Q & A with Daniel Tousignant

By Paula M. Bodah

Daniel Tousignant and James Geras’s home in Maine is truly one of a kind. Both men have an artistic nature: James is a photographer, Daniel is a painter as well as a glass and ceramic artist, and the pair own San Francisco’s Geras Tousignant Fine Art Gallery. In their New England home, featured in our November-December issue, the two have surrounded themselves with things they love, from their own art to a prodigious collection of things collected from antique shops and flea markets far and wide. I asked Daniel to tell us a little about how they work their design magic.

Your house is such a personal space. How do you think someone who doesn’t know you would describe you, based on your home?

I think the first impression is one of familiarity, of an airy place you have been before, someplace where the oven is always on, and has something baking, a warm hearth. Something in the next room catches your eye, drawing you further into the house. You know the homeowners have a youthful eye, a sense of color, and a worldly approach to living the good life.

maine country kitchen

House photos by Trent Bell

In the story, you said, “I find beauty in lots of things people throw away.” Do you have a favorite piece/collection among the many things that adorn your shelves and walls?

We love to collect collections of things. Some items need to be in groupings, and en masse to make an impression. I find our collection of antique scales to be most fascinating. I literally pulled a few out of them of dumpsters. I have big ones, for weighing cattle, tiny ones for measuring gold dust, and every size in between. The weights, the balances, the precision—I just like the idea of them. Another favorite: our recent addition to the family—“Elmer.” He’s a full-sized sculpture of our favorite junk-shop owner, hand carved out of one block of wood.

sculpture

If I tried to achieve this look, my house would look like a junk shop. How do you manage to make it look so wonderful?

First rule: edit edit edit. It’s very important to remove an item from a room after you’ve added something. Always remember, form follows function. What is the purpose of this room? Why would I put this item in this room? In the dining room, I started with the floor, which has been stained very dark brown to hide the fact that the original homeowners used to chop wood here, so the floors are really distressed. Starting with the dark brown, all the items in this room are dark brown to contrast with the studio white walls. The wood planes, the measuring scales, the old drill bits, all are the same dark brown, then I hang all about the same spacing apart, to create almost a wallpaper effect, but with actual objects. This allows the color in the chandelier to really “pop” in the room. We also like mixing “high brow” with the “low brow”—a pitchfork in the dining room is a visual pun for a dining fork, juxtaposed to the fine, antique bone china, Royal Worcester Lily pattern, first issue on the table, crazy rare.

maine dining room

When guests come, is there a favorite spot they seem to gravitate to?

Everyone LOVES the screened porch. It’s surrounded by lilac bushes, and in the spring it’s outrageously fragrant. James loves his bird feeders, we have like twenty of them, so it’s like we’re in the birdcage, and the birds are watching us! It’s the number-one place to take the lazy afternoon nap, rain or shine! There’s always a bit of a cool breeze that wafts in from the river, and the birds serenading you to sleep. So on those hot summer days it the perfect respite.

maine screened porch

And how about you? Do you have a favorite spot in your own home?

My personal favorite is my studio (in the barn), which is off limits to the rest of the world. I have everything I need to paint at a moment’s notice. I always have an assortment of projects that I’m working on, paintings, sculptures, and an odd assortment of even crazier objects than in the house. I like a bit of Goth, which James won’t let in the house. I need a place to be creative, and try out ideas, without the eye of the world on me. Even James knows to stay out of there.

James’s favorite room is the kitchen. Did I say that James’s favorite room is the kitchen? Let me say it again, just in case you didn’t get it the first couple of times. He loves that kitchen, spends hours and hours in there, baking, making some delicious goodies, cakes, pies, cookies, that he’s never going to eat, just makes the most wonderful, tasty, yummy treats, just in case someone drops by. He loves the process, and the kitchen is basically off limits to me. (Except for those late-night raids of all that lovely goodness)

maine barn

What’s your next creative project?

Our biggest news is the 1850s carriage house we just purchased and will be converting into a seasonal art gallery/demonstration kitchen/lifestyle store, in Maine’s prettiest village of Wiscasset. We hope to have a 2016 late spring opening!

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