Used with Permission of Houston House & Home
March 2002, Vol. 9 No. 3
written by Donna Mosher
photos by Jay Branson
The perfect room is an orchestration of beauty: a lovely color washes the walls, rich fabrics drape the windows, intriguing textures cover the floors, comfortable furniture invites lingering. In every perfect room, there is a focal point, one magnificent element that stands alone and, at the same time, pulls everything together. That element can be a well-loved painting, a beautiful rug, a treasured antique.
In interior designer Kelly Gale Amen’s world, furniture is art. “I revere the idea of art, but I don’t limit the usage of art to paintings,” he says.
“Hand-crafted furniture carries the spirit of its maker that will last forever,” Amen says. This awareness inspired him to expand his design practice into furniture design. “A hand-crafted bronze table or an oversized ottoman upholstered in a contemplated collection of magnificent fabrics holds a very different energy. Pieces made by hand carry that artisan’s dream in a way that a mass-produced piece doesn’t.”
Amen has designed interiors for some of the finest homes not only in Houston, but in New York, Los Angeles, and Paris. Ten years ago, when he was unable to find just the right piece of furniture for a client, he created one. The cast bronze triple-sectioned bench with a fossil stone top launched his series of art furniture. Similar benches are enjoyed by visitors to Houston’s Museum of Natural Science and will be placed this spring in the victim’s rights memorial, now known as the Shady Grove Plaza, in the Eleanor Tinsley Park.
“When I was looking for a way to create this bench, I found that the casting of the metal was in fact an old art form,” he says. “I found a foundry in Alabama with the skilled tradespeople who could work with me to create my pieces. Each component is handmade. It takes half a dozen craftspeople to create one of my tables, and the process takes months.
From the first bench, Amen’s designs have grown into a collection of custom-made tables, chairs, benches, and even beds that exquisitely finish a room just as a fine painting would, artistically impacting a range of interior environments, from traditional to contemporary, transitional to eclectic.
His KGA Compound furniture is made by hand of intriguing metals like bronze, aluminum, and iron. Some pieces are covered in fabric, others present a collaboration with noted Houston artists. While each piece is an individual creation, they bear certain common elements like curved aprons, tapered table legs, and dowel construction. Amen designs the furniture and commissions artisans to craft each one individually.
While KGA Compound pieces bear Amen’s signature look, they contribute an uncommon imprint. In a traditional space, one KGA bronze card table brings a special sparkle and texture. In a contemporary environment, a lush, upholstered KGA pouf introduces comfort and warmth. In a room dominated by treasured antiques, a KGA bench imports a refreshing breath of ingenuity.
And the modular artistry of the designs assures distinction. A KGA Compound aluminum table may be topped in glass, stone or nothing at all. The frame might be upholstered in a rich, creamy linen for a subtle richness. Or it might be wrapped in a vibrant hand-painted canvas. Or it could be covered in remnants from some of the incredible textiles Amen brought back from his recent trip to India.
Some of Amen’s most treasured KGA Compound pieces have even undergone a test of fire. Dramatically pressing the limits of furniture, art and photography, Amen literally took a match to some of his metal and upholstered pieces. The aged and textured results are surprisingly effective – even awesome. Photographer Jay Branson has captured the process on film for a special presentation at Houston’s 2002 FotoFest.
“We live in an eclectic world,” says Amen. “We want to create and live in eclectic spaces. One beautiful piece of metal furniture in a room of overstuffed upholstered pieces is simply wonderful. It can bring a room to life.”
Amen, who had been designing the furniture for more than 10 years, described the process as “completely spontaneous.” What interested Branson was the light source of the fire. “You’re drawn into the fire,” Branson said.
Kelly Gale Amen, ASID, is committed to sustaining artisans and craftspersons who make fine furniture.
“There is so much mass production in furniture today,” he says. “I am determined to keep the American crafts alive.”
Amen regularly hosts gallery showings at the KGA Compound to showcase some of his favorite artists who create fine furniture for the home.
The KGA Compound will present a special exhibition of the furniture representing some of Houston’s finest artists, held in conjunction with this month’s FotoFest 2002.
Called Fire, the exhibit will also feature Jay Branson’s photography of KGA Compound metal and upholstered furniture literally set on fire. The exhibit will take place March 2 & 7 at the KGA Compound.
FotoFest 2002, The Classical Eye and Beyond, takes place in great art galleries all over town, March 1 to April 1. FotoFest is one of the largest celebrations of photographic art in the world and the oldest event of its kind in the U.S. For more information visit www.fotofest.org or call 713.223.5522.