Above: In the living room, Francesca wears an Opening Ceremony jacket, a Ralph Lauren belt, bronze leather shorts from the Salvation Army, and Chloé shoes. Above the mantel is a piece by artist Uri Aran. Enlarge Image
Last November, we happened to be running around Miami's Design District when we bumped into artist Francesca DiMattio who was setting up for her show at Locust Projects. And while her soaring abstracts practically took our breath away, we were equally taken by the painter's iconoclastic style. Clad in a black jumpsuit, Acne-style wedges, and her signature braided up-do (think a modern Frida Kahlo), we knew there was plenty more good fashion sense where that came from. Lucky us, the lovely Francesca--who has shows in Milan, Chicago, and Boston already slated for 2010--lives and works right here in NYC. And her home reveals an equally cool clash of hand-painted objects, flea-market finds, and lots of art given to her and her artist husband, Garth Weiser, by friends. Double bonus: She even lets us in on how to get that atypical braided look (we might even practice it for Fashion Week).
Above: Outside her Chelsea home. Enlarge Image
How would you describe your personal style?
"My mom raised me exclusively on thrift stores as a little girl and taught me to look for new shapes and feel for quality fabrics. It's exciting for the eye to see something different, so I look for shapes that are not common. As a result I often find myself holding maternity wear, and clothes in my closet range from size 0-16. An outfit looks great when it's a little unfamiliar."
Above, left: Francesca sits on her windowsill wearing a Victor Costa jacket, Theory pants, and leather belt—all from Salvation Army. To her right, a Sansui sound system from the '70s that her husband, Garth, built a beautiful box for. Above, right: A paper mâche vase that Francesca made sits atop a speaker. View image
What are five key wardrobe pieces you find yourself wearing constantly?
1. "A little boy's Dior jacket that's now tattered from wear."
2. "Jumpsuits of all kinds. I have a big collection...all shapes and sizes."
3. " A collection of thick leather belts."
4. "I have an autumn color plaid wool pant-suit with elbow patches that I have worn once a year for the last 10 years."
5. "Chloé platform lace-up heels that I've had for six years."
Above: In the bedroom, a pile of jewelry, mostly made by Francesca, sits in front of hand-painted shoe boxes. Enlarge Image
"Everything I buy is under $20 (except for shoes), but recently I found two silk Anne Klein II tunics, which are like large tank tops that I am excited about."
Above: At the kitchen table, Francesca wears a vintage top, striped leggings, and Vivienne Westwood boots. The drawing behind her is her own. Enlarge Image
Who is your style soul-mate?
"My mom. She taught me everything I know, and still, all my favorite belts and bags are from her."
Above, left: A ceramic painted Venus—a wedding present from her friend Akio Takamori. Above, right: In the hallway wearing her favorite jumpsuit (from the Salvation Army). The pink piece above the door is by her husband Garth Weiser. Enlarge Image
Do you have a secret store that you're willing to reveal or a favorite neighborhood shopping spot?
"I love thrift stores, 99-cent stores, eBay, and Craigslist."
Above: A skull on the wall adorned with painted glass and paper mâche ornaments that Francesca made for the holidays. Enlarge Image
If you could swap closets with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
"My closet is built around what works for me, so I'm happiest in my own closet...I just wish the closet itself was bigger."
"Grace Jones, 'Walking in the Rain.'"
Above: A sculpture her husband Garth made Freshman year of collage holds a Polaroid photo from their wedding. At left, a piece by Dustin Yellin. Enlarge Image
Any reading material you can't live without lately?
"The Joy of Cooking."
Above: The kitchen. Enlarge Image
Do you have anything in your closet that you can't bear to throw away?
"An old jacket with a tag dating it from 1910. I have trouble throwing things away that are very old."
Above: The satin gloves—complete with watch, fingernails, and ring—were a Christmas present from her close friend, artist Anya Kielar. The short suit is vintage Anne Klein. Enlarge Image
We know you really never like to wear your hair down. How exactly do you achieve that tricky braided look?
"I change it slightly every year or so but now it is made by making two French braids starting in the back, inter-weaving colored scarves, and then pinning the ends with bobby-pins. I am working on a tangled silk scarf turban but haven't perfected it yet."
Above: Outside her home. Enlarge Image
What's one thing you would never be caught wearing?
"I don't think anything is really off limits, but I can't stand cheap materials, and I would never wear polyester."
Above: A hand-me-down pantry holds all her bags, scarves, gloves, and jelwery. She made the chair seat. On the ceiling hangs her basket collection. Enlarge Image
Tell me a little about your apartment and where you've found some of these amazing things?
"I like things to have lived a little before me. My couch is from the old cafeteria at Cooper Union; we found the stools on the street, the table is from Craigslist, the chairs are from a friend's antique store in Hudson, and my husband made the kitchen bench from found wood on the street that he then treated and stained. Also, I love fake flowers and always keep bouquets around the house. Initially, I made them for the centerpieces at my wedding, but I made a couple more for our home."
Above: Sitting on her bed wearing a striped jumpsuit from the Salvation Army. In the background, a shadowbox piece by Anya Kielar. Enlarge Image
As an artist, do you find yourself wanting to make things around the house? "Whenever I spend time at home, I wind up making/painting something. Normally, in an attempt to fix a problem: ugly bedside tables or plain storage shoe boxes. I always do a little something for the holidays, too. This year I painted ornaments and made animals out of papier-mache. I wanted to make ornaments as gifts but ran out of time, so I'll save them for next year!"
Above, left: Francesca and Garth tiled the bathroom themselves—they were inspired by the York Street F subway station. Above, right: A piece by Justin Beal. Francesca and Garth loved it so much, they asked if he would design their wedding invite with the same font. Enlarge Image
See more of Kava Gorna's photography at www.kavagorna.com...
See Francesca DiMattio at Salon 94...
Photos by Kava Gorna/Jed Root