The home of local artist Anastasia Chernoff is wonderful and whimsical, crazy yet comfortable. But when she bought the 103-year-old historic Victorian shotgun house in Elmwood Park five years ago, it was a 600-square-foot diamond-in-the-rough. “This house was in a state of dishevelment,” she says.
She was attracted to the neighborhood because of its close proximity to downtown and because of the people who live there – a diverse and artistic group, including many musicians, actors and dancers. She saw the home’s potential, and it didn’t hurt that, having renovated or built three other homes, she was not afraid of a challenge.
Today, she describes her home as a work in progress. “It has a Victorian style fused with modern organic elements and is full of surprises around every corner.”
The original home site included a separate studio under a canopy of ancient hardwoods, which provided the perfect space for her to create her sculpture and mixed media designs. During the 10-month renovation, Anastasia added approximately 300 square feet to the existing home. Walls also were removed to create an open gallery feel, and a new space was born.
As any artist would, and everyone should, Anastasia paid close attention to color and lighting.
“Pick a color by the way it makes you feel and don’t be afraid to be bold,” Anastasia advises. “If you buy what you love, your colors and furniture will work together and become a true reflection of yourself.”
Painting one wall a darker color can elongate a room, she says, creating more depth in a small space. Color also can play games with the mind, tricking the eye to create the look of more space. Anastasia used an animated palette of almost 30 colors to create the perfect backdrop for her extensive collection of artwork, featuring many well-known South Carolina artists.
Detailed lighting – which, according to Anastasia, is everything – enhances that artwork. Modern track lighting, dimmers and layered lighting all provide task, ambient and specific light to showcase her art collection as if it were in a high-end gallery. The collection is certainly worthy of a gallery, but her personal connection to each piece makes it so special.
Anastasia began her collection in 1998 with a commissioned painting by Christopher Lane. All of her pieces have a story, and one piece, “Debbie Chernoff,” even has its own Facebook page. Some of her pieces have moved three times, but by staying true to her “buy what you love” philosophy, each piece seems perfectly placed in her current home.
Anastasia enjoys entertaining, and her unique dining table, a commissioned piece by local woodworker Allen Petroff, is perfect for a dinner party of 10. Entertaining may seem daunting in such a small space, but whether she is cooking an intimate dinner for two or holding a fundraiser for 60, the space she has created is open and inviting. There is no formal living room; instead a combination kitchen/living room, or “kliving room” as she calls it, features a comfortable sofa on which guests sit and appliances chosen for both their functionality and clean look. She kept the home’s original wood-burning stove for its charm and warmth, and the kitchen cabinetry is simple in design, with attention given to color and hardware.
The smallest space in this house may be the most fascinating. The guest bathroom is a true work in progress. Each wall is a canvas for graffiti-like self-expression on which Anastasia and friends have spent many late nights painting whatever they are in the mood to paint. It is a small modern space complete with Danish fixtures and vanity. The original claw-foot tub was removed, reglazed and now serves as the focal piece of the master bathroom. Both bathrooms exemplify Anastasia’s seamless ability to blend old-fashioned and modern elements.
In her bedroom, Anastasia uses rich fabrics to create texture where needed, but she is careful not to let bold textiles compete with her art collection, which continues into the room. She designed her unique bed and again commissioned Allen Petroff to create the piece, which is upholstered in deep red velvet with bright yellow accents. Window treatments are minimal, kept clean and simple to serve a basic function.
Anastasia only has to walk out of her back door, and she is at work in her studio. Her large backyard serves as a canvas for new projects, including a greenhouse and a sculpture garden. The history of Elmwood Park comes alive in the trees or the gentle vibration of a train crossing the nearby trestle. Anastasia is inspired by the space she has created, but she admits that it is always evolving. She views her art, as well as her home, not as a job or a hobby, but as a passion. She isn’t afraid to move furniture and rearrange paintings, leaving behind nail holes, but giving her a new appreciation for the space she has created and the pieces she has collected. As funky and far out as her home may seem, it all goes together because she has stayed true to herself and what inspires her.
Anastasia is also inspired by the Columbia arts community and has been passionately involved in the revitalization of Main Street. Her gallery, Anastasia and Friends, is located at 1534 Main St. across from the Columbia Museum of Art. It is opened daily and during First Thursdays on Main, Main Street’s monthly art crawl and streetfest.
Whether Anastasia is at her gallery or in her home, she welcomes everyone with her generous spirit and warm smile. She openly shares her passion for the arts and her love of this city. She appreciates the history of the place she calls home, and she looks forward to being a part of its bright future.