An Artful Life: At Home with Patricia Sullivan and Frank Goss

Posted on Nov 5 by SEASONS Magazine

Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine Fall 2007
Story by Jane Ellison/Photos by Jim Bartsch

Patricia Sullivan and Frank Goss take bringing their work home with them to a new level. They will tell you that when it’s bringing fine art home. it’s a pleasure—as their guests no doubt agree.

Photo by Jim Bartsch

Not surprisingly, these gallery owners employed many local artisans while reconstructing their home in Montecito. Designer Michael De Rose created the initial concept and Gary Jensen, architect with ARCHart inc., redesigned and developed the concept to accommodate all of the owners’ desired space and style goals as well as managing the project through construction. Cheryl Jensen, landscape architect with ARCHart inc. and the other half of this husband and wife team, designed the garden and swimming pool.

With the team in place, Goss set about creating a home that would remind him of his hometown of Las Cruces, New Mexico. “The house is Frank’s vision,” reports Patricia. “It is not an interest of mine, which turned out to be a good thing. It meant that his design ideas were not compromised.”

“Building over the existing home was a new experience,” Gary Jensen notes in his understated fashion, “ and Patricia, Frank and family continued living onsite for all but three months of the construction period.” For nine years, Goss brought artifacts home that were to be incorporated into the project—tiles, a Tibetan door and corbels from a 125-year-old New Mexico hotel that had been demolished—to name just a few. Each item had an exact place in their home that he envisioned years earlier.

This abode is another of Santa Barbara’s green homes. There are no toxins, and all natural materials—stone, tile, plaster and wood—were used in place of synthetics. Plank flooring was recycled from ships that went down during the Civil War. The 6” x 14” interior beams were ordered rough-cut from northern California lumber mills.

All wood surfaces were finished with beeswax, and the trim color painted with artists’ pigments. As local artisan, Leslie Taylor—who works exclusively with non-toxic materials—notes, “Letting the wood speak for itself reveals its natural, mellow character. Working with the grain brings out its beauty. Many builders ‘vandalize’ wood, distressing it to make it appear old. The result is wasted time, energy and money.” As Taylor explains it, her method of finishing wood is a return to earlier techniques that were devoid of toxic, synthetic materials. “Working in this manner results in a consistency throughout this home—a rarity in contemporary homes—that makes people think it’s from an earlier era,” she adds.

With five fireplaces—four indoors and one on the veranda—there is little use for the furnace. In the past two years, it has been revved up a maximum of 70 days per year. The 16-inch thick walls and double-glazed windows also contribute to smaller energy bills.

The doors and windows were designed and fabricated by Santa Barbara craftsman Sergio Gaspardis to reflect the style seen at Santa Barbara Mission. “I worked within Frank’s requirements that the doors and windows should look old and that they be heavy and solid,” Gaspardis says. All doors and windows open inward, and shutter shave been included for privacy. Because every major room opens onto the veranda,the three-part doors were a necessity in order to provide interior ventilation. “Sergio works instinctively, using the best and most logical materials and techniques, making the entire project a team effort,” adds Taylor.

Latillas (spruce stripped of its bark, then carved) were laid between the beams of the home—a reference to Frank’s Las Cruces childhood memories. “These were harvested by an artisan in New Mexico, where spruce is found above 8,000 feet in the northern part of the state,” he explains. “The 14,000 latillas used in our home were delivered by this very gentleman and his son in bundles of 100 over a period of 14 months,” Frank informs me.

As Jensen explains it, “The design’s direction resulted from Frank’s desire for a modestly scaled home with honest materials, not the grand Spanish Colonial Revival of the 1920s.”

“The kitchen, for example,” explains Frank,  “was designed to reflect kitchens in northern Senora, Mexico from that same 1920s period.” The kitchen easily accommodates two cooks with two cook-tops, two sinks and ample counter space plus a sizable center island for this cuisine-loving family. Modern equipment is located behind wooden cabinet doors, maintaining the sense of another time.

Goss assumed the role of construction manager—a job for which he is well qualified as a result of his years as owner of an engineering firm. Yes, he was the owner of an engineering firm. It was during that time that Patricia and Frank launched Sullivan Goss Books and Prints while living in Sierra Madre, California. “We handled turn-of-the-century American prints,” Patricia explains. “It wasn’t until we moved the business to Santa Barbara in 1995 that Frank became involved.”

After their arrival here, they purchased the building at 7 East Anapamu St. and renovated it, establishing a popular downtown eatery, Arts and Letters Café, in the process. “We eventually turned exclusively to fine art and renamed the gallery Sullivan Goss—An American Gallery in 2004. Our wonderful library of books is now in our home for pleasure and research,” she assures me. “The gallery has a life of its own and has evolved with the expansion of gallery space in the adjacent building.” The couple once again worked with architect Jensen on the design of their new exhibit space.

Among the works that find their way home in a kind of revolving exhibition are works by artists from the 1930s to 1960s—highly regarded artists who have been forgotten in the intervening years, artists like Edgar Ewing and Anders Aldrin.

What is it like to live surrounded by so much art? “It’s wonderful having it in our home, it makes this place a sanctuary—very comforting and warm,” Patricia says with a  smile. “It’s hard to describe.” Frank adds. “It is energizing and it changes with the seasons, the time of day or your state of mind—your emotions. You are always reacting to it. It keeps you emotionally and intellectually busy!”

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