table top made from a freight elevator door and several one-of-a-kind hanging light fixtures.
Who would you like to sit down to drinks with?
I’d love to meet Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch of Roman and Williams. I’m pretty sure we could spend hours talking about our shared passion for furniture, painting, photography, production design …and our mutual friend and secret antique resource in North Carolina.
What is your most treasured belonging?
Because I make, find or repurpose so many of my belongings, I treasure them for the stories they tell in addition to their form and function. I suppose it’s no wonder that I’m also a bit of a sap when it comes to personal family artifacts and photographs. Of the things I have made recently, I’m especially fond of the chandelier that I fashioned out of glass lenses salvaged from an optical laboratory. I’d been saving a collection of this glass for years and finally put it to good use. It is so satisfying to give a new purpose to an otherwise obsolete object.
What souvenir did you bring back from your last trip?
I spent a few amazing months last year in Europe. I spent the majority of that time at an artist residency in Italy, but I also travelled around France and Iceland on my way to and from the states. I returned with a suitcase full of freshly pressed olive oil from Tuscany, a camera full of photos and a portfolio full of new artwork. The oil went to friends and family as gifts. The imagery, relationships and inspiration that I brought back has stayed with me and influenced my work (and life) in profound ways.
Greatest indulgence or guilty pleasure?
On the rare occasion that I splurge, it’s because certain things are too beautiful to resist. A plant or bunch of flowers at the market, perfectly worn leather or brand new art supplies.
What are some of your favorites websites/blogs to visit?
I go in and out of phases of looking to the internet for creative inspiration, but when I do, I check in with sfgirlbybay – naturally, the selby and remodelista for interior inspiration. Colossal for art, Need supply co. and refinery29 for fashion/style. I also love the take away concerts on blogotheque.
All of the gorgeous arrangements are thanks to Farmgirl Flowers! While working at Stanford, Christina Stembel found herself surprised at the high price of flowers purchased for events, which led to a little sleuthing – and what she found was an industry with very little innovation. Most flowers sold in the US are now imported, which has led to over half of local flower farmers going out of business in the past 20 years.
In 2010, Christina founded Farmgirl Flowers with a goal to solve these problems, offering one daily arrangement made of all California grown flowers, packaged in recycled and US made materials, and delivered by bicycle or scooter.
Farmgirl Flowers launched in San Francisco to prove the concept – which they have, beautifully. But they’re not stopping there. With plans to roll out national delivery in 2014, everyone will soon be able to send beautiful, US grown Farmgirl Flowers to all their besties around the country.
• photos by rachelle dunn.