By Kristen Conner Hill
photos by dokk savage
One winter day, I find myself walking into my friend Daniela Perallon’s home, having paid to be there. She is one of several homeowners who participated in the most recent Arts Huntsville Art Tour of Homes, a smash-hit of an event that brings the art appreciators, and the nosy, together each year to explore exemplary local art collections. Homes like hers are stuffed to the rafters with pieces, and I learned what you find inside them is inspiration unlike what you’re probably imagining right now.
“Sometimes on these art tours, you walk into mansions and historic homes, and it almost feels like something out of a magazine,” noted Perallon. “But I started my collection with pieces that were 25-50 dollars each. I wanted people to see a home that felt attainable. I don’t want people to think art is out of reach.” While Perallon’s art is, since this publication, now actually featured in a magazine— it’s inspiring the city to reach for art that speaks to them, too.
Her “unassuming, nothing spectacular on the outside” 1950’s ranch-style home has become a testament to her taste— and that of her husband, Matt Johnson. Their interest spans styles and genres: you’ll find “artimaps” by local artist David Nuttal; metalwork by Drop Metal, a local design and fabrication studio; and at the entrance, a triptych by Eric Bagwell (“we loved them [for a long time], and when I asked if we could purchase them he had saved them for us!”)
The collection has transformed their living space, and every glance reveals a new layer of their kind and creative souls. The main hallway is delightfully devoted to pieces featuring monkeys, raccoons, geese, and you-name-it. (“We call it our weird animal hallway,” Perallon explained.) The kitchen features a display of functional art, like pottery and handmade drinkware. Every room is a different color—sometimes, multiple colors! “We only have one room in our house with white walls,” Perallon said. Another area is dedicated to pop culture art. “We have art that depicts our favorite TV shows and fandoms. Harry Potter, Gilmore Girls, The Office, Bob’s Burgers. It’s an homage to the things that bring us joy,” Perallon said.)
Perallon is an example of making any space your own without stodgy seriousness or thinking too much about it. She encouraged, “Do something bold!” and by following that mantra, she and Johnson have managed a comfortable curation of instant classics unique to them.
“I describe [our collection] as whimsical, moody, eclectic,” she shared. “There aren’t really any limits on it. We are not going to not get a piece we like just because it may not fit a certain style. If we like a piece, we’re bringing it home, and we will find a way to make it work.”
Perallon points out that the best part of cultivating this collection has been that every piece feels extremely personal. She and Johnson acquire their art not only from friends and through their travels, but around town. Their favorite stops include Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment, the Monte Sano Art Festival, and the Panoply Arts Festival. She glows when discussing the art scene in the Huntsville community, explaining why the city’s artistic side is also noteworthy despite its reputation as a haven for rocket science and engineering.
“[This city’s] creativity and analytical minds work together in tandem,” she observed, “and so much of the art we see here is inspired by the technological, scientific aspect of our community. It thrives because of creative thinking. I love that as Huntsville’s art scene grows, people can see how it all works together to create a really vibrant community.”
On inviting that community into her home for the art tour, Perallon gushed, “It was amazing,” but noted the vulnerability that comes with baring her deepest expression of self to the world. “We’ve made very bold choices,” she admitted, “and we did things with our home that people may find appalling!” But, what came out of the tour was what she’s always hoped: people like me learned about the possibilities of embracing local artwork and left feeling inspired.
“Go support artists! That’s the best outcome,” she said.
As far as how to do that, Perallon encourages beginner collectors to toss out their preconceived notions of what they think art should be. She believes that instead, it’s fun to explore the city for pieces that speak to you. Don’t be afraid to get thrifty, and know you can start your collection from any budget.
“Keep in mind: a print is just as much original art as the original painting. It’s a way to support the artist and celebrate their work. It still counts!” she said. “If you can’t afford fancy framing—most of our art is displayed in thrift store frames. For one of our pieces, I just stapled it to some wood and hung it on the wall! It looks great.”
I’m far from an authority on tasteful art—what I have previously thought of as the kind that graces the halls of millionaires and sells for more than the price of a luxury car. My own collection, in comparison, feels lackluster; my walls are full of photos from my wedding (well, I paid good money for that!), word art I found at Kohl’s in my early 20s (it’s inspirational), and hand-painted pieces created by talented friends over the years. It all means something to me, but it isn’t something you’d pay money to look at. Perallon reassured me that this is exactly the point of cultivating your own collection: it doesn’t have to be expensive or make sense to anyone else to bring you joy.
“Make your own rules – that’s an art of its own!” she remarked. “I hope when people read this, they realize how you can take even the most traditional space— or cookie-cutter house—and turn it into something unique if you just go with it! It’s an honor to invite people to see what we’ve done, and I hope it makes them want to bring art into their own spaces.”