La Vie En Rose Atelier is my magical place where I draw, paint, write, create and nap with my little rescue dog, Phoebe, and listen to the music I love: Édith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier, The Ink Spots, The Platters, Il Volo, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Rod McKuen, Postmodern Jukebox (“All About That Bass”) and Greek music. My taste in music reflects the diversity of my background, of my bloodline. Country to opera. French love songs to Greek love songs. To me, music is better than wine and much better than chocolate.
My pied-a-terre was built upon a small space, originally a deck with a hot tub, surrounded by huge azaleas and wandering vines. However, with the efforts of many talented people — builders, contractors, plumbers, masons, painters, electricians and an architect — a two-story structure with two bathrooms, an eat-in kitchen, workspace, a fireplace, two staircases, five sinks, a bedroom with a queen-size four-poster bed, and secret door connecting with the main house, evolved to create a hideaway for displaying and creating art.
The secret door bookcase, on the second floor of my studio, opens to reveal a stairway filled with a skylight, round window and art — even the flag of Venice; the stairway is what I call the Bridge of Sighs, much like the original one in Venice that connects the Doge’s Palace with the prison. It, too, has a window that looks out on the canals of Venice.
The masons were, as were all the laborers, artists. They flew through the air tossing up large piles of bricks, at one time designing the beautiful chimney and placing the chimney cap on top for me. The masons who did the inside stone fireplace were artists as well. They asked me, “Do you want the chimney to go all the way up?” I said, “Yes, all the way to the top, two stories!” The roofers bravely installed the deeply sloped faux copper metal roof to make it a perfect topper for my jewel box of a studio.
In working with the architect, my studio evolved from a floor plan I found online while searching for ideas. Much of the plan had been inside my head since the time I lived at Alvictus, the unique home President Eisenhower’s deputy chief of protocol, Victor Purse, built on the Occoquan River. Alvictus had been used as a safe house and is found on the internet with many photos, even one of my mother, Katherine Peters, taken when she purchased it. The slate floor and enormous two-story living room in Alvictus was the inspiration for my studio. The metal railing idea was also taken from my 10-year life at Alvictus.
When you live in a contemporary, one-of-a-kind house, you never get it out of your head. And living in a home as unique and special as Alvictus, I have never gotten its magic out of my heart.
My Greek dad was born in 1893 in Smyrna, Turkey, in a village called Gilboxi, which meant “rose garden.” My mom was born in 1918 in Rosiclare, Illinois. Then in 2019, I built my studio and named it La Vie En Rose Atelier.
“You only live once. But if you do it right, once is enough.“
— Mae West
Our builder found soaring windows for the corner and front end of my studio that let in more light. There are two skylights in the main room of the studio and one skylight in the Bridge of Sighs. While in Aix-en-Provence, France, I visited Cezanne’s studio and loved the colour of the paint on the walls. The guide told me Cezanne had mixed it himself.
When I got home, I had the colour in my mind and went to Benjamin Moore and found it: Sparrow! Oui! It’s perfect for art. The walls seem to disappear, and the art becomes the star of the show.
A year later, I returned to Aix with a paint chip in hand. The colour was a match. Success! The guide even gave me the original formula for Cezanne’s paint! Ooh la la!
The paintings I’ve hung, from my mother’s to mine to old ones I found from estate auctions, now fill up the walls of my studio. The studio’s ceilings are painted with gold, copper and silver paint from the Modern Metallics collection. They glimmer in the moonlight and bring the mix of metals into my studio to create a sparkle of mystery.
The studio kitchen was built with antique light fixtures and a black lava apron sink carved with a flower front. The counters and backsplash are red dragon granite, and the cabinets are black and have small metal hands for the knobs
Several antique hanging pierced brass light fixtures, as well as a few chandeliers, hanging pendant lights and wall sconces, light up the night. Large metal stars are affixed to the two-story ceiling. There are three-dimensional hanging glass star lights hung in front of one of the large round windows on the second floor to bring the City of Light to my little world.
Édith Piaf’s famous song, for which my studio is named, is often played, and when you step into my studio, I hope you feel you might be somewhere in Paris. Ooh la la.
My little rescued white terrier/poodle mix, Phoebe, keeps me company, and merci to my dear husband, Lenny, for hanging all the art, no matter “how high” I asked.
I still am amazed at how it all came together and how I gathered up all the treasures and figured it out. It was thousands of hours on the computer searching and lots of memories that brought my dream to a reality. My studio is my true creation. As Charlotte said, “my magnum opus.”
Now I begin chapter 2 … my art!