Artistry at Home

Eclecticism meets coziness at painter Melissa Jones’ house and studio
Melissa Jones works in her studio — the sculpture is called Adversaries. “I had my son and his best friend, who were both high school wrestlers at the time, pose for it,” Jones says. It will be in the Muskegon Museum of Art’s 90th Regional Exhibition through Nov 9.

A little over two decades ago, Melissa Jones and her husband, Steve Smith, moved to Franklin from Royal Oak because they wanted more space in their home. “We had a cute little house in Royal Oak but knew we wanted to start a family,” Jones recalls. “We needed a bigger home.” Today, they’re parents to 18-year-old Jake and 19-year-old Katie. The family, including two cats, has seen many changes to their circa 1947 home over the years.

About 16 years ago, the couple made some alterations to the home to give it more of a Craftsman-inspired-meets-East-Coast appeal. “I love the Craftsman style,” Jones says. “Our home was tan brick, all one color, and all one level — a very traditional ranch. We added a second floor and reconfigured the rooms on the first floor, relocated the front door, created a master suite, and replaced most doors and windows. We also added cedar shake, forest-green trim, and a couple of bump-outs.”

The eclectic and inviting family room. The dining area features a painting by Jones of her daughter “controlling the weather.” An “exit” door Jones re-fashioned.

 

In the back, an inviting pool awaits. The cabana near the pool originally sported classic mid-century yellow wavy-plastic materials and the same tan brick as the home, as well as metal V-shaped poles. “It was perfect 1950s, and I love mid-century looks, but it lacked character,” Jones says. “Now there are Craftsman touches, which works for me.”

Jones is a professional artist, while Smith is an emergency room physician at Troy Beaumont Hospital. With her artistic talents, it’s no wonder that the house and grounds are peppered with intriguing and eclectic accents. Upon entering, one sees a beautiful pottery collection featuring everything from German Christmas mugs by Waechtersbach to antique pieces from China and Japan. Also part of the collection are contemporary pieces by local artists including John Glick, Pewabic, and Elizabeth Lurie, as well as Jones’ own ceramic work.

A god sculpture created by Jones following a trip to Bali.

From the family room and kitchen areas, you can’t help but notice a unique green door leading to the garage. Revamped by Jones, it was “your standard metal door,” she says — but the artist had something else in mind. “I wanted it to look salvaged, so I took it off its hinges, added wood pieces, and cast the big rivets/bolts in resin.” Above the door is an exit sign that Jones found in a condemned school in Detroit. “The school was about to be razed, and the sign was in a heap of trash on the ground.”

To the left is a painting by Jones of her daughter, called The Conjurer. “I envisioned her controlling the weather and demanding rain,” Jones explains. “It’s about control.”

A one-of-a-kind light fixture (the “globes” are old Blue Nectar tequila bottles) hangs over the dining table. “My husband and I made it together,” recalls Jones, who has been artistic her whole life. “He did the technical and electrical, and I did the designing and glass-cutting.” More clever touches abound, including an entire side of the kitchen peninsula that’s covered with old license plates and vintage motoring signs. “I like old commercial metal objects and things that have rust and a patina of age,” Jones shares. “I like junkyards and flea markets and antique stores and abandoned buildings. The license plates remind me of my childhood, and I liked the colors and textures overlaid together. The oldest one is from 1927. The most special is from Connecticut in 1954, and was from my stepdad’s first car. I collected the plates over about a year and made the wall,” says the artist, who grew up in Detroit.

Top, the artist’s studio, just steps from a door off her kitchen and surrounded by beautiful greenery, was added about nine years ago. Above, the living room — note the painting Jones created of her son. “It was the first painting I did when I started painting seriously,” Jones says.

 

Not shy with color, Jones selected a variety of hues for her first-floor walls. She used two shades of red, a neutral gray-green, a bright saffron, terra-cotta, and an oceanic gray-blue.

Before becoming a full-time artist and mother, Jones, who has a degree in art education from Wayne State University and a master’s in art therapy (also from Wayne), was a teacher. She started painting when her children were very young. Today, she focuses on art. Her medium is both 2D and 3D, and most of her pieces are figurative oil paintings, although she also enjoys sculpture and mixed-media.

Just out the door off the kitchen’s eating area is a blue-and-red slate patio and sandstone walkway that runs between the house and Jones’ studio, which was built about nine years ago. En route to the studio, visitors might spot anything from shimmery barberry bushes to Buddha statues to a bit of Georgia O’Keeffe karma — an old deer skull, which Jones discovered on the banks of the Rouge River near her home. The property also brims with gorgeous flower containers and pots, garden art, and head-turning flower beds. Inside the studio, bright-turquoise cabinetry holds all of her supplies. “I purchased those basic stock cabinets at Lowe’s and then painted them,” she says.

The homeowners’ pottery collection; Jones’ passion for gardening is showcased indoors as well as outside; and the kitchen, replete with unique license plate artistry and pendant lighting handmade out of old tequila bottles.

 

Leaned up against walls and on easels are astoundingly realistic works. There’s a portrait of a friend’s daughter with a bird nest in her hair (“She let me do what I wanted and that’s what I wanted to do,” Jones says with a smile). Nearby, a painting of her hairdresser, with tattoos from neck to knee, stops one in his or her tracks, it’s that realistic. There’s a work featuring a man reading a book, while another shows a man walking along the street at night. “I saw him in Miami and asked if I could take a photo of him,” Jones says. One can’t help but notice an old drawer, also found in the aforementioned school building in Detroit, that the artist uses in paintings/mixed-media assemblages.

When not painting, Jones says she spends “way too much time gardening.” But whether it’s minutes spent watering spiderwort or trumpet vine, hours painting a tattoo-covered arm, or seconds dreaming up her next eclectic decorative appointment, this busy mom has accomplished the goals she laid out when she made the move to Franklin. “I wanted our house to be warm, cozy, and comfortable,” she says. And that it is.
melissajonesfineart.com

 

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