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Paintings of Strangers – The Thrifty Finds of Interior Designer, Kirsten Blazek

Portrait paintings add a unique sense of intrigue and history to a space. Often times when people hang a portrait in their home it’s because the subject of the painting is significant to them. It could be a commissioned painting of a child, or it could be the owner’s grandmother, or something along those lines. It’s not too often you find people displaying portraits of people whom they’ve never met or have no connection to.

When I came across the interior design work of Kirsten Blazek of A1000XBetter, I was struck by her use of portraits in her interiors. I wondered who these people were and what their significance was. Discerning from her eclectic style of staging, I had a hunch that these were “found” portraits, and as Kirsten and I eventually chatted for a bit over the phone, my hunch was correct.

Whereas many people head straight for the art galleries when looking for art to purchase, Kirsten heads in the opposite direction. She pokes around thrift stores and flea markets for unique items, including original paintings. These places are where you can find some of the most interesting and unpretentious pieces of art, and where she has sourced some intriguing portraits for the spaces she designs.

“I like it when they’re not making direct eye contact… It sort of adds a little mystery. It makes you want to know more about them.” Kirsten says about her portraits.

As a portrait painter in a previous life, I would often paint subjects that I knew; basically whomever I could get to agree to sit for me. As I pursued buyers for these pieces, I seemed to get a lot of appreciation for the paintings, but a sense that nobody wants to hang a portrait of a stranger in their home. However, Kirsten’s work reveals an opportunity to embrace someone whose life you have no connection to, and to make up what that person’s story could be.

“We have names for all of our [paintings]” Kirsten says. Her and her team have embraced these people in a tongue-in-cheek way as part of their own.

So the next time you’re at a flea market or thrift store, don’t skip the art section. There’s a lot of ugly stuff out there (creepy clown paintings and the like), but once in a while you might come across a gem that can add an interesting layer of mystery and story to your environment.


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