Facing the Blankness
Four homeowners make the most of unusual spaces
Photography Roland Lane
Roswitha Boss’ iron collection spans centuries, but her display is thoroughly modern and elegantly simple.
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For artists, the blank canvas can inspire both genius and dread. Ditto the blank page for writers. For the ambitious home decorator, a blank wall is no less daunting.
When a wall has its own idiosyncrasies, it becomes a blank canvas with needs. Simply filling space with pretty colors isn’t enough, and the project becomes all the more challenging.
We found four Valley homeowners whose unique and creative approaches to the blank walls, empty corners and lonely spaces in their homes inspire us to never be afraid.
The Iron Wall
Roswitha and Don Boss had an artwork quandary: keep the painting or pay for their son’s college tuition. The Ketchum architect and his wife made the tough call: they returned the art (it was hanging on-approval) and invested in higher education instead.
Financially, it was the perfect fix. But for the largest wall in their East Fork home’s living room, a more glaring problem followed. Facing blankness, Roswitha awaited inspiration.
One summer afternoon, following a well-lubricated soiree, she was struck by something like genius.
“I had three margaritas, about a dozen old irons and a funny idea for what to do with them,” she said.
Rewind nearly a half-century, to the day when Roswitha’s grandmother, who lived in a small village outside Düsseldorf, gave her young granddaughter a cherished antique iron. Roswitha packed the unusual heirloom in her suitcase, bound for America. The collection had begun.
Fast-forward to her adult life in the mountains of central Idaho—zoom past the haggling in dusty Mexican flea markets, the traveling antique shows in Germany and the American West, the increasingly predictable gifts from her children—and Roswitha’s collection had grown to more than two-dozen antique irons.
Only one had the benefit of an electrical cord: the early-1940s Steam-o-Matic. The rest transport us to simpler, harder times. For centuries, ironing involved nothing more than applying a heavy, hot and smooth object to wrinkled fabric (the original hot stone massage).
Roswitha’s wall includes a couple of forged metal irons. These weighty devices—if you can call them that—top out at more than twenty pounds. Still others are mysteriously empty—these would be loaded with fire-heated steel slugs, keeping the iron base free and clear of soot and ash. There’s a skinny iron for sleeves; a fluted iron for pleats or accordion collars; and two blue enamel Coleman fuel irons with little appendage kettles heated by kerosene or natural gas.
The collection is as good as any museum curator’s, and for the Bosses’ guests, far more interesting than the television— that noisy box on the other, lesser wall. >>>