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before and afterInteriors

Before & After: A Drab Studio Becomes A Fresh Backdrop for Vibrant Floral Artwork

by Kelli Kehler

The work of artist, painter and surface designer is unmistakably vibrant and cheerful, often ranging in richly hued, exuberant florals that would surely liven up the dullest of spaces. So when she took on the task of transforming a studio space in New Orleans, LA that was anything but vibrant and cheerful — and had indoor smokers as previous tenants — she was a bit doubtful. Luckily, rents the space from family, which allowed her to do all the necessary renovations to clean out the smoke smell, remove carpet, paint, and other updates to freshen up the 850-square-foot studio.

“The space needed a good bit of work to become the studio of my dreams,” Juliet begins. “I wanted it to feel bright and open with lots of natural light, but the tan walls and carpet and tile made everything feel a lot darker. I was hoping there would be original hardwood floors underneath the carpet, but unfortunately they were not all there and the ones that were, were too damaged. I thought about a few options and decided to put down sheets of plywood and paint them white. The plywood was a cost-effective way to get nice and bright white floors, and combined with the white walls, really makes the colors in my artwork pop. Yes, the white floors get a little dirty but it is an art studio after all, so I try not to worry about it and I go ahead and get paint on the floor!”

It’s been nine months since Juliet moved into her shotgun-style unit — on the first floor of a double gallery house with Greek revival columns with four total units — in the Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans. The community is one that fills Juliet’s cup: she’s often found walking her dog Roxy around the block and chatting with neighbors and building new relationships. Her partner Michael is a musician who runs his recording studio, Record Office Records, on the same block down the street. It’s a friendly, collaborative area for Juliet in a city that always has and continues to inform her life and work. “I grew up in New Orleans and I’ve remained in the city even through Hurricane Katrina (which hit when I was in high school) – it’s a place that inspires me with all of its colorful architecture, plants, and costumes. I’m often very work-driven, so the relaxed lifestyle of the city helps me to unwind,” she says.

With all of the updates behind her, Juliet is happily able to carry on her work designing textiles and patterns for companies like Cloud9 Fabrics, Anthropologie and Birchbox. In a way, the transformation of the studio mirrors a transformation in Juliet’s practice — it’s enabled her to dream bigger and truly envision and pursue the full potential of her work.

“It feels amazing to walk into a place where I get to paint and share my artwork with others,” Juliet begins. “Before, my studio was a small office space not really suitable for having anyone over, so to be able to have customers and friends come by in person is a dream. I am also able to paint larger paintings than I ever have, so walking into this space feels like endless possibility when it comes to making my art. In fact, painting larger paintings and working more like a ‘traditional’ artist — by painting original work in collections — is one of the main reasons I wanted to move my studio into a more practical space.” Scroll down to take in the whole transformation and see more of Juliet’s stunning work. —

Photography by / @

Image above: “I wanted to make sure that my studio felt inviting not only to others but to myself — inspiring for me to paint in. I wanted a blank canvas for my artwork to pop and without so many visuals that I get distracted or overly influenced while painting. I kept the larger gallery room open in the center so that when I have workshops I can easily move the tables around to accommodate.”

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The gallery/workshop room. Juliet shares, “The all-white surfaces make the colors pop. This is where students sit during watercolor workshops but also serves as my work table.”

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Juliet at the front door of her Mid-City, New Orleans studio. She says, “Roxy is often with me at the studio. One of my favorite things about my studio is the front door. I love the old carved wood — it was already painted black but I gave it a fresh coat and replaced the handle with a matching black one. The fabric on the curtain (sewed by a friend in the neighborhood) is my design for an upcoming collection with Cloud9 Fabrics.”

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“This is what you see when you first walk in the door,” she says. “I often work with local florist who creates the bouquets for my watercolor workshops. She uses the best colors and makes beautiful arrangements.”

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Juliet explains, “The previous tenants smoked indoors, so at first I didn’t think the space would be usable for my purposes. However with a lot of heavy duty cleaning of the walls, and using a special primer on the walls, removal of the carpet and vinyl flooring, the smell fortunately dissipated.”

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From the entryway looking into Juliet’s workshop room, the crisp white creates the perfect neutral backdrop for her vibrant floral artwork.

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“ and one of my recent paintings. I love the dark statement wall against the white walls. My stepdad Mark custom built all of the white shelves in the studio.”

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“In here we removed the carpet, primed the subfloor, and put plywood sheets on top as flooring which we painted white,” Juliet notes. “Replaced the fan and window coverings as well. You can see a hint of the old hardwood floor in the corner but unfortunately it was too damaged to save.”

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“The front room with the most natural light is dedicated to my painting studio. I often hear the streetcar going by and can see beautiful oak trees from the window.”

I’m most thankful to have a dedicated, separate space to create outside of my home. It feels like a luxury.

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“This chair was my partner Michael’s grandmother’s chair — this is the original fabric and paint!”

