Home Tour: Artist’s Home in Gambo

Tracey Traverse isn’t really comfortable calling herself an artist. She has pieces for sale in a few shops but has a hard time calling them art. It doesn’t really matter what she calls them, though, since art is largely in the eye of the beholder.

She makes things, both decorative and functional, and although she’ll sell her items, she’d rather not. Many of the things she makes find a place in her home, right where she wants them.

Originally from Gambo, Tracey returned several years ago, back when her son was going into kindergarten. He’s going into Grade 8 this year. Before that, she lived in Fort McMurray, and St. John’s before that. It was in Fort Mac that she discovered her love of making, after doing a glassworks project. Then she made an entertainment stand, then kept on making things.

Her current home, in Gambo, is filled with items she’s made. There’s the driftwood fish, the driftwood cross, the driftwood dried cod. Each is made from wood Tracey has collected during walks on Gambo beach, Dover beach, and other local landwashes.

Her finds, whether from beaches, yard sales or thrift shops, get stored away until there’s a project that can use them. Most have stayed in storage, as she spent the past couple of years renovating the house she currently lives in. Now that the house is done, she has plans to make herself another garage, where she can continue making things.

“Last year, when I didn’t have a garage and couldn’t make nothing, I was lost,” she says.

Tracey would rather have something unique than something store bought; although, for practicality’s sake, she does have store bought items in her house. But really, if it’s something somebody else has, she doesn’t have much interest in it. She’d much rather have, say, a blue kitchen hutch-type unit made from an old piano.

The piano was half deconstructed when it was offered to her, so she was spared the crisis of conscience of tearing apart an operating musical instrument. Had it been complete, she says, she may not have deconstructed it. The keys and other parts from the piano are still in her basement; the carcass of the piano has been transformed.

It’s not an artistic statement or a personal challenge to find an incongruous use for a piano. She just needed more storage for her kitchen, and figured this old piano, solidly constructed, could be repurposed to her needs. It’s not art. It is art. What it is doesn’t matter. What it does is what matters.

The kitchen now has some practical storage space, but it still isn’t finished. Tracey would rather have a completely new kitchen, but that’s a little cost prohibitive. For now, it will stay like it is. Or maybe not. It could look completely different next week, if the mood strikes her to change it up.

This whole house used to look completely different. The front door was once where a bedroom is now, a hallway used to run down the middle of the house. The whole house – it’s a bungalow with a basement – was taken back to the 2×4 studs, which were replaced with 2×6 studs. Walls were removed, supporting beams were installed, and an open concept main living area was created.

The flooring was removed until nothing remained but the very bottom layer of boards. This is the floor Tracey wanted. She replaced boards where necessary, filled in gaps, then got down on her hands and knees and sanded the floor. By hand. And, admittedly, also with the help of a power sander. Then, again down on her knees, paint brush in hand, she stained the whole floor before laying on thick coats of varnish with a roller.

The rest of the house she had help with, but the floor, she can claim that. On that floor she has since placed furniture, the pieces defining areas. A farmhouse style table creates a dining room; a collection of soft seating becomes the living room, where an antique chest and a mid-century modern stereo console co-exist in eclectic harmony, joined by a chair Tracey reupholstered and a stump rescued from the firewood pile that now serves as a side table.

The house renovation is a creative reinterpretation; the interior a curated self-edit of a creative person, ever changing and completely unique.