Christina Facella began her career as a science illustrator for the Museum of Natural History in New York. In 2007, after several years of traveling in South America and Asia, she left her position at the museum to found Beetle & Flor—an interior accessories company. The profits from Christine’s beautiful, hand-cast, porcelain, and gold objects go towards funding her real passion—providing free and low-cost design services to underserved artisan communities in order to help them bring their products to the global market. Since Christine undoubtedly knows good object design, we were excited to see how this would translate to her personal living space:
Fameless Quarterly: Thank you for inviting us into your home! Tell us a little about where you live. What neighborhood are you in? When did you move here? Christine Facella: We've been living in this apartment for about four years. It's on the cusp of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick, on an isolated tree-lined street with row houses dating back to 1910. In the evening when working hours are over and the traffic dies down, it's quite the tranquil spot.
FQ: What are your favorite and least favorite parts about living where you do? CF: We have an awesome backyard. The previous owner planted an array of berry bushes: black currants, white and red raspberries, blackberries, concord grapes and gooseberries—which attracts: squirrels, birds, opossums, raccoons. Unfortunately since we're in a very polluted area, off Newtown Creek, we're a little hesitant to eat much of it—which is probably what I like least about living here. To compensate we've built several planters in which we grow herbs and vegetables in the summer.
FQ: Outside of your home, what are some of your favorite places in the neighborhood? CF: Walking to the studio I can choose two main routes: One takes me through McGolrick Park with its beautiful canopy of trees and newly planted native garden. The other route is behind our house, into a heavily industrialized, dirty area. I like them both; they are contemplative in separate ways: urban nature and people in the park and the void of nature and people in the other.
FQ: How do you think your neighborhood influences your work as a designer and artist? CF: Last year I did a small collection of 'urban wildlife' skulls for the newly launched Brooklyn CSA+D. I based it on 'tough' species (domestic cats, rats, pigeons), basically animals I see on a daily basis around here. Other than that, living in such a creative community of people who make things is, in itself, influential!
FQ: Does your past as an illustrator for the Museum of Natural History have an impact on how you arrange and decorate your personal living space? CF: I think so. Both Warren and I used to work there, as illustrators and model makers. We're both interested in natural history, and we both originate from geography that made us appreciative of nature: Warren grew up in Maine and I myself am from Norway. Having the outdoors be part of our living environment is a given.
FQ: Beetle and Flor was founded to fund your low-cost design services to underserved artisan communities in order to transform their local products for the global marketplace. Do you find you employ that re-purposing aesthetic at home? Are there any items in your apartment that you have created out of re-purposed materials? CF: Most of our furniture is 'hand-me-downs' or from the street or garage sales. A few of our planters outside are made from old studs from removed walls in the apartment, and we've used reclaimed materials for some of our hand-made furnishings, fully stained with a concoction made of rusty metal and tea. The quilt on the bed was made from Warren's old shirts and scraps of fabric. As for the artisans, I've been working on a long term project with Work + Shelter, based in Delhi. They employ and train women in crafts such as knitting and sewing. For the past two years we've been working on a biodegradable stuffed toy project (mirandaredpanda.com).
FQ: Your porcelain and gold skulls are beautiful! They would fit perfectly on the shelf of a Wunderkammer--which is pretty fitting, given your background. Do you have any curios in your home? CF: We collect things from travels or the outdoors, but they are all scattered throughout the house!
FQ: What is your favorite thing in your apartment? CF: My mom, long ago, when living in Atlanta, made a rag-rug wall hanging, in pink, blue, and gray hues. For as long as I remember, it has been curled up in my parent's basement—probably due to its outdated style and sheer size—and was amongst the 'stuff' my dad brought when we moved in, thinking I would want it. I wasn't thrilled, but since our house at the time was fairly empty, I ended up hanging it in the hallway. Now in the morning when I wake up, it’s the first thing I see, all lit up from sunlight streaming through the skylight and glass blocks. I've really come to love it, enough so that it has influenced the color choices in the bedroom.
FQ: In addition to your signature skull porcelain works you have also been producing planters and vases. What was the inspiration behind this shift? CF: I thought it was perhaps a slightly unhealthy obsession to only do one thing, so I had to venture out and try new ideas! We can always go back to what we know, but growth happens when you try something different, at least according to Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist.
FQ: Do you garden a lot at home? CF: Yes, it's a weekly treat! I'm usually at war with the morning glories, trees of heaven, and those Blackberry bushes, which would like to spread all over the yard. I have a certificate in horticulture from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and am about to start an MA program in Landscape Architecture at CUNY. Plants are my second obsession!
FQ: You must travel a lot! Do you bring anything with you on your trips to remind you of home? CF: Usually when I go somewhere, I'm ready to get out of here and the last thing on my packing list would be a token of home! I travel light: a small backpack. Pictures of Warren and the cats on my phone is all I need.
FQ: What is the biggest luxury in your home? Are you saving up for anything at the moment? CF: We're going solar! A huge expense, but with the tax breaks and loans, the monthly cost comes out to about what we pay Con Edison now. We are super excited!
FQ: If you could change something about your apartment what would it be? CF: Who wouldn't wish for an additional bedroom?