When financial planner Gay Gonzalez met furniture designer Richard Chill Cott not long after relocating from New Jersey to Apollo Beach, she had an unfurnished home and an untapped devotion to fine woodworking. After purchasing one of Chill Cott's pieces from South Shore Gallery — a sideboard handcrafted from honey-colored wood — she was hooked. More investments followed, until Gonzalez owned more than a dozen pieces made by the artist.
Then came the pièce de résistance: Gonzalez, who works at home, gave Chill Cott carte blanche to design her spacious office, a place clients often visit. Call it a leap of faith.
"I knew I liked his style," Gonzalez says.
Now, nearly everything in the room — save computer components and paperwork — has been crafted by Chill Cott, who works in partnership with designer Diego Duran as ChillCott Group, or by one of four other Bay area artists whose help he enlisted to create a total aesthetic environment that foregrounds natural materials and textures. A broad table made of Honduras mahogany (used by Gonzalez as a desk) features a square recess set off-center; inside sits a stained glass, iron and wood sculpture of a bonsai tree by artist Sandy Z. Duran.
Surrounding the desk, Chill Cott constructed wood and laminated rice paper cabinets to provide storage, conceal clutter and soften bright light from the room's three windows. Behind wooden doors, Gonzalez reveals typical office detritus — the dreaded tangle of computer cables and accessories — that clients never see. Instead, an effect of Zen-like calm is furthered by Wesley Allen's ceramic sake set (displayed atop a Chill Cott table made of cherry and maple burl), Robin Bowman's paper-and-fabric tableau of red-crowned cranes, and Virgina Spalter's glass platter inscribed with Chinese characters.
"Our goal is to work together and create a beautiful room created entirely by artists," Chill Cott says. The collaboration was so successful that St. Petersburg's Florida Craftsmen Gallery featured the room's furnishings in an exhibition last year.
What do Gonzalez's clients say? One word: "Wow."