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Rochester: Art for Living


If you were in the grips of cabin fever this past winter, you might have wished your crib was more of a castle. There are several local alternatives to moving to Europe and actually buying one. The two artists and one store listed below offer a few different ways to make you fall in love with your humble abode again. They might have you digging a little deeper in your pocket than a trip to the mall, but aren't you sick of all that superstore schlock anyway?

What you see

Rick Muto makes his living creating illusions. As a decorative painter, he turns plain surfaces into faux marble, stone, and antique bronze. His murals --- often incorporating trees, columns, and arches --- make flat walls open out into rolling hillsides or architectural spaces.

            Muto and his wife Robin, who owns an interior design firm, just moved their studio from South Clinton Avenue to Anderson Avenue. Although he works primarily for private clients, several of his murals appear in public places. He painted playful putti for the dome at Mann's Jewelers in Brighton and a rotating, cylindrical mural depicting Irondequoit scenes at the Canandaigua National Bank on Hudson Avenue.

            Predictably, prices vary for these custom-made artworks. "The price is determined by the level of detail," Muto says. Murals range from $50 per square foot to $250 per square foot.

            Rick Muto, 176 Anderson Avenue, 232-6030.

Like they used to

Long before three-car garages and super-sized family rooms, houses used to have character. Ornate etching laced across doorknobs, pudgy white ceramic faucet handles looked like Mickey Mouse fingers, windows had lead mullions and colored glass. Inside House Parts, the architectural salvage store in the South Wedge, you'll realize how much beauty is missing from the McMansions we slap together today. The store is a veritable grandma's attic stuffed with items that were designed to be functional and handsome --- even little things like lamp pulls, curtain tiebacks, and shelf brackets.

            Christina Jones and her husband James Wolff seek out these items when old homes are slated for destruction. "We're trying to preserve part of Rochester's history," Christina says. "There are houses destroyed everyday." The store offers house preservation seminars and works with the Landmark Society to raise awareness.

            Christina says she is not unaware of the irony of purchasing these items. "It's a Catch-22," she says. "We profit off of the demolition of old properties. We would much rather see the houses preserved. But if they're going to be destroyed..."

            House Parts, 540 South Avenue, 325-2329.

Tiles of clay

If you go to Mexico and ask the right people how to make tiles, you might get a charming answer. "Like a tortilla," artist Jill Gussow's instructor told her, clapping her hands lightly as if flattening corn meal or clay.

            Since learning the craft in Mexico, Gussow has perfected both hand-rolled tiles (the "tortilla" style) and molded tiles. Molded tiles are made by pressing terracotta clay into a plaster mold. The technique achieves delicately nuanced tiles that are rich in texture and warm in color. Gussow glazes them with lush colors that capitalize on the terracotta's ruddy luminescence.

            Although the multi-talented artist is fairly new to tile making, she's already got two painted-tile murals she made with another artist on display at Highland Hospital. She's now making tiles for private homes. Prices: $10 and up for pre-made tiles that she glazes; $20 and up for her hand-rolled or molded, hand-painted tiles.

            Jill Gussow, jillgussow@cs.com, 232-1802.

In This Guide...

  • Home Design 2003

    Chefs at play We see these chefs at work in our favorite restaurants --- their kitchens full of steaming pots emanating wonderful smells.

  • Family Matters

    Gayle and Nick Mourgides' kitchen is both big and cozy, the kind of place that makes you think of family. Done in yellow and white with a long farm table at one end, the room has lots of counter space for little helpers to work.

  • A Kitchen Built for Two

    Moe Smith will be the first to say it's not his kitchen --- his domain is outside where, year round, he established his reputation as king of the grill, grilling everything from hot dogs to fish and corn to peppers. "He used to barbeque every day," his wife Bernice says.

  • Professional Paradise

    Gerry Vorrasi's kitchen, although still under construction, is a thing to behold. Located in the back of his 1860s home off East Avenue, it's a series of connected rooms that are both beautiful and highly functional.