Mondrian would like the bathroom Dutch painter's style is one of many gracing graphic artist's house


Graphic artist JoAnne Cooper brings her work home -- literally.

With oil crayons, she has sketched a Spanish border over an archway she designed. In pencil, she's etched an intricate Southwestern motif on the black marble of her fireplace.

But perhaps nowhere is this more clear than in her second-floor bath, which gives new meaning to the words "clean lines" -- it's a modernist masterpiece of sorts in the manner of Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter.

The inspiration came from a game she was designing three years ago called "Mondoes," devised by former Enoch Pratt librarian William Forshaw. It's a mathematical card game using colors and fractions. (You may have seen the tiny blue ads -- "It's ADDictive" -- in the New Yorker this month.)

The game's name reminded her of the turn-of-the-century painter and his famed lines, his primary color scheme of blue, black, yellow and white, and his fascination with abstraction. Mondrian was creating his works about the time the 1901-vintage house was being built, and the style seemed perfectly suited not only to her work on the game's design, but to another project at home: her bathroom.

A comparatively lifeless space in an otherwise wonderfully eclectic house, the bathroom needed a little jazzing up and Mondrian saved the day in the tile designs. Now it's just the most curious piece in the playful puzzle of the Tuxedo Park home she has shared since 1987 with husband Joe Wingard, and their cats, Tyler and Tigger.

An eccentric contractor built the house as his own, in the neighborhood on the east side of Roland Avenue, using the extra materials from other projects -- and some maddening inconsistencies are the result. "There's not one plumb level in this home," she declares.

The assortment of proportions and styles in the three-story stucco home is unusual -- somewhat Spanish, somewhat Victorian, spread around some 2,400 square feet, but it was an unusually good fit for the couple's needs.

JoAnne Cooper, owner of CooperWingard Design, needed a studio, and her husband, the president of the local metal stamping firm Wingard & Co. and a windsurfer by avocation, needed ground-level storage for his extensive equipment.

The eclectic house fits the bill on both counts, but transforming it into a suitable living space took some time: The previous owners had eight children, plus a grandmother and two cousins who called the house home at one point or another. "It was really beat up," she said.

She said the early years of renovation seemed to go slowly. "Stripping the [lead] paint, then fixing the wood, then priming and painting every door, every window molding, I mean even baseboards everything, everything, everything plumbing, heating, electrical."

Two bedrooms on the small upper floor became her studio, while the four bedrooms on the second floor became two -- and an office. Closet space was created where little or none had existed before.

The years of effort have clearly paid off handsomely, but there's no rest for the renovator. "If I won Lotto, I would buy another old house and fix it up. I love it I put love into it. I care. I care about what type of doorknob is going into the door. That's why it's not up yet," she laughs.

Besides, design puzzles remain. The home is extremely close to its neighbor -- so close, in fact, that Bell Atlantic of New Jersey chose the site to film an advertisement dramatizing the logistics of a new area code. A person in the old code leans out of a window and chats on the phone with the neighbor in the new code, inches away.

To address this problem indoors, she's added louvered shutters, softening the view and bathing the foyer in a golden slatted light.

Outside, she's added a large bamboo plant by the border, adding both interest and airiness. "I'm not done," she says with something close to finality.

Pub Date: