Artistry in design
In creating a backdrop for his clients’ art collection, a designer conceives his own work of art.
Kent Oellien and architect Robert Freeman designed the contemporary glass and iron banister that leads to Jean Ann and Tom Fausser’s guest wing.
Images by Steven Michael’s Photography
When Kent Oellien, owner of Oellien Design Inc., plans the interior of a home, it’s all about the clients — their taste, their aesthetic and their unique vision.
“There’s nothing harder for me than when I can’t see what the client is about,” Oellien says. “I love clients who have really unique objects or unique visions. We try to design an interior that reflects a client and is one of a kind to them.”
When he met homeowners Tom and Jean Ann Fausser, Oellien jumped at the chance to create for them a comfortable living space that doubled as a backdrop for their expansive and ever-changing art collection. The Faussers are art collectors and fixtures in Tulsa’s art community. Jean Ann works with fiber and mixed media to create her masterpieces, and Tom is a miniature train set designer.
They purchased their 1950s midtown home 18 years ago.
“The space above the garage is really what sold us on the home because Tom could have his train room and I could have my studio,” Jean Ann says.
The area is home to Tom’s elaborate and fully operational miniature train rail and city set, which depicts Jersey City, N.J., in 1959. Jean Ann’s side of the light-filled creative space is full of beautiful fabrics, colored threads, paints, pastels, encaustic wax, beads and inspirational photos from the couple’s travels and ample room for production.
To create a more open space, a portion of the wall between the formal sitting/dining area and the living room was removed.
Artist to artist
Oellien, an artist in his own right, was particularly thrilled to design a space for artists. With all of that collective creativity in one place, the possibilities were endless, and the final product is nothing short of spectacular.
“Coming into the house the first time, you could really see the homeowners’ personalities in the art they collected,” Oellien says.
The Faussers’ collection represents an eclectic mix of local, national and international artists who work in a broad spectrum of media. A metallic tapestry by Jon Eric Riis is one of the first works visitors see when entering the home. His creations were exclusively featured in the opening exhibit of 108 Contemporary in the Brady Arts District.
During the four-year, three-phase renovation of the Faussers’ home, Oellien and his team needed to create a cohesive scheme that would make the homeowners’ art pieces sing.
“Knowing that Jean Ann is really an artist that works in a lot of fiber, we became really aware that it should reflect what they do, their art,” he says. “The fabrics (Jean Ann uses) are unique. They are unusual pieces, and they look like they are part of a collection. We presented a preliminary palette that reflected those elements.”
Even a hallway serves as an art gallery, thanks to Oellien’s design.
Guest wing gallery
The renovation began in the guest wing, where a glass sculpture, titled “Rivergrass Gatherer Singing” by Jenny Pohlman and Sabrina Knowles, inspired the design direction. Perched atop a lighted alcove in the hallway, the sculpture greets visitors as they enter. One large wall in the hallway is covered in a beaded Maya Romanoff wall covering with iridescent qualities. The distinctive wallpaper provides the perfect backdrop to display watercolor paintings of children’s book illustrations — an homage to the couple’s time as owners of a bookstore.
“We wanted to treat this not as a hall, but as a gallery,” Oellien says. “Often halls are overlooked merely as an area to provide passage and we designed this area to feel as a gallery or another room in the residence.”
The three guest rooms each have their own personality. One is decked in rich brown and gray tones with pops of red, and another features a wall of colorfully embroidered window sheers and bed linens inspired by Jean Ann’s fiber works, one of which is displayed in the room.
Even the Jack and Jill bathroom connecting these two bedrooms is an interesting gallery space for works of art. Watercolor paintings by local artist Sabine Barnard hang over each of the two sinks atop the countertop-to-ceiling marble backsplash. The mirror is centered between them — a striking element that strays from traditional bathroom design.
The third guest room is the hangout for the couple’s grandchildren. The wall, painted to highlight a collection of original framed prints of the famous cartoon strip “Ziggy,” is set off by the room’s bright peach and complementary purple color scheme and sets the tone for a fun and playful space.
The couple’s grandchildren spend time in this bright guest room adorned with framed original prints of the cartoon strip “Ziggy.”
The stairs leading to the guest wing feature a custom-designed glass and iron railing. Together with his architect, Robert Freeman, Oellien conceived the contemporary banister, using the glass design of the home’s front door as inspiration.
Fine art living
Just off the guest wing is a formal sitting area and dining space with a large feature wall covered in a distinctive, multi-color, water-based paint finish called Zolatone.
Oellien chose Zolatone’s metal series for the Fausser residence. The metallic flakes in the paint reflect light and make the color pop off the walls.
“I like unique backdrops, and you’ll see that in the house,” Oellien says. “I have a love of color, pattern and texture, and you can see that in our projects, but every color and texture palette is created for each client.”
A custom, 10-foot buffet in the formal sitting area, also designed by Oellien and Freeman, stores the couple’s china collection and provides a countertop for serving during dinner parties. The buffet is painted in the same metallic Zolatone finish as the feature wall so that the piece fades away — making the sole focus of the room the beautifully displayed artwork. An eye-catching rug made of copper wire anchors the sitting area.
A portion of the wall between the formal sitting/dining area and the living room was removed to open the space and create an unobstructed flow to the kitchen. Lighted glass shelving units flank each side of this pass-through and display several works of art, including Jean Ann’s latest piece, a knotted vessel in a teapot form called “Rose Wars.”
The curved fireplace in the living room is an original feature of the 1950s home. The slate tile surrounding the fireplace and the copper-clad chimney make the once-dated focal point a showpiece.
The living room furniture is designed to accommodate a crowd, because the Faussers routinely host gatherings for those in the art world. In particular, a large ottoman — which doubles as a coffee table — houses four smaller ottomans that can be removed and moved around for additional seating.
The couple’s bedroom is warm, serene and soft. As in the sitting area, the designers refinished two of the the Faussers’ existing bedroom chests to match the wall color and virtually melt away — an effect that makes the space feel larger and unobstructed. Custom-built nightstands flank each side of the bed, which is layered with soft, neutral-colored linens in juxtaposing textures.
“Kent understood our taste,” Jean Ann says. “With some designers, you can come in and say, ‘This is who did it, it’s their stamp,’ but Kent does what his clients want.”