Home & Design July 30, 2008

Objects of Affection

Look around your home. Try to pick just one item you couldn’t—actually, you wouldn’t—do without. Maybe it’s a piece of family jewelry passed from one generation to the next and now to you. Or maybe it’s that rocking chair in the corner where you rocked your children to sleep. Maybe it’s just that piece on the wall you call art. For you, the object’s meaning isn’t just surface deep. Its significance may escape others—but you know better.


Becky Smith seeks intimate minimalism. In travels, she seeks the close-up, human-to-human connection. The scene through her camera’s viewfinder more often than not is a macro point of view. The art hanging from the walls of her north Ketchum home reveals the true minimalist inside.

In Smith’s worldwide travels, her camera leads the way. An occasional photographer for the Stanford University Travel Study Program, last fall Smith and her husband Pete traveled north to south down the western side of Africa. Smith’s bags are presently packed for Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

Smith’s love for photography started young with a gift from her father. “He stuck a Brownie in my hand when I was a little girl.” Now she’s never without a camera, but doesn’t like to consider herself a professional photographer. “A true photographer is seen through the lens,” she says.

Her Object

Think minimalist, simple. Brilliant reds and yellows: think Chinese and Tibetan. Josef Albers painted the small, square, modern painting that enjoys a place of distinction on Smith’s wall. “I have lived with this piece for a long time. I have always wanted it around me,” she says. “It changes every time I look at it.”

The Smiths’ art collection has a simplistic aspect that influences her photography. It’s a kind of minimalist art that leads her into the subject, allowing her a closer look. “Looking at this type of art for 40 years has trained the way I look through the camera.”

Her eye wanders to another of their paintings. The reductive view takes in just the side of a highway and a guardrail. The perspective appeals to her sense of intimate composition. “My art collection has trained my eye to take pictures.”





Bruce Martin strives for function in his design. If a room does not invite you to sit down and enjoy, he’s failed to do his job. Still, each room is a composition, with a hundred possible variations. And all are up for interpretation: everybody has an idea of what the room means to them.

Martin strives for a personal relationship between designer and client. “I have to know how they live their life and they have to trust me enough to give me their whole background,” he says. The goal of this alliance between designer and client is a functionally-designed home that is even better than the client imagined.

What do clients get when they hire Martin? “A professional designer that can do a professional job in all aspects of home design,” he assures.
Professional strengths? “Personality, conceptual and innovative design, creativity,” he says.

For Martin, being an interior designer for more than 27 years has helped to keep things in perspective. The important things in life are your health and the people you love, he says. No one dies because the dust skirt is missing.

Design surrounds us, Martin likes to point out. The mark of the designer’s hand can be seen everywhere. “There are designers for jewelry, automobiles and even cereal boxes.”

His Object

Because he lives vicariously through his clients, Martin doesn’t actually call the object of his affection his own. When he buys something he thinks his clients will like, Martin is also buying it because he loves it, too. “You find a piece that is a little bit you.”

Each piece Martin selects and places in a home helps satisfy his craving for exquisite things.

An item of desire could be an antique chest of drawers. Martin finds great joy using objects that have been around for five or six generations. The passage of time has imbued these objects with a life of their own. “I enjoy being around something that has been around.”




Santa Claus lives in Ketchum; his alias is Jack Williams. Need a miracle for proof of his Santa-ness? In the 20-plus years of listening to kids in the Wood River Valley tell him what they want for Christmas, Williams says he’s never been bit or peed on.

Don’t believe in Santa, you say? Well then you’re nearly alone in Ketchum—everyone else sure does, and Williams doesn’t cut his impeccably white beard after Oct. 15 so it’s just perfect come Christmas. A hearty, deep and joyous laugh cements the image.

Outside of the holiday season, Santa—uh, Williams—is a semi-retired professional photographer.

“You’re never retired from photography, for God’s sake,” he says. His favorite subject to shoot is landscapes. His most famous photograph is “Cowboy and Beer Can.”

Life as a photographer isn’t easy—you have to be creative on demand, he says. “It’s not all beer and pretzels.”

His Object

The first glance reveals little: just an oak door with a large oval window and simple brass hardware. Opened, the doorway leads to stairs and Williams’ warm and inviting abode near Warm Springs Creek and the lower timbered flanks of Bald Mountain.

If doors could speak of the past, this one would have a tale to tell. For a period of time, this door stood as the back entrance to Ketchum’s popular breakfast eatery, The Kneadery.

Restaurateur Mike Martin allowed Williams to display and sell his photographs early in his career on the back wall of the restaurant. In a way, the door was the entrance into what Williams refers to as his first studio.

Success was measured in the roll of bills Martin would hand him each week.

“The next day I would bring him more photos to display,” Williams says.

Years later, Williams would buy the door for $100 and have the piece of Ketchum tradition hung at the entrance to his home. Memories of The Kneadery, former owner Mike Martin and the entrance to Williams’ first studio are all wrapped up in one.


This article appears in the Spring 2007 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.