Home of the Week: A home full of color and bold design
February 5, 2011: article from the The Capital newspaper of Annapolis. By Wendi Winters; Photographs by Joshua McKerrow
You thought Coco Chanel had departed for that great fashion catwalk in the sky? Mais non! She is alive and very well, merci bien, living the high life in Arnold. Wearing an exquisite tortoise-colored fur, she dines on kibble with a soupcon of … catnip.
This Coco is only 10 months old. She's an SPCA rescue kitten who moved from an uncertain future to a comfortable, colorful home in the Timbers Community of Arnold. She's not afraid to strut, while 10-year-old house cat Louie hides when visitors arrive.
Coco's new home is a 1971, three-story home set on a half-acre lot. Tucked among woodlands, the front and rear yards are landscaped to take advantage of the sparse sunlight that filters through the canopy. In back, homeowners Eva and Joe Barsin III have installed a series of sinuous, low stone walls and paving stone walkways that complement the rolling topography, and gives their two sons, Robby, 8, and James, 6, both Arnold Elementary students, plenty of space to romp. A sleek deck wraps around the rear of the house, offering views of a stone pagoda lantern and a restful teak bench, set against a weathered wooden trellis and framed by holly trees.
A warm welcome
Step inside the home's front door. The bright jolt of color immediately to your left is as bracing as it is unexpected. The living room is ablaze in a sizzling combination of flame red, gold, chocolate bark, mocha, cafe au lait and creme brulee, accented with pale hardwood floors. It's the first of many gorgeous vistas inside, in warm, upbeat tones that include copper, terra cotta or cinnamon. But, throughout, the house is entirely kid-friendly.
The home houses a thriving business, too. The Barsins operate a graphic design and illustration business, JEB Design, from a chic office on the lower level. Joe and Eva's designs range from corporate logos, pamphlets and magazine layouts to the Maryland license plate for the Chesapeake Bay Trust, posters for the Annapolis Opera and the 2010 Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade artwork. "We had a business in our first place, in Alexandria," said Joe. "When we came here in '98, we knew we'd have our own business in our house. This one was already set up with its own phone lines, bathroom and exits."
"Plus, we love the small town feeling of this area," said Eva. Both Barsins hail from the Midwest. The two met on the campus of Kent State University, their alma mater. They graduated in 1992.
Elbow grease and art
The Arnold house needed some work though.
"We removed the pink carpeting that was throughout the main floor and the slippery white tile in the front hallway," said Eva. "My brother, Roy Bice, came in from Ohio and installed the Italian tile in the hallway. We also put in the wood flooring."
The couple got busy with Behr brand paints. Here, Eva was the experienced one. She worked her way through Kent State by painting empty dormitory rooms, quickly and professionally, on holiday and summer breaks. In one room, Joe proudly showed off her freehand brushwork where the cranberry walls meet the dark cream-colored ceiling. "Masking tape isn't that perfect," he bragged.
"We're not afraid of color," Eva said. "White walls are unnerving to us. We like bright colors and warm tones."
The couple found a pair of volcanic artworks that hang over the cream leather couch in the living room during a trip to Prague.
"Back in the '90s, art was inexpensive there," explained Joe. "The art culture there is incredible and oozing out of every corner." As part of his curriculum, he spent five months on a study-abroad program. He lived in Florence, Italy, and attended courses on graphic design and art history.
His first week back at Kent State, Joe met Eva at a bus stop. Later, newly married, he and his bride honeymooned in Italy. They've returned to Italy and visited Germany, England, the Czech Republic, the Caribbean and explored the American southwest -before they had kids.
On the wall separating the stairwell from the hallway, the Barsins hung a poster designed by a friend, Paul Sahre, a New York City graphic artist and fellow Kent State alum. The bold poster is in the style of Russian artist Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956), whose Constructivist designs were a radical departure from the organic, floral, curvilinear Art Nouveau period.
"I love Art Deco," said Joe. "We love the style of Rodchenko and the Constructivist movement, too."
The layout of the main floor forms a circular path. The tiled hallway leads back to the kitchen. Its tiled floor matches the hallway. The sherry-colored wood cabinets have brushed steel Art Deco pulls that echo the handles on the refrigerator and the stove.
Eva inset a large hand-painted terra cotta tile, a symbol of Umbria, Italy, to one kitchen wall overlooking a simple breakfast nook and painted a pale frame around it.
