Photos by Patricia Burke and Peter Rymwid

JAMES YAROSH ASSOCIATES FINE ART GALLERY

A gallery for kindred spirits of the arts to visit with the welcoming presence and interest of an artist's home

For James Yarosh, who for the past two decades has been helping clients discover artists and creating residential interior design with an artist’s sensibility, his most recent project is also his most personal. This fall, for the first time since its founding in 1996, James Yarosh and Associates will have its own distinct location: a loft in the historic 1917 Holmdel Village Firehouse at 45 East Main Street. And like any new homeowner wanting to establish new, authentic roots, Yarosh is giving his gallery’s next residence its own unique stamp, turning it into a true home for fine art that pays tribute to the building’s history. It’s opportunity long-awaited by Yarosh, a well-published art dealer and interior designer whose business has grown from humble beginnings in the neighboring landmark “old white church” and then expanded to the Design & Fine Arts Building, where it broadened to offer gallery and interior design services to private clients and the trade. The firehouse provided for Yarosh — himself an artist — a blank canvas upon which to perfectly set the stage for the works he represents. “The arts always have been new and exciting. It’s my role as an art dealer to honor the arts with a similar presentation,” he says, noting that he is pleased to continue his gallery’s tradition of contributing to downtown Holmdel’s visual art presence while sharing artists of merit on the national stage.

The move signifies a strengthening of an alliance for the affable gallery owner who began his career working and honing his eye in galleries in New Jersey and New York City before establishing James Yarosh Associates at age 29. The loft is situated adjacent to the Frame of Mind Gallery, owned by Jeanine Pennell, with whom Yarosh has collaborated for 16 years, guiding her in expanding her offerings to include local artists’ works as well as custom and decorative lines of artwork furnished by Yarosh. “This convenient upstairs/downstairs scenario allows us to position downtown Holmdel as a destination spot for the arts,” he explains.

Before Yarosh could embark on the design, however, he had to tackle a restoration — a complete transformation from the beams up. “The renovation of this former firehouse, which served some time as an office space, is humbling and important work,” he says. Although the building had been well maintained, over the years, interior elements had been covered by paneling and commercial carpet. “It had not seen any true type of renovation since the 1970s,” Yarosh notes. “The only choice I had was to gut the space and see what was left to create.”

Yarosh approaches interior design with an artist’s eye, informed by studying how art is displayed in the world’s greatest museums as well as how it is shown in the more intimate venue of artists’ homes. (“Artist’s homes are always the most interesting, since design is a wonderful medium in which an artist can create,” he observes.) For the renovation, he called upon his trusted design sources — from the conscientious contractor and craftspeople to the many New York design showrooms that exhibit textiles and furnishings — and choreographed their talents and expertise. And as he has done for his clients over the years, Yarosh commissioned this team of varied, respected resources to come together to help implement the vision he had for his new 900-square-foot gallery. His mission: To create a space that balanced the gravity of a fine-art gallery with the welcoming environment that visitors would experience in an artist’s home. “I want clients and guests to feel the excitement of the arts during gallery openings as well enjoy it as a simple sanctuary where they can see beautiful and credible collections of art and have the lucky privilege of potentially acquiring one of the shown pieces to take to their own residence.

“The process for creating this gallery is the same as what I would do in creating a home,” continues Yarosh, who places an emphasis on quality and “real” architectural details in interior design and employs the same strict eye he uses when curating fine art collections. For example, an exciting discovery during the renovation was the original wood flooring underneath the carpet, which Yarosh refinished and left visible “so it could represent Holmdel’s history and community and honor the firemen who served within.” Another detail was the plaster crown he created as part of the molding package, a design element that went above what is typically commissioned in terms of quality.

“I enjoy the process of seeking the most beautiful elements and materials to create interior spaces, then editing those materials to proper purpose and restraint,” says Yarosh, whose designs have been published nationally. “The idea of a gallery is to have an understated quality and to be a quiet place that enables guests to stop and take the time necessary to appreciate viewing art and the details they present.” Yarosh strove to create a space where guests would feel more like they had stepped into an artist’s home to view the latest works than walked into a commercial setting. He wanted the new gallery to be a gathering place where people could come and enjoy coffee on a Saturday morning or mingle at a sophisticated evening artists’ reception. To facilitate this ambiance, Yarosh set a neutral tone, employing classic white for the gallery’s walls, moldings and wood casings, and carefully placed small elements to “slow guests down and allow them to appreciate details.” The window coverings — a crinoline-like cotton lace of the same white hue with a small striping of Greek key pattern — purposefully allows the natural light to wash through the room, but keeps visitors’ attention within. Yarosh understands how details are key to good design: His 1970s brass chairs have been covered with a tiny pattern of chocolate horsehair material similar to the bronze door handles that, in turn, echo tiny rows of a small rope trim. The gallery marries many different eras of details, allowing Yarosh to showcase either modern or traditional art without discord. Yarosh also incorporated LED lights, designed a gallery kitchenette that includes rosewood Rutt cabinets that complement the vintage moderne-style wall curio and the sleek lines of the gallery desk and shelf displays.

Upon entering, visitors step through the building’s modest street-level entrance into a vestibule of variegated marble and architectural details that sets the stage for the art within. “It has always been the task of galleries and museums to warmly welcome the public as guests but balance that hospitality with a sophisticated setting appropriate for displaying art,” Yarosh says. On the entrance wall — inscribed in just a few sentences — is the gallery’s mission statement, which reminds guests that the reason they are there is to bear witness to beauty, to enjoy themselves, yes, but to also participate in the dialogue of art at the most visceral level.

“Galleries are homes to art as well as the closet point that most people will get to being in an artist’s world or to, perchance, meet the art’s creators,” explains Yarosh. “And galleries need to strike several balances: They rely on the deft vision of each show’s curators, who are charged with both showcasing art for art’s sake and exposing clients to options of creative display beyond conventional notions of what one should hang on one’s walls.

“Each painting is like a piece of an artist’s diary,” Yarosh continues. “It is the culmination of an artist’s ideas and life’s work, and how lucky we are to be a part of it and to potentially live with the result of their thoughtful energy and love of creation. The arts have always been a great grounding force and remind us of our greater culture and the importance to value such a gift.”

James Yarosh and Associates is open to the public to visit on Saturdays 12–4 and other times by appointment and as indicated on the gallery website with specific events, gallery salons and show dates. 732.993.5278