PaperCity Magazine

October 2013 - Houston

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In the library, an antique center table from an estate sale serves as stage for an ongoing archaeological collection. Treasures range from Etruscan to pre-Columbian and are finds amassed over a lifetime and wide-ranging travels. The art over the mantle and on the wall reflects Arena's beginnings as an artist and his graduation from the very first class of HSPVA. A vignette in the sitting room interweaves different cultures and times. The black lacquer Art Deco wall-mounted table supports prized finds: a terracotta Buddha and bronze Turkish candlesticks. The vibrant casein painting Henge, 2013, was inspired by recent archeological discoveries at the site Göbekli Tepe in Southeastern Turkey. In the dramatic sitting room, walls are covered in Arena's muted damask on jute, the perennially appealing Avian pattern. The 19th-century French settee is upholstered in Maja on Belgian linen, with opulent Arena velvet pillows in Niosh and Santorini. The chandelier is yet another of the homeowner's creations, in silver-leafed iron and designed to hold glass votives. Free-form children's play area. The upstairs office with serene walls of tinted plaster. The painting is an Arena mixed media on paper entitled Head Crush, 2007. to its boxy, simple construction, I have always felt it was a farmhouse. Shortly after I purchased the house in 1998, I had the garage apartment demolished. I found several horseshoes when the slab was removed. I still have the first one hanging outside. I was first introduced to the house when it was a duplex. My dear friend Katy Morris, who still lives down the street at 92 years of age, knew I was desperately searching for a place in the neighborhood, and she had heard the girl who had the upstairs apartment was moving to California. The entrance to the apartment was a rickety staircase on the west exterior of the house. I knocked, and to my surprise, she actually answered the door, as Montrose still had that great hippy-ish vibe back then. I introduced myself and asked if she was soon to depart for the West Coast. She admitted she was, in fact, going to move … Kathy was her name, and she invited me in for a cup of tea. I knew the moment I walked in that someday this would be my home. That was in 1978. The house was white stucco and in bad repair. It had no air conditioners upstairs but really great old school-house ceiling fans. I was young and didn't care. Tom and Eunice were the owners. They lived downstairs and were quite eccentric. It was a perfect fit. I could truly write a book on the escapades that took place in this quaint little house, but that's another story. The challenges that awaited me were far away at that time, and I tend to be a bit nostalgic about those early years. The 20 years that were spent upstairs before I actually purchased the house were full of life and an attitude that is hard to put into words. I had no money, but rent was cheap. I made art, sold art and travelled. I sublet the apartment even when I moved to New York, thinking I could never really leave completely. Fast forward, I became a homeowner for the first time and had no idea what that even meant. RENOVATION TALE. One memorable task I remember quite clearly was that I was the first to have the house leveled. It's on pier and beams. I received multiple bids. As there was no Angie's List at that time, I picked the medium bid. I saw all the huge wooden beams that would be needed to successfully lift the house to its rightful position and felt confident I had chosen wisely. I left the country knowing when I returned all would be straight and ready to begin the restoration. Not. When I returned, I was delighted. It looked perfectly level; the stucco had cracked a little more than before, and that was a good thing. However, after the first hard rain, I heard the house creaking more than usual. It seems all that heavy timber never really quite made it to the areas under the house where it needed it the most. I had paid the contractor and wasn't certain why the house had settled back into its comfortable former position. I was able to contact them and expressed my concern, and they were to return to the house as soon as the weather permitted. They never showed up! I eventually crawled under the house, inching my way

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