Instead of wandering into the dining room, to the left, a quick right brings you into the cozy family room. "We live in here," said Eva.
The opposing wall is bare brick, surrounding a working fireplace. It has a low brick ledge topped with flagstone forming a seating area alongside the fireplace. Making it cozier are artfully arranged cushions and pillows. Above the fireplace are wooden icon tablets the Barsins found in Prague. Eva later painted them. Above the cranberry walls and the bookshelf busting with books, Eva also highlighted the wood-beamed ceiling by painting the beams a deep chocolate. A set of sliding glass doors frame the view of the deck and the scenic backyard gardens.
One of the two chocolate brown couches sits beneath framed brass rubbings the couple made of long-ago medieval nobles while visiting Westminster Abbey in London. "A choir of boys was singing while we made these rubbings," Eva recalled.
A scoot back through the kitchen takes a visitor through the simple, yet elegant formal dining room. A lunette or half moon print hangs on one wall above a sideboard dancing on wrought iron legs. The print is a copy of a painting by Giustio Utens, of Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo, 15 miles north of Florence.
Quiet riot of color
Upstairs, there are four bedrooms. Robby's room is a quiet riot of blue and red patterns. On one wall hang two framed prints by California graphic artist Michael L. Kungl of two iconic late-1930s modes of transportation: the Aeropacific Clipper 314 and Midnight Zephyr 2000. Next to it is the guest room, decorated in - for the Barsins - subdued shades of honey and gold. Their own room, also honey-colored, is accented with simple eggplant drapes and lampshades and pale teal satin brocade pillows and features a striking carved wood bed.
In James' room, Eva painted the fun mural designed by Joe depicting a quintet of seafaring animal friends (including the two cats!) aboard a ship that sails across an entire wall. The cartoon animals gaze down on James' quilted bedspread that offers a view of the solar system. Pluto, no longer a real planet, is hiding under a pillow.
More panoramic views of the planets crowd another wall, above where James has stashed his telescope, a small rotating model of the planetary system, maps of the U.S. and a small, desktop globe.
Chic, colorful office
Zip into the lower level before Joe and Eva go back to work. The floor is a bold checkerboard of oversized black and white tiles. One of the knotty pine walls has been painted a deep periwinkle blue. Some of Joe's favorite posters, those of his own design, are spaced along the walls. There is also an unusual quilted banner he created in college. I'm not sure you'd want it on a bed. Inspired by George Orwell's allegorical novel, "Animal Farm," a large menacing pig's face dominates the piece.
In this color-rich environment, Joe and Eva maintain a coolly serene office environment with streamlined, wood-topped his-and-her desks. Still, they have their fun. In the same room is an l-shaped, Formica-topped bar, complete with stools and kitschy liquor advertisement placemats. As with the family room, a set of large sliding glass doors brings the outdoors - and the sunlight - into the room.
Coco checks the room out. With a dainty sniff, she approves.
The artist tapped to create the iconic collectible poster art for the 28th Annual Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade is from the Broadneck Peninsula.
That shouldn't be a surprise - this finger of land is home to many talented artists. But, this is the first time, since 1988, the creator selected for this very visible, sought-after project is a graphic artist. Instead of daubing paint on a canvas, Joe Barsin of Arnold created the poster on his computer.
In the artwork, a sailboat decorated to look like a giant Christmas evergreen sails serenely beneath the opened Spa Creek drawbridge, which is filled, on both sides, by cheering townspeople. All around the sailboat, Barsin featured other legendary vessels that have appeared in the parade, including the winged angle blowing her horn, the USNA Blue Angel, Santa's Sleigh and the Toy Train.
Landmarks of Annapolis and Eastport are visible in the background as fireworks sparkle overhead.
"When it was unveiled at a reception at the yacht club, the boat owners were so delighted to see their ships depicted," he said.
The Lights Parade artwork took him over a week to create. He also produced several large, hanging banners featuring portions of the artwork to add drama to the presentation. The annual poster is used to promote the Lights Parade.
Barsin, a '92 graduate of Kent State University, is the owner of the 12-year-old design firm JEB Design Inc. in Arnold. His office is an elegant studio in the lower level of the woodland home he shares with his wife Eva, and their two sons Robby, 8, and James, 6.
You see his firm's work every day, but probably don't realize it.
"I created the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Treasure the Chesapeake license plate," he said proudly, holding up a blank version. "I submitted six different designs to a 19-person committee."