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Juliet shares, “This desk is dedicated to watercolor painting (the easel and painting area on the wall [are] for acrylic paintings). I have some of my original watercolor paintings organized in these drawers.”

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Bits of inspiration for Juliet’s work, including vintage nature books, a trusty go-to.

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If I need to relax, painting always does the trick.

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The beginning sketch of an acrylic painting.

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The beginnings of an acrylic painting on wood panel.

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“This cart is perfect for wheeling paint around the room easily,” Juliet says. “I try to keep it organized by color but it usually ends up a mess.”

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“My studio is located in Mid-City, which feels very open and spacious and central to many parts of the city. I love the relaxed vibe and neighborhood feel of the location. There is also so much greenery. Even though there are lots of commercial offices nearby, it still feels intimate and most of the buildings are historic construction — so no new, giant office buildings. I’m often walking Roxy around the block, so I’ve gotten to know most of the dogs in the area and their owners.”

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“A mood board of older painting ideas I want to revisit, inspiring interiors and colors,” Juliet shares.

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Juliet’s lively and colorful work collected on her mood board makes for a gorgeous focal point in her painting room while serving as inspiration at the same time.

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“Little paper cut collage plants from when I did a series of which I shared on Instagram.”

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“Fabrics I designed for ; all of these are organic cotton.”

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“These are pretty nice cabinets, but due to the smoke smell from previous tenants I wanted to remove the upper cabinets and put [in] open shelving which was cheaper than replacing them,” Juliet says. “We used a special primer and painted the lower cabinets which helped with the smell, but I would still like to replace them one day.”

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The after of the kitchen. Juliet explains, “In the kitchen we covered the beige tile with VCT (vinyl) tile in a custom pattern I placed row by row. I went through so many color options and couldn’t decide between warmer or cooler tones — ultimately I liked the idea of more greenery on the floor combined with the plants on the shelves.”

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“I don’t need a ton of dishes or kitchen gadgets while I’m working so my plan was always to fill these open shelves with plants! They do really well in this room that gets lots of light.”

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Vintage leafy glasses echo the live plants in Juliet’s updated studio kitchen.

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The studio’s bathroom. “There were actually closet doors here but I forgot to snap a picture,” Juliet admits. “The space was so tight the doors couldn’t even fully open. So we removed the doors to create more of an open look and have open shelving with wallpaper behind the shelves.”

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The bathroom now is a far cry from what it used to look like thanks to Juliet’s bright and energetic wallpaper.

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Juliet shares, “Sitting with some of the paintings from my first large-scale painting collection I released in March 2019. The flat file shelves I’m sitting on, I scored for free through our local AIGA chapter who had them in storage. They are massive and heavy so I plan to put casters on them soon.”

SOURCE LIST

Exterior

Fabric in doorway – Juliet Meeks for Cloud9 Fabrics

Entryway

Flowers – New Orleans florist Doris Ione
Gold table – Target
White chair – Wayfair
Lily pillow – Juliet Meeks
Jute rug – Wayfair

Painting Studio

Drawers and easel chair – IKEA
Easel and cart – Blick
Peach floral chair – vintage from Michael’s grandmother

Kitchen

Open shelves – custom built by Juliet’s stepdad Mark
Leaf glasses – vintage
Multicolored floor tile – VCT tile by Armstrong

Bathroom

Peel and stick wallpaper – Spoonflower (Juliet’s design)
Open shelves – custom built by Juliet’s stepdad Mark

Gallery/Workshop Room

Peel and stick wallpaper – Spoonflower (Juliet’s design)
Floating shelves – built by Juliet’s stepdad Mark
White tables – IKEA
Flat file shelves – vintage
Flowers – New Orleans florist Doris Ione
All artwork – Juliet Meeks
Turtle planter – West Elm

Wall color throughout – Valspar’s Ultra White

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Comments

  • Such an inspiring and happy space. I did my studio almost nine years ago now. Wow, I can hardly believe it has been that long. Anyway, time for an update and I am embracing all of that white. I love the aqua I did back then but this feels like such a breath of fresh air. Thanks for the motivation.

  • Can’t get over this makeover! What an inspiring space for making + creating. Congratulations, Juliet!

  • I love love LOVE the kitchen floor. We have a similar tile in our kitchen. I am curious to know how it stands up as this is something that I can see doing to brighten up the space and bring it out of the 1990’s . Any comments?

    • Hi Meagan! Thank you! It’s a little tricky to install and requires occasional polishing. I’ve had it less than a year, but it seems highly durable. It’s commercial level tile so I would assume it’s meant to last and withstand lots of traffic as long as it’s cared for correctly! They have SO many color options.

    • Hi Helen, I agree. My artistic career is a “luxury”, and so is the home I live in and my loving family. I guess I was just trying to express that even though I have worked for this, it’s not lost on me that I am lucky to create in this space and wanted to express gratefulness.

  • What an amazing studio space! I absolutely love floral patterns – they always bring a certain cheer to the room. Whether it be summer or winter a floral room makes you feel as though you’re bringing the radiant outdoors indoors! xxx

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