A LOOK AT LA BELLE ÉPOQUE

Alicia St. John has devoted her life to promoting artistic beauty and preserving historical sites, and she has the calluses and scars to prove it.

St. John did a four-part 15-foot mural installation titled “Views of Montecito” for the current owners of Arcady, the historic George Owen Knapp estate. She says she loves the challenge of restoring the historical residence while helping the owners pursue their own artistic vision for the estate. “As an artist, designer, conservator and supporter of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), protecting World Heritage sites, I am particularly interested in how modern life coexists with both natural and architecturally historical places,” St. John says. After completing the installations, she will continue to do further work on the estate.

In addition to her restorative work, St. John also has her own furniture line, La Belle Époque. The product line includes: custom headboards, armoires, screens, storage chests, wine bars, floor medallions, as well as ceiling and wall installations.

Although she is a classically trained artist, St. John doesn’t mind hard labor to create her furniture line. “I do all my own woodworking, finishing and painting,” she explains while showing her callused hands and a scar on her wrist.

Looking at St. John, it’s hard to imagine this petite, elegantly dressed woman endures harsh chemicals and wrestles with large pieces of wood to create her furniture, but she feels being “hands on” from start to finish enables her to have total control over the quality of her pieces.

Growing up, St. John knew early on that she wanted to be a professional artist. She says her inspiration came from “amazing adults” who matched her artistic ability, which was later guided by her professors at school. She graduated from the Otis Parsons Art Institute and then went on to Europe to fine-tune her restoration skills. She assisted in the restoration of convents and Italian frescoes. Her global travels inspired the creation of her five distinctive collections for La Belle Époque furniture line: Romantique, Venezia, Angelica, West Indies and Blue Nile.

Living in an area that appreciates the enhancement and restoration of architecture and design has fostered St. John’s freedom to practice her talents.

“Montecito is an incredible place of exquisite natural beauty and has always attracted great visionaries,” she says. “These men and women created the finest architecture and landscape design of their age, complementing, framing and protecting the natural surroundings. I am incredibly honored and blessed both to live and base my business here.”

St. John’s work can be seen on Friday, December 8 at the Light up the Night fundraiser at the Music Academy of the West benefiting Sarah House.

To view and learn more about St. John’s furniture line visit www.LaBelleEpoque.ws.