When Naples artist Paul Arsenault asked interior designer Judith Liegeois if she’d consider opening a gallery on Third Street South, it didn’t take Liegeois long to jump at the chance as Arsenault’s lease ended.
“I thought I’d like it, even though I have a gallery just around the corner,” Liegeois says of Judith Liegeois Designs & Gallery, about a minute away on 12th Avenue South.
“At 12th Avenue South, we’re a destination location,” she says of the two-story brick building her longtime artist friend called “a million-dollar corner.” “Here, we’re open to people walking by, taking pictures and selfies. It’s tiny. It’s like a little jewel box.”
The sign on the window at Judith’s on Third, which opened in December at 1199 Third St. S., beckons passersby, calling it “A Gallery of Art & Curiosities.”
“Every day I have to clean the windows to get nose prints off,” Liegeois says.
The landlord had one caveat: She could not paint the dark, warm mahogany walls in the historic building. So Liegeois, whose other gallery is light and airy, found a way to open it up. She ripped out the low-hanging white acoustic-tile drop ceiling downstairs and painted the ceiling and ducts black, highlighting a striking white leaf chandelier by Naples artist Ed Koehler.
“Some people think white paint opens it up, but it doesn’t,” Liegeois says. “Black brings it up.”
The downstairs gallery is chock-full of the art for which Liegeois is known—organic, inspired by nature, such as Koehler’s pieces, and other unusual, one-of-a-kind, rustic and modern art. Liegeois grew up on New Zealand’s beaches, where she arranged shells and rocks that soon washed away, so it’s no surprise that her designs are influenced by nature—and change almost daily.
“We come from the Earth, and I felt if we included that in my shop design, it’ll make people happy,” she says. “It’s like a fun boutique that you’d find on the Left Bank of Paris.”
If you want to take it all in, there’s a plush seat next to the fireplace, or a loveseat near the front window with the artsy pillows Liegeois has made a signature style.
Upstairs, one artist-in-residence room features Naples natural artist Ran Adler, who uses trees, mahogany pods, leaves and other organic materials. He’s created a calm oasis; a warm, woodsy feel. “We just let Ran do what he wants,” Liegeois says. “The forest room will become more and more natural.”
Adler, who wrote contemplative thoughts on the walls, modeled it after the Mono-ha movement, a juxtaposition of natural and man-made. On one wall, Sufi poet Rumi’s words urge: “Sit quiet and listen for a voice that says, ‘Be more silent.’ As that happens, your soul starts to revive.”
“People walk into Ran’s room and say, ‘My heart is fluttering,’” says store manager Donna Solimene.
A back room features the artist of the month’s studio, where an artist paints as customers watch or chat, an interactive experience.
In a hallway, Naples artist Mike Browne’s abstract, layered Venetian plaster canvases provide calming, pale colors. “Most art canvases aren’t tactile. This is really tactile. You feel it and love it,” Liegeois says, running her fingers along smooth, wavy layers.
Another room features colorful pop art, while another offers a leather reading chair so customers can absorb the works of Naples artist Amy Brazil D’Amico, who is known for Swarovski crystal-studded animal portraits, and New York photographer Karen Shulman, who captures reflections of New York buildings against Bergdorf Goodman window displays. “It’s a meditative space. It’s quirky,” Liegeois says.
And as an homage to her longtime friend Arsenault, Liegeois devoted a gallery to his colorful, impressionist paintings.
Solimene, who started a Wednesday evening “Sip and Shop” once a month at the other gallery, also offers them at the smaller shop.
“It’s starting to be a meeting place,” Liegeois says. “People love to come and visit, sit and chat—more here than in the other showroom.”
She adds: “Be curious and come and visit.”