Kelly Gale Amen: An Interview With A Creator
written by: Alicia von Greisman
Kelly Gale Amen cannot be described or labeled by any one single title, sentence or lengthy dissertation. Indeed, he is a world-renowned artist, a designer and a decorator of life. Yet none of these inscriptions adequately depict the man, the soul and the person behind the curiosly handsome face and the most heartwarming smile..
Clients, friends and art aficionados seek and appreciate his penchant for bold color, experimentation, artistic elegance and his uniquely unexpected elements of design. Today he travels the world, serving clientele whose projects range from New York townhouses, West Palm Beach villas and homes in Cabo San Lucas, to Paris flats, New Orleans historic homes and Manzanillo oceanfront retreats.
Amen does not rest on his designing laurels alone. He has become a furniture designer extraordinare. While working on a home in Atlanta in 1991, he couldn’t find the appropriate piece of furniture for a poolside. Combining functionality and art led to the creation of his first piece of furniture, the bronze triple section bench. Amen decided that the precise, individual, heavy and regal furniture that his clients desired simply did not exist, thus he set out to design and cast his own creations. Since that prototype, Amen has developed a collection of indoor/outdoor “furniture as sculpture.” The popularity became immediately evident as galleries and museums in San Francisco, Boca Raton, Miami, Atlanta and Houston clamored to be the first to display these original works of furniture art. Houstonians can feast their eyes on Amen’s furniture at the Museum of Natural Science, where permanently displayed are his three triple bronze benches with fossil stone tops. His furniture also provides seating in the Weiss Energy Hall.
Q & A
LA: How would you describe your interior design style?
KGA: My interior designs have been called capricious and whimsical non-sequiturs; a kind of decorating joie de vivre that critics have called both “shocking and deliciously enchanting.”
LA: What would you say you are “known for” in your designs? What reputation precedes you?
KGA: I sometimes chuckle at the humorous designations intended as off-handed compliments for my work. I’m noted for extremes and for being very eclectic. So is my handling of unusual juxtaposition, a design ploy I call the “art of entwinement.” Those are definitely trademarks of my work.
LA: What design style have you used to surround yourself within your own home known as “The Compound?”
KGA: I reside in a post-depression honeymoon cottage in an artistic inner-city Houston neighborhood that offers Bohemian lifestyle. My home reflects my ability to take space and make it flow with a sense of choreographic theatrics. In the evolution of the house, there has to be a sense of interchange and interaction, a feeling of synchronization and harmony. Good design will have layers and layers of specific details. In many ways it is putting the myriad pieces of a puzzle together, especially when the eclectic spirit prevails.
LA: Faced with a new design project, where do you begin and how do you decide on the mode of décor and it’s implementation?
KGA: Like one-liners and icebreakers at a cocktail party, I believe that a room’s furnishings should be chosen for their ability to spark and stimulate conversation. I love to take the utilitarian aspects of a room and then fill the rest with legitimately valuable conversation starters. I use a bit of tongue-in-cheek décor to create daring designs that have a sense of double entendre – deign attributes I call “luck and intuition.” The two constants in my design schemes are an exquisite use of mirror and bold interchange of color and texture.
LA: Do you adhere, believe or follow any of the usual rules of interior design?
KGA: I follow one basic rule, and that is to achieve an engaging microcosm of design stages. If you pick the best, you can mix any period or style. The key however, is the talent with which everything is integrated. A good design plan leaves room for constant joy of experimentation. I can walk into a house and tell if it is loved and if its owners are working it and getting full enjoinment from the space in each area.
LA: Why would you recommend retaining an interior designer’s services and why is choosing the right one so crucial?
KGA: If people realized how much their home environment controls their mental and emotional well being, they would be more cautious about choosing their interior designer. People have to be aware of what the designer really does. If you just want merchandised goods, there are many people who can do that. But if you want a home that provides a cocoon for your emotions, from joyful amusement to solace and serenity, then you have to choose a designer to create the kind of home that is right for you. It takes more than technical expertise and understanding of design to create a home that I am noted for. I depend on my clients to add the three most important finishing touches to the project: imagination, liveliness and spirit. I believe all my work is lost without those ingredients.