To transform your house into an art gallery, follow Rhett Baruch
Many of us started the new experience of waking up in our workspaces in 2020. For Rhett Baruch, this reality is one of the reasons that makes his work so captivating.
The art & design dealer — who transformed his LA home into a showroom of eccentrically unique & well-curated finds — opens his doors to a unique art consuming experience with an ever-rotating collection.
Combining his knowledge of 20th-century modern design + a deep passion for contemporary work, he shows that leather goods can range from timelessly sober to vibrantly surreal creations.
To understand how a rare, handmade design can go from overlooked to carefully curated by Rhett, get cozy & scroll down for the full chat with the collector.
The style of the pieces you collect is super whimsical and unique. Where does your curation inspiration come from?
Regarding my buying and learning habits, this sort of free flow of ideas and flexibility I have with style come from inspiration via Instagram, design blogs, and really just gravitating toward finding exclusively handmade or rare goods. I don't study or focus on a particular genre or era and pursue it. Instead, I just look up and down classifieds, other IG sellers, auctions, etc, and buy what I think is cool. It could be a primitive carved wood foot totem sculpture, a 1970s Italian table lamp rendered in glass, aluminum, and marble, or a free-form studio ceramic. None of it is found in one place or one genre; it's a culmination of ideas and input that I experience while navigating this world, both digitally and physically.
Walking for leisure and taking photos of what I see in my neighborhood has been really invigorating. It’s a very important practice of mine now and, although I can’t attribute it to any specific accomplishment, I can confidently say it's made for a much brighter outlook on a seemingly uncertain path. It’s helped me become more comfortable with whatever is here now and to embrace and appreciate even the simplest moments. Somehow, that's given me a new mindset and if ever I’m finding myself in a rut, all I’ve got to do is step outside and look at the world. I highly recommend it for anyone, slow down and take your time, look closely and you’ll find something special. When you get back to whatever work looks like, I believe a new optimism will reveal itself.
What specifically draws you to the leather pieces you collect?
I totally appreciate the way leather ages, sort of like old oil paint on a canvas, craquelure, and surface loss can be attractive. I think it's a look that’s possible without looking too worn and it ultimately depends on the context of the piece. For me, I don’t put function at the top of my list, so it’s nice to have some age mixed in with the work that's new and "perfect".
What role does leather play as a material in the art and design world?
Because of my attraction to the diversity of style and materials, I can’t be sure if any stands out for me. What I may find mind-blowing and unlike anything I’ve ever seen one day, might happen again and again. I believe, more than ever, we find ourselves at a really interesting point in time in regard to art and design. Whereby, we are all craving something new that pushes boundaries and widely celebrates the capacity and idea that anyone and anything can participate in.
What specific elements draw your eye to a leather piece and give personal value to you?
I can totally appreciate a structured and inventive use of leather for function, such as the Bauhaus has shown, and I’d love to own more of it. Also, I would be thrilled to find an abstractly formed leather sculpture, not that I’ve seen exactly that, but it's got to exist somewhere and if I see it, you can bet it will catch my eye.
I most enjoy a room scene when it's layered with elements, concepts like a Memphis lamp on top of a primitive wooden console with a leather Paulin butterfly chair in the foreground. The more the merrier.
When and how did you get the idea to have your living space double as your gallery?
It was really out of necessity, it didn’t seem possible early on that I could obtain a retail showroom. The financial commitment to it alone was daunting plus having another place I'm responsible for, maintaining volume, procurement, and everyday life, it seemed impossible. I started off primarily as a collector and would stage vignettes of the day's or week's finds and when it turned a profit, I figured why not keep going and evolve the idea within my home. More recently, I’ve had the opportunity to show work in a retail setting.
What are the pros and cons of your home also operating as your gallery? How do you disconnect and take a break from work when you're surrounded by it?
In my specific case, a con is sharing a restroom with clients. Otherwise, it's actually become a preferred way to experience art and design, rather than the potentially stale, off-putting and intimidating sales environment of a white box. I can casually engage with clients, offer an espresso or fizzy water, hang out in the kitchen, maybe the sofa. Nothing is too rigid in what I do.
If every day was fueled by espressos & leather gems we wouldn't complain ☕️.
For an extra close up of Rhett's discoveries, head to the part #2 of our chat — or to [metcha originals] to meet more creatives.