Jewelry designer Ariel Clute lives in Berkeley, California, with her husband and three children. Her welcoming home is full of family furniture and flea market finds. Here’s a peek inside, with photos by Lena Corwin…
On living in a work-in-progress: When we first moved into the house, it had two large bedrooms. Once our daughter and twins arrived, we renovated it into three rooms. We’ve also turned our attic into my studio/guest bedroom. My husband is an architect and a capable builder, so we’re always making changes. I like to think of it as problem solving to make the space work for our changing needs.
On family pieces: My husband and I both grew up in California — Wylie’s family has lived in Northern California for three generations! So, most of the furniture in our home has been passed down from relatives. We’re drawn to antiques. The big mirror in the living room is from Wylie’s great grandfather. It was originally from an armoire that was too big for our space, but we loved it so much we decided to hang the mirror part. When Wylie is doing a new architecture job, he’ll research the history of the building and try to incorporate that story into his designs.
On wedding bells: We got married when our daughter Talula was two. We wanted to wait so she could be in our wedding, along with my husband’s nieces and nephews. We rented a house in Joshua Tree for the reception. It felt funny to have Talula throw flowers down the aisle, since was the desert, so we decided to have her and the other kids ring bells during the ceremony. The bells are now displayed in a curiosity cabinet in our living room.
On used toys: Most of our toys are really good garage sale finds. Now that we have three kids, it can be easy to accumulate clutter, especially when grandparents want to give kids everything. But since many toys are made to last a week, we’ve tried really hard to not fill the house with things that aren’t recyclable. As Talula gets older we want her to learn that things can have a history, can be cherished and last a long time.
On baskets: I love beautiful baskets. We have them all over the house. We’ll invite people over for dinner, and I’ll put utensils, napkins and toys in different baskets. We have a garden in the backyard, so we use the baskets to harvest lettuce, tomatoes, kale, cucumbers and herbs. Our children also use them to collect nature or make mini bouquets. I find baskets at the Alameda flea market, IKEA and the White Elephant Sale.
On meals at home: My husband and I split cooking duties 50/50. He has cooked in restaurants before and has a real passion for food. Growing up, I often made simple meals for my brother and myself when my mom was working. So, we have different styles, but both love to be in the kitchen.
On Mexican food: We make lots of Mexican-inspired meals, tons of beans and rice. We’ll do a big pot of chile verde — with tomatillos, onions and pork shoulder — and eat it in different variations for few days. We’ll do it as a stew one night, then tacos the next. We love to make spicy sauces and salsas, too. We’ll give Talula what she calls “pink sauce,” which is basically our salsa mixed with yogurt so it’s milder.
On family drawing: We spend all our time in the kitchen and living room. They used to be two separate rooms, but we knocked down the walls to make it an open floor plan. Talula likes to help make dinner, and we all love making art together. We’ll put a big piece of butcher paper on the counter and the five of us will draw.
On a personal shrine: I was pregnant with a son before I had my twins, but my water broke at 24 weeks and Oro did not survive. It was a heartbreaking experience. For a while, my husband and I questioned the idea of trying to expand our family again, but in the end decided to. We made a shrine, which holds Oro’s ashes, photos and letters to honor his spirit. We try to talk to our older daughter Talula about it. It was a memorable experience for her and we do not want him to be forgotten.
On naming twins: I made the mobiles above the cribs when I got pregnant with the twins. When we thought we were having just one girl, we loved the named Fermina Daza from the book Love in the Time of Cholera. When we found out we were having twin girls, brainstorming two names felt much harder. In the end, we decided to just split the name: Fermina and Daza. When they were born, one of the nurses — whose husband was an English teacher — recognized the name. And only one other person has recognized them since!
On homemade furniture: We needed a new bed and I really wanted a king, so Wylie built this frame. In his work, he designs or builds a lot of furniture. He did all the furniture at the San Francisco restaurant State Bird Provisions himself and collaborated with another woodworker at The Progress. We actually met because he did woodworking at an art center in Oakland, where I taught printmaking.
On making jewelry: I’ve always been a painter and printmaker, but I started making jewelry after Talula was born. Each piece is a mix of contemporary and antique material. It wasn’t a planned business, but it’s been a great thing to do since I’ve had kids. It’s more meditative and I can do it at home when they’re napping.
On pizza parties: When we have friends over, we cook pizzas in our backyard. Crazily enough, we built a wood-fired oven ourselves. We got Kiko Denzer’s book, invited some friends over and spent the afternoon building it. It actually wasn’t that hard. Now we’ll make dough the night before and make a little extra so the kids can make their own pizzas, too. We always make a margherita and a fresh sausage. Last time, we made one with local cheese, prosciutto and figs, and it was delicious.
Thank you so much, Ariel!