For the past 10 years, JEB Design also has produced all the gorgeous, colorful posters for the Annapolis Opera free of charge. "We do it because we love the arts," he said. One of his favorites was the edgy, Art Deco-inspired poster for the opera ''Don Giovanni.''
Atlantis resident Gayle Mangan Kassal, who designed a Lights Parade poster several years ago, has been the event's art coordinator since then.
"We chose Joe two years ago, giving him a full year to plan then, as a new tradition started by myself and Heather Ersts, the past chair,'' she said. ''We invite the next year's artist to the current year's art reception and to be a judge so they get the full scope of things a year before. Joe said he really enjoyed this and that it helped with his art."
This year's Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade is the evening of Dec. 11. Sets of 12 boxed holiday cards and unframed posters are available for sale for $15 each at the Eastport Yacht Club, Fawcett Boat Supplies on Forest Drive, the Museum Store of Historic Annapolis Foundation on Main Street, and at Maria's Picture Place at 45 Maryland Ave.
Contact: www.jebdesign.com; 410-975-0600
Designers no passing fancy. JEB Design puts its tag on state bay license plates
January 11, 2004: article from the The Sunday Capital newspaper of Annapolis. By Val Hymes
Having your graphic design take a hit every day from car exhaust, mud or slush doesn’t exactly sound like a career accomplishment.
But Joe and Eva Barsin couldn’t be happier. The owners of JEB Design in Arnold created Maryland’s new “Treasure the Chesapeake” license plate, which goes on sale January, 28.
“Our goal was to develop a fresh, colorful design which represents our rich Maryland environment and the proud people who live here,” said Mr. Barsin who created the image on his computer.
The Barsins grew up in Ohio and after graduating from Kent State, began working together immediately.
When they first arrived in Maryland, they lived and worked in Baltimore where Mr. Barsin worked at the ad agency, Siquis Ltd. In 1993, when Mrs. Barsin landed a job at Sass and Associates in Annapolis. He later joined her there.
Then when Mr. Barsin went to work at Grafik Communications in Alexandria they moved there where he did work for the Smithsonian, U.S. Postal Service and other institutions. She worked in communications and advertising graphics.
In 1997 they founded JEB Design, Inc., and moved back to Annapolis area.
“We love it here,” said Mrs. Barsin, praising the town’s cultural assets and the Chesapeake Bay.
“But working in such a variety of jobs involving advertising, design, marketing and management gave us the skills we needed,” said Mr. Barsin. “And we knew that in order to do what we really wanted to do, we would have to start our own business.”
Volunteer work for the Annapolis Opera Inc. led to their contracts with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to design its annual reports for the last three years, and then to the creation of the plate.
“It’s amazing how doing something you love can lead to creative projects,” Mrs. Barsin said.
They consulted with several state agencies and visited the prison plant in Jessup where the plates will be made.
The colorful Chesapeake Bay tag’s marsh grasses, heron and blue crab were unveiled Dec. 10 by the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
The Barsins also produced promotional materials for the bay tag, including posters, banners and a brochure, with some featuring the work of photographer David Harp.
It’s too early to tell whether its design will lure more customers to their office.
“Business has been steady and we have done well in the past few years”, said Eva Barsin.
Many graphics, advertising and printing companies must contract for illustrators or design experts. JEB Design has both under one roof.
“We were fortunate,” she said, “because when we entered college, there were no computers so we had to learn the basic skills, but before we left, we also learned to design and illustrate with computers.”
Their clients cover the waterfront, from nonprofits and corporations to national associations, embassies, the Navy, importers, politicians, law firms and the Peace Corps.
But they do some of their best work for the arts of Annapolis: the Annapolis Opera, Inc. and the Cultural Arts Foundation of Anne Arundel County.
They created a web site (www.operabravo.com) to display and advertise their designs of posters and note cards featuring famous operas.
A scroll through JEB Design’s Web site (www.jebdesign.com) reveals a remarkable array of skills in designs for Web sites, stationery, promotional materials, book covers, magazines, product catalogues, newsletters, brochures, illustrations, icons, posters, T-shirts and even animation.
“We like to combine artistic principles with current computer technology and originality, and inject some humor when it’s appropriate,” said Mr. Barsin.
The couple has a 1-year old son, Robby, and is expecting another child in April.
“It really helps to be able to work at home,” said Mrs. Barsin.
Contact: www.jebdesign.com; 410-975-0600