When Norman Cohn purchased his Mercer Island home in 2009, he had sold his business in Las Vegas and was looking for an area that he and his two, school-age sons could enjoy as they got older.
Cohn was drawn to the lifestyle and environment of the Eastside, but there was just one problem: his new house. “Everything was brown. It was so ugly!” he says of the home’s original beige interior. It wasn’t until he was out to dinner a few years later, when Cohn walked into the now closed Spanish restaurant Aragona downtown, that he discovered how he could integrate color into his home. “One of the pillars had this incredible mosaic on it,” he says, “and I thought I could do that with this house…get local artists to design elements throughout it.”
There are 15 shades of blue glass used just to create the trees. PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Crook
Cohn tracked down the designer of that restaurant pillar—mosaic artist Kate Jessup—and commissioned her to create a mosaic for his dining room. “He had really strong color preferences and showed me a beautiful image of a skyline in Greece,” Jessup says. “That incredible blue sky with a white dome…he just wanted to bring all of those colors in. Otherwise, I got to go crazy from there in the space.”
What’s crazy is the amount of detail in Jessup’s roughly 100-square-foot, floor-to-ceiling composition, which boasts 15 shades of blue glass in the trees alone. Hand-cutting each piece of stained glass, Jessup carefully crafted the Mediterranean-inspired landscape as an extension of the natural environment outside the dining room windows. The lower edges of the windows match the exterior horizon line outside, with the mosaic culminating in what Jessup refers to as a “Rorschach sunrise” in the northeast corner of the room.
“It’s this symmetrical thing where, if these windows weren’t here, there would be this repeated pattern with the sky reflected in the water,” she says. “I wanted this to be the focal point with all the gold dispersing out where the sunrise happens.”
Mosaic artist Jessup hand gilded each piece of glass with gold leaf to create the mosaic's "Rorschach sunrise" in the northeast corner of the room. PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Crook
After three months and thousands of pieces of cut glass, Jessup’s design has given Cohn the pop of color he was craving. “This really is our favorite place to be,” he says. “We’ll hang out in here, actually talk instead of just watching TV. It’s where we get away from everything.”
Jessup also created the backsplash over Mercer Island homeowner Norman Cohn's kitchen stove, a reinterpreted design based on a poster Cohn purchased while living in the South of France. PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Crook