Matt Austin Studio, Chester
I first spied Matt Austin’s work at a friend’s house. Her foyer is swathed in a vaguely Chinoiserie mural of gilt branches and birds on a velvety background. Mesmerizing. When I heard he was opening a studio in Chester, I couldn’t wait to see what he had up his sleeve. Walking into his atelier is sort of like entering the artist’s brain, or perhaps an Alice In Wonderland-sized curio cabinet. Austin is a multi-dimensional artist and applies a deft hand to everything from children’s toys to coat hooks. The thing of it is, it’s all executed exquisitely: a golden thunder bolt (that is actually a lamp), a winged elephant on wheels, painted studies for intricate murals. There’s a snake curled up in the corner and fantastical glass sconces above the fireplace. Even the backdrops for his creations qualify as art: gessoed walls and a swirly painted floor. But, it’s not only a design, decor and gift destination, it is Matt’s studio. The back corner is lined with shelves of pigments (oxblood, gris) and beeswax in hand-lettered glass jars, adding to the old world feel. It’s a dreamy place, for designers, decorators, children, and regular folk like me.