If you have ever taken a walk down Gay Street in Knoxville, Tennessee, you have probably noticed the larger than life mural of Elvis. We had the opportunity to sit down with the artist, Mark Burns, and his wife Lorraine to talk with them about downtown dwelling and what home means to them.
Mark and Lorraine always told themselves that once the kids grew up and the dog moved along, they would make the move to downtown living. Three years ago they jumped on the opportunity and haven’t looked back. Lorraine says they have never regretted the move.
When we walked into the Burns home we immediately felt at ease. No doubt a combination of easy going personalities and a tasteful yet casual atmosphere create that feeling.
We began our conversation wondering what their decorating process looks like. We so appreciated Lorraine’s practicality when she started off talking about making wise purchases and not jumping on the trends. Lorraine describes their style as more traditional. With Mark’s art thrown into the mix, the space takes on a personality of it’s own. The Burns’ loft has tons of beautiful exposed brick with large windows giving them a great eastern view. Lorraine pointed out several pieces in their home that have been passed down from multiple generations of family. “Changing up your accessories and rearranging furniture makes it easier to feel like you have freshened up your space without going out and spending tons of money on new things.”
One of the things the Burns love most about downtown living is the community they have found. They love being able to walk out the door and run into friends. The Burns specifically love the diverse group of people that live in their building: The Phoenix. Mark and Lorraine spoke of spontaneous “porch parties” where residents congregate on the patio right outside the lobby on Gay Street. Mark describes downtown living as a different kind of social opportunity. “Lorraine and I will take a few drinks down to the patio and before you know it, 8 more people have joined us.”
Mark uses the patio space as more than a social gathering spot, he frequently sets up shop to paint or sketch on the patio in the open air. In late high school, Mark was offered both a football and an art scholarship to the University of Tennessee. Mark accepted the football scholarship and majored in art. After an illustrating job in Atlanta and some freelance work, Mark found that he preferred the freedom of making art on his own time and picking his own subjects. He has made art for his own enjoyment rather than as his full time job for the past several years. Mark has gravitated towards pop art for as long as he can remember. He commented that he started out airbrushing t shirts the night before the Worlds Fair opened in Knoxville and over the next several weeks and months became quite accomplished. After putting art away for many years, he has, in more recent years been enjoying creating art for the public. “The Elvis mural really seemed to connect with people. I love seeing people stop to take pictures with the mural. Outside art is communal, it brings people together. My art has always been about “speaking community”. There has always been a debate about the purpose of art. Many people think art is about making a statement but to me, I just love hearing the conversation that art sparks. I don’t care about making a statement, I just paint what I like and watch how it impacts people differently.”
In the same way that Mark creates art, we love the idea of creating a home that you like, and not being concerned with making some kind of statement. If you love the space you live in every day, you’ve created a home that is rightfully a work of art.