If your apartment were a blank canvas, how would you orchestrate your space? Apryl Miller and the apartment she shares with her two daughters will have you seeing far beyond limitations of design or modernity. She gave me a room by room tour of the Upper East Side apartment that sparked an entire artistic practice. Miller embraced her creativity in the veins of fashion, jewelry, and even ‘pillows,’ but struggled to accentuate a voice that “couldn’t be funneled.” Her four bedroom home commands meticulous attention. It is a sun-lit refuge for every color of the rainbow. Miller was empowered by improvisation and invited her children to contribute to the FrankenHaus as well.
The technicolor haven acknowledges the world through unmasked windows whereas a hushed white rectangle, the only mention of the color in the house, exists in her studio. The completion of the space sprouted a multi-media practice that had her collaborating with Muffinhead recently while tending to the chair museum in her dining room. After wrangling form and dispelling pure function, Miller provided some advice to weather the trials and tribulations of creative assumptions, craft, and evolution.
MilkMade: Tell me about the birth of this apartment.
Apryl Miller: The whole thing was a very organic process and there were hardly any plans. I don’t actually remember where it started. From the time we started the demolition to the time we moved in was a year and a half, then we moved in and it wasn’t done yet. As I went on, more ideas came! I made everything at the same level and never retreated. There may be a room with a lot of things in it but you don’t necessarily see everything at once. I come from a DIY family with the mantra that if you wanted or needed something, you could make it. We would make bread all the time, dip candles, make Christmas and Halloween cards, stuff like that. If I hadn’t ever had children I wouldn’t have become an artist because I wouldn’t have rediscovered that in myself. This house was a white canvas: I needed furniture so I made furniture. It’s an exploration that never stops, an endless conversation. It’s always makes you think about personal expression and adding meaning to an environment.
MM: How regularly do you integrate new objects into the space?
AM: I bring things in but I don’t hang a lot of things on the walls. I like to go to flea markets and thrift stores, and stumbling upon objects still happens but I don’t like to buy things to fill my house. I don’t do that.
MM: So each room is a completely encapsulated work, correct?
AM: I realized over time that I really did make a big installation. In all my closets, for example, the interior paint is different from the exterior paint even if it’s as simple as being a different color. A lot of them have actual patterns inside. No two surfaces in the house are the same, be it floor or countertop. I didn’t go to art school and didn’t have the right language to describe it, so I just learned as I went along. We’ve been here for 12 years, and I didn’t really understand what I did initially.
MM: Has your creativity always functioned so spontaneously? You wouldn’t rather sit for a few hours and think over the next move?
AM: Yeah, it’s just there. I’m not always in control of what happens in the creative process. My story is like that of a folk artist, who often doesn’t come to their work until they’re much older. I didn’t go to art school, I couldn’t draw, I wasn’t an “artist.”
MM: Were there any particular themes for the rooms?
AM: Only one room, the fish bathroom, has a theme because I’m not really into themes. You get tired of themes and then have to throw the whole thing out, it’s not fluid enough. It’s about textures, colors, patterns, and putting things together that don’t belong. I don’t seek harmony or beauty. I’m looking for things that are just wrong together, but when they’re put together they work. I have this backwards, in a sense, process when I’m trying to figure out how to do something: I’ll sit down and I’ll start with the no’s. So with the house, for example, I made a list and I said don’t give me black and white, stone, or natural wood. I want color.
MM: Tell me a bit about your recent work.
AM: I’m reworking a lot of my older work because I want to make sure it is saying what I want it to say. It’s about being in a universal state of imperfection and the fact that we are all bound together by that. I had no idea that all this stuff was percolating inside of me. I’ve been writing poetry since I was in my 20s, and now that writing is attached to the visual work. I’ve been making these collages with yellow strips made from one birthday invitation for a long time, just obsessively. This is very representative of my most current work. It’s about human relationships, but I still want there to be a mystery there. I am not a furniture designer, but it’s part of my artistic output as well. I’m looking for what I call ‘the teeter.’ The pieces of furniture I do are art and furniture, but I keep it going by not knighting it as either. They’re sculptures masquerading as furniture. I couldn’t flatten one side or the other side because the truth is, I am a teeter. It’s about creating a question mark and leaving the question mark there. That’s where I sit.
MM: What inspires you?
AM: I went to Paris once when I was working on the house years ago and was pretty inspired by the swirly curvilinear lines, that was visually exciting. Inspiration could hit anywhere, though. I like dimensionality, interesting shapes…I always want to see something I’ve never seen before. That’s what I’m looking for.
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