It could be the open environment, the gorgeous furniture, or the large oil paintings hanging on exposed brick walls — whatever it is, owner and showroom manager Sharon Kingston has finally found her place in Bellingham at Modern Classics. Originally a virtual company started by her husband Curt, Modern Classics is now, as of April 4th, a store in the Chicago Fine Arts Building on N. State Street in Bellingham. Curt may have founded Modern Classics, but the Bellingham store is something he happily shares with his wife Sharon. Curt needed a showroom for his furniture, while Sharon needed the walls to showcase her illuminating atmospheric and abstract oil paintings. Sharon said, about the process of staging, “The layout is very organic. Curt had in mind what he wanted to show, and how to show it, and I naturally had the paintings that fit with everything. It was the easiest hanging I have ever done.”
Sharon, originally raised in Minnesota with an MBA in Marketing from Santa Clara University,moved to Bellingham in 1997 to create a light manufacturing business with Curt. Seeking some creativity in her life, Sharon returned to Western Washington University to study art for two years. This became not only a passion, but also a career that would satisfy her need for expression. “Good art will make you pause, and maybe try to figure something out about it, which will take you to a place which is not certain for you. Art should never give you answers. It should be posing questions.”
Before Modern Classics, Kingston weathered a few studios, a collapsed economy, and confined studio spaces making her vapor-weary. She was relieved to finally find a place where she could not only create her work, but also display it in a welcoming environment. When the store isn’t open, Sharon is in the back, hard at work in her studio. The pieces she displays in her store are usually inspired by poetry — a form of expression artists call ekphrasis, which is the act of creating art inspired by another form of art (i.e. a poem from a painting, or a painting from a poem). She tries to work the words into the experience of the painting.
When looking for a space, both Sharon and Curt searched avidly until their ideal N. State Street location was discovered. “It has a flavor to it, in its rawness. I think it’s really right for the furniture and the art.” During the Downtown Art Walk, and opening day for Modern Classics, patrons in their twenties and thirties were so impressed with the space, they asked if they could move in.
Sharon is responsible for all of the beautiful art hanging on the walls, but she also expresses passion for the furniture. “I think it used to be thought that these pieces only fit in a modern interior, but people are taking a piece here and there, and melding it with what they already have and finding their own design sense. I think that’s what this space is about. Have original art in your home, and have this great, beautiful, well designed piece of furniture too.” Though some see art and retail as being philosophically at odds, Sharon has managed to combine the two seamlessly.
Modern Classics, which has a very welcoming atmosphere, showcases some interesting modern mid-century furniture, including benches, loveseats and tables. These furniture pieces, accompanied with Sharon’s contemporary art, make this store an experience as well as a place to purchase fine furniture. And in our art-loving design-conscious town, this is a welcome thing.
1418 N. State St., Bellingham
Wed.–Sat. 12 p.m.–5 p.m.