Inside the home of Ella Newman, and the history of its making (and her own).
Ella Newman and I first crossed paths in the fall of 2018 when she graciously invited me to be part of a Nashville Design Week costume exhibit, Queens: Designing the Royals. The exhibit was curated by herself and produced by her women-empowering organization, Reine Institute. At that time I was just beginning to establish myself as a designer in Nashville and was charmed to have a few of my designs on display in the same exhibition as the wardrobe of Dolly Parton, among others. Shall I repeat that last sentence for you? I don’t mind.
Over this past summer, Ella became part of my inner “quarantine circle“ — spending hot afternoons on her porch, bouncing endless ideas off each other and trying to avoid talking about the news for longer than twenty seconds. She began telling me the stories surrounding the eclectic art collection in her home and the original collector, her grandmother.
“Upstairs holds the art collection of Betty McDavid. Betty was the matriarch of a West Texas family and grew into the publishing industry in Houston. She traveled the world and brought back objects of warmth and meaning to her home. Scenes of the Southwest, heirloom quilts, and Choctaw baskets made her feel closer to her history. Inuit sculpture, Namibian textiles, and Chinoiserie expanded her world.”
The upstairs of her home envelops you in these stories. With its tall valued ceilings, eclectic design and abundant natural light, Upstairs feels like a Coppola film; like the backdrop of a David LaChapelle editorial. A different creative work in any line of sight, each with its own mood to inspire. The collection includes classic American landscapes oil paintings, foreign craft art, and a sculpture made of shit. Upon my first entering, I knew the space needed to be shared. Ella and I have been working together to continue the versatility of the space and highlight the significance of the works within its walls with the intent to share it with the public. Upstairs is now available as a photo and video shoot location.
Within the Walls
These three-dimensional floral sculptures served as the centerpieces on her grandmother's dining room table.
Artist: Belle Johnson, wife of Chairman and Publisher of the Houston Chronicle, Dick Johnson. Belle was a painter, socialite, philanthropist and lifelong Houston resident.
Long Lost Antiques
This gold mirror Ella purchased in Dripping Springs, Texas before a major flood that devastated much of the town. The delightful chinoiserie cabinet is from her grandmother's home
English-born painter, Robert Wood, migrated to the United States in the early 20th century. Wood spent years living as a vagrant, train-hoping and bartering for sustenance. He would eventually settle in San Antonio, Texas, and establish himself as a landscape painter; though he would still often travel for inspiration. Some time in the late 1940s, Wood purchased a cabin in Woodstock, NY where he would seasonally reside to capture the beautiful fall colors of the Northeast. Not all of his works are easy to identify, but this original piece is reminiscent of others he painted in that area. Learn more about Robert Wood on his website.
This emu sculpture was done by Ella's great-grandfather, O.C. McDavid.
"Capital O, capital C," Ella tells me, "It doesn't stand for anything." Along with being a visual artist, O.C. McDavid was the former managing editor of the Jackson Daily News from its namesake town in Mississippi. This sculpture was apparently made from cow poop, covered in papier-mâché and painted bronze.
Parisian Street Art
Table collected by Ella in high school, when she designed her bedroom in a movie theater theme. A Namibian textile pictured behind it, mineral seal sculpture to its left.
Self-portrait of Ella's mother, Martha, etched in wood.
Upstairs is now available for your photo and video needs. Book Here