Special/Signature Issues » Home Style

Artisan: Point of Departure

A designer stands at a crossroads in pursuit of an artful life.


He loves this life.

There are sleepless nights, Beane professes, as design ideas and business challenges tumble through his brain. He's up early to create detailed drawings before the phone begins to ring. He stays late at his Shockoe Bottom studio to meet with clients who might be looking for a custom aluminum cocktail table or a fine French antique. And he can deliver on both fronts.

In addition to his furniture design business, Beane has steadily built his reputation as a collector and dealer of 20th-century decorative arts, and he sells an array of home furnishings and art objects from his showroom. The market for such goods may be small in Richmond, but it's significant in Washington and New York and stretches at times to California when a particular piece attracts a knowledgeable buyer.

And this is the source of Beane's indecision.

He says he finds himself at a crossroads about the businesses. Collecting is a major passion — his ideal vacation is to go to another city and visit all of its galleries, antique shops and flea markets — but his design work is his reason for being. How, he wonders, can he continue this breakneck pace while pursuing both?

As with many artists, questions of balance and desire are buffeted by the realities of money and time. Conservative tastes and cautious spenders are legendary in Richmond, and Beane joins a chorus of local artists who bemoan, politely, the difficulties of sustaining a livelihood here while pursuing the work they've studied and spent years refining.

"Maybe I've made it look easy, but it hasn't been," Beane says. "The commissions have been good, but to make it in Richmond, you've really got to put in the time. A lot of times people here aren't fully aware of how difficult it is to do that." These are not so much words of complaint as they are an explanation for his current quandary. He's sold far more mid-century modern furniture than he expected, and the demand among collectors is strong. His design business competes for his attention.

And yet, Beane probably knows the resolution: He'll continue to follow both paths a good while longer because each holds great fascination and each sustains the other.

"I love making stuff and I love designing," he says, "and a lot of doors have opened for me. I've found my life's work, but I can't afford to stay the same. I'm still really feeling my way."


Add a comment