What’s Local: Fine art and interior design, a natural step

Aside from housing Tom Littrell's design and art studios and Urban Equity Property offices, 317 Market St. (pictured) is the home of four upscale residential units. Photo by Jim Hagerty

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

Defining art is a subjective process. Recognizing it is another evolution altogether. Masses often overlook artistic works that fail to capture images of recognizable objects or people. An abstract oil painting or sculpture often only attracts the attention of those steeped in an understanding of concept. To some, there’s a fine line between art and visual gibberish.

For one Rockford interior design firm, integrating fine art into business has been a natural step.

Aside from fine art and art consultation, Tom Littrell Design specializes in space planning, architectural design, lighting, surface materials, and color consultation, to name a few. The model encapsulates a public need for understanding of a creative process—art—that’s at the center of life’s overall design process. It also allows Tom Littrell’s talents to shine.

“For someone who is trained in fine arts and interior design, it’s a wonderful combination,” Tom Littrell said. “One of the things that we, as a firm, do to continue that aspect is to see the importance of integrating original art in interior design.”

While fine art and design aspects of a home’s interior are sometimes segregated, Littrell recognized decades ago, doing so leaves creative gaps—holes that can only be filled with artistic flair and vision.

“If you look at a room, or a whole house,” Littrell explained, “it’s like a painting. All of the elements that are in a painting have to take place in a room. Balance, repetition, light, dominance, texture and movement—all of the terms you talk about in painting and sculpture—take place in a house. That’s what we hope sets us apart.”

Working with Littrell, who also has his art studio and gallery at the 317 Market St. office, is designer Tim Bradley, who spent several years in the construction industry before graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009.

The second-floor hallway at 317 Market St. doubles as an art gallery. Photo by Jim Hagerty

“I found myself doing construction while I figured out what I wanted to do with myself,” Bradley said. “A couple of the builders I worked with would come to me for advice about colors and fixtures. Then, one of them came to me and said, ‘It’s a good thing you are not an interior designer, because all of your advice would cost me a fortune.’ Shortly after that, I went back to school (for interior design).”

Bradley began working with Littrell last year as an intern. Going from a one-man operation to a team was something Tom wasn’t sold on initially.

“I’ve had interns before,” Littrell said. “Just to have an intern can be a great deal of work. But Tim and I hit it off quite well. The blend of the young man and the old man is not a bad deal. There’s a lot that I know that he doesn’t know and there’s a lot that he knows that I don’t. By bringing those two together, it eliminates ego conflicts, and it’s the clients that benefit.”

The building at 317 Market St., owned by Urban Equity Properties, is a living example of the artistic vision shared by Littrell and Bradley. Aside from housing Littrell’s design and art studios and Urban Equity Property offices, 317 Market St. is the home of four upscale residential units. The second-floor hallway doubles as an art gallery.

“The residents love it,” Bradley laughed. “They have the nicest apartment hallway in the city.”

Tom Littrell Design is open Wendesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and by appointment. The gallery and studio will be open for Spring Art Scene April 16-17, featuring original work by Littrell, Bradley’s underwater photography and Tim Bradley, underwater faux finish works by Mona Rinaldo. The firm can be reached at (815) 621-4668 or (815) 505-7289.

To recommend a local business to be featured in this column, e-mail Jim Hagerty at jim.hagerty@rockrivertimes.com with “What’s Local” in the subject line. Or, contact The Rock River Times’ office at (815) 964-9767.

From the March 31-April 6, 2010 issue

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