Chai Style: Passion for Art Showcased in Graceful New Space
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Chai Style: Passion for Art Showcased in Graceful New Space

Diane and Fred Shaftman took two years to build their dream house as a sanctuary for family and her art collection, much of it her own creation.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

  • Photos by Duane Stork // Fred and Diane relax with toy schnauzer Winston with the pool in the background.
    Photos by Duane Stork // Fred and Diane relax with toy schnauzer Winston with the pool in the background.
  • Diane paints in her studio with dimmed lighting.
    Diane paints in her studio with dimmed lighting.
  • This dramatic “Swan Lake” oil is by William Wolk.
    This dramatic “Swan Lake” oil is by William Wolk.
  • The glamorous dining room abounds in natural light and faces east.
    The glamorous dining room abounds in natural light and faces east.
  • Diane leans against her painting “The Jazz Club” in the long front hall, which serves as a stunning gallery-like backdrop for art. The series of light fixtures are by Baker.
    Diane leans against her painting “The Jazz Club” in the long front hall, which serves as a stunning gallery-like backdrop for art. The series of light fixtures are by Baker.
  • The living room showcases two of Diane’s paintings: “Sunflower” and “Woman in Red.” The furnishing are Donghia, and the unusual lighting is by R Hughes. The Erte menorah resides on the lighted shelving (far left)
    The living room showcases two of Diane’s paintings: “Sunflower” and “Woman in Red.” The furnishing are Donghia, and the unusual lighting is by R Hughes. The Erte menorah resides on the lighted shelving (far left)
  • // Duane Stork Photography
    // Duane Stork Photography

Despite their hospitality and modesty, make no mistake that the Shaftmans’ new Sandy Springs home and its property are majestic, and light-drenched in a graceful design tableau.

Diane searched to find a tall narrow fixture that would span three levels and finally found it in a magazine.

Fred, an attorney originally from Roanoke, Va., retired as a BellSouth corporate officer in charge of their largest business, federal, state and local accounts. He jokes about his role in building and decorating the Sandy Springs home as being restricted to “technology and anything within the walls.”

The Shaftmans’ interior designer, Shelley Wilkins, is based in Hilton Head, S.C. She observed: “Diane is an artist with an amazing eye for color. We had the best time searching for fabrics that were just the right shades of taupes, pale blues and warm golds. We put a great amount of thought and detail into the décor and searched all over Atlanta and then traveled to New York to look at lighting artisans. Working with the Shaftmans was a wonderful collaboration with the architect, contractor, client, and my design firm.”

Take a tour of the newly built Shaftman home.

Marcia: What is the background behind the construction and furnishings?

Diane: Our builder was Sheehan Built Homes; Bill Harrison and Derek Hopkins from Harrison Design were the architects. Bill Harrison started his business in Atlanta in 1991 and now has seven offices from Shanghai to St. Simons. It took two solid years to design and build the house and was a fabulous experience. Ultimately we wanted to mix in traditional furnishings with newer, clean lines, a neutral palette so that the art would stand out and that we would not tire of over the years. We like iconic Donghia furniture [originated by the late Angelo Donghia sold exclusively to the trade] for its comfort and style. Shelley and I had fun shopping for just the right things. She knew that I love spectacular lighting fixtures and believe details like hardware are the icing on the cake.

Diane commissioned this painting for Fred’s birthday by Tucker artist Jim Richards. She gave him 30 photos to get just the right scene.

Marcia: What role did you play in the design process?

Fred: I was in charge of the home automation and devices like the HVAC, pool, fountains, things that can be controlled on our phones, and anything else that Diane was not interested in. I also helped in the selection of the stone for the outside of the home. Anything else anyone could see was not in my job description (laughing). I was allowed to offer my opinion by sitting on the sofas and chairs prior to purchase.

Marcia: What can we expect from your style of painting?

Diane: I like to experiment and never use the same techniques twice. I aim to have fun with rollers, scrapers, palette knives, sponges, bristles and brushes, and utensils that smear. I use my iPad for reference but derive inspiration from many sources, mostly my own photography, but it could be a magazine photo. I’m casual about shooting scenery, restaurants and passers-by, and I take several shots of the same subject to capture the mood. I have no formula, and my paintings often change as I create them! Sometimes I live with paintings for months before going back to improve them; it’s not a fast process, and perspectives emerge naturally. I use a standing easel and keep the lights dim, and may work on three paintings at a time, switching between them as the mood takes me.

The metallic octagonal foyer fixture is by Charles Paris.

Lately I have been painting restaurant scenes like the table setting at Buckhead’s Le Bilboquet. My hydrangea painting evoked a velvet texture. I once followed a woman walking in Israel whom I painted. Sometimes my sister sends me photos of a scene she thinks I will interpret like the entrance painting, “Jazz Club.”

My paintings can be seen at the Brooklyn Café and LM Framing Gallery in Marietta, where I am an artist-in-residence, and my work has been in emerging and juried shows like Anne Irwin and Artists Atelier. I have remained in “learning” mode over 45 years, taking out-of-town workshops in pastels, collage, mixed media and watercolor to be well rounded, and now Zoom art instruction. I love pastels, but I primarily use oils, which is a healthier medium to work with than pastels.

Marcia: Do you collect other artists’ work?

Diane: We collect what we love. One really unusual painting was a commission by Jim Richards, a Tucker artist who did an oil for Fred’s 70th birthday. I gave him about 30 pictures! And he did a wonderful job. Another of our favorites is an unusual art deco Erté menorah. Upstairs we have a painting by one of Bill Clinton’s favorite artists, Barry Thompson from the Whiteside Gallery in Hilton Head, and a Hessam painting we bought in St. Louis visiting our daughter when she was in college. On the lower level we have a highly textured painting by J. Turner that is unique.

The eat-in kitchen area has a scenic view out. Note that Diane creates her own floral arrangements seen here.

Fred: On the lower level landing, we have a large painting by Walter Greer of a Monet-like water lily scene that was from my parents’ Virginia home. We also like a dramatic pair of ballerina poses done in oil by William Wolk, called “Swan Lake.” The restaurant scene painting in the living room is [by Mark Bailey] from the LePrince gallery in Charleston.

Marcia: Last word?

Diane: Art is therapy for me. I love it when others show interest in my work, but I am driven by my love for the creative process.

Fred: My therapy is a glass of Bordeaux, Balvenie Scotch, or some Redbreast Irish whiskey.

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