all because of Charley Harper….

by May 5, 2010ModLife3 comments


Jim Brown’s (Atomic Ranch) camera shooting the ‘beautiful lettuce’ in our kitchen with the brand new backsplash tile.


The winter issue of Atomic Ranch (everyone’s favorite MCM magazine) had a small blurb about Charley Harper prints available through the Harper Art Studio.   This prompted one of my late night ‘zaps’ to send the magazine an e-mail inviting them to Cincinnati to see all of the other modern treasures here.  Long story short, they accepted my invitation and Publisher/photographer Jim Brown spent last week here photographing the Amberley Village home of Rick Kay & Jim Kelly for the magazine and photographing our house for their upcoming book, Atomic Ranch II (check out their last book, Atomic Ranch, an awesome source of inspiration for any MCM homeowner or wannabe).

Jim’s awesome eye and attention to detail resulted in a full two day photo session in our house and gave me a small glimpse inside the world of niche publishing.  Jim’s wife and Atomic Ranch editor, Michelle Gringeri-Brown, is quite possibly even more detail oriented than I am, and her presence was certainly felt here even though she was back in Portland tending the couple’s dogs.  After several e-mails back and forth, we got Michelle’s ‘wish list’ of rooms to shoot and suggested props on the Friday before Jim got here.  A frantic shopping trip for some staging pieces and grocery items (a beautiful head of lettuce and fruit – all one color…) and we were ready for the shoot.  Almost…

About six weeks ago, when we found out Jim was coming, we finally decided on a tile for our kitchen backsplash.  We had been trying to pick out a tile for years.  The Heath Ceramic tile I really wanted was just too expensive… we finally decided on a Daltile matte finish white ceramic, ‘Modern Dimensions.’  It has an interesting small rectangular shape and a slight curve to the surface to give the tiled wall visual texture.  It fit my list of requirements perfectly: it is classic modern, white, does not look like ‘today,’ and looks as if it could be original to the house.  ANYWAY, the tile took a very long time to come in, and at 8 p.m. the night before Jim arrived, the tile guy was grouting the tile.  Yikes!  Talk about cutting it close!

Your house never looks as good as the day you put it on the market or in our case and that of Rick and Jim, the day a photographer arrives to take photos.  I highly recommend the frenzy for the end result.  It feels pretty good to have the house clean and all the little details tended to.

At the end of our second day with Jim, I took him on a brief driving tour of Cincinnati Modernism – Amberley style.  I may be biased, but I think he was kind of blown away by the quantity and quality of the modern homes, not to mention the size of the lots.  That evening, we and a few other cf3 members took him to dinner downtown at Nada.  It was a wonderful evening of relaxing after a very hard week for homeowners and photographer alike!

cf3 members Brian Pierson, Judith Fornash, Fritz Kuhlman, Chris Magee and Rick Kay with Atomic Ranch publisher Jim Brown (second from right).

Arlen and I celebrated our successful week by attending final Friday in Oakley and listening to our favorite live music, The Foles, at the Oak Tavern.  Tim Hinde (vocals, guitar and harmonica) and Adam Sanregret (upright bass and vocals), play a unique mix of covers and originals.  We were completely blown away by the new song that Tim wrote, Charley’s Cardinal, a very catchy tune and a heartfelt tribute to Charley Harper.  What a fitting end to a wonderful week that all happened because of……. Charley Harper!


We also put the new backsplash tile in our dining room. The print is one of my favorite Charley Harper prints, Musicians III


  1. Susan Rissover

    Susan, it was great to see you and Arlen out at the Oak Tavern and so happy that you enjoyed our new song, “Charley’s Cardinal”. The song was about a year in the making. I really wanted it to be a tribute to Charley Harper, his inspiring work and the great human being that he was. The melody and refrain came to me first and rather quickly. The rest took some time. I didn’t want to force it but I also wanted to keep it “simple”. The song is written in the key of D. I was always intrigued by his cardinal and I have the great fortune to see many of them where I live. As you know, I live in a Modern in the woods. The same woods that connect to where Charley’s home was in Finneytown. I think, as the Cardinal flies, within 2 miles or less. I also appreciate your help, wether you realize it or not some of the lyrics were inspired by conversations I had with you. It’s wonderful you got to know such a great person. I believe his work will inspire people for a very long time to come. As a songwriter it’s a gift to have such awesome material to write about. For the record, I do have his Ladybug hanging in my hall. Anyways, just thought I would add a few comments. This is the first time I have blogged! You really have a wonderful site here. Glad to hear you had an amazing Charley week and I’m glad I could be a part of it.
    Peace, Tim

    May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Hinde ([email protected])

  2. Susan Rissover


    I think what you are doing with this blog is absolutely amazing. I, along with many others I talk to, have been searching a long time for information like this. It’s wonderful to see the city transforming the way that it has and the information you have here greatly contributes to my desire to buy here (which I am in the market to buy– wish I wasn’t under contract with another realtor). Please let me know if you have any gems out there that you’d like me to see ( up to $170k range…..but willing to find a fixer upper) Keep up the great work and I will be “stalking” your blog for more updates! cheers!

    May 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Nguyen ([email protected])

  3. Susan Rissover

    It was my sun room with the Charley Harper prints that was in Atomic Ranch (spring 2010). I recommended that they use this room to highlight Charley’s art. I’m really looking forward to seeing your photos in the new book. It’s really great to know that modern homes are being valued all over. And it’s really great to be able to promote the work of Charley Harper.
    We met Bret at the Michigan Modernism Show many years ago and fell in love with the art and humor of Charley. Shortly after, I saw a child’s game being sold with images from Charley’s work without any credit to him. We called down to Cincinnati and my husband spoke to Charley. He was so hospitable, he asked if we wanted to stop by the studio. We never were able to go.
    Keep up the good preservation work. Let me know if you plan any home tours. Maybe we’ll get down to Cincinnati after all.
    Best Wishes
    Karen Bartos

    May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Bartos ([email protected])

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