WHEN INTERIOR DESIGNER Christine Tuttle first walked into Betsy and Andrew Kessler’s Wellesley living room, “it was painted a dark burgundy,” she recalls. “The furniture was oversized, and there was too much of it.”
What awed Tuttle, a former gallery director, though, was the Kesslers’ collection of contemporary art, amassed over the past 15 years by Andrew, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate. He runs Coffee Pond Productions, specializing in photographic portraits, and the Kesslers’ art collection includes works by famed photographers William Wegman, Triiibe, and David Hilliard.
“This amazing art was all over the house but not displayed to its best advantage. And there was more stacked in other rooms,” says Tuttle. “I wanted the art to shine, to get proper lighting to show it off, and the rest of the decor would fall into place.”
Tuttle had the living room walls painted cream and bookcases removed to maximize space for the framed pieces. She left one living room wall free of art, though. “You want to have a wall to rest your eye on,” she explains.
The Kesslers liked the idea of a “Mad Men-inspired slick sofa,” and Tuttle found just the thing at Crate & Barrel, along with a pair of dark leather mid-century lounge chairs designed by Milo Baughman in 1966 that Crate & Barrel had reissued. A beige silk rug from Landry & Arcari contrasts nicely with the dark wood floors.
In the dining room, a gold-toned grass cloth wallcovering, red lacquer table, and aubergine leather chairs take their cues from the colors in an Alex Katz lithograph that hangs on one wall.
Recessed lighting with movable fixtures in both rooms makes it easy to refocus the light when pieces are rearranged. “It wasn’t part of our initial thinking to highlight the artwork,” says Andrew Kessler, “but it’s worked out beautifully.”
Christine Tuttle offers smart tips for decorating with artwork:
• Photography is particularly accessible. “Schools, including RISD and the MFA school, have annual sales where you can acquire great works for reasonable prices.”
• Make sure works are properly framed and conserved so that they’ll look their best.
• Keep the room’s scale in mind, but don’t be afraid to go big. “A bunch of small pieces can be grouped together to appear like one overall work of art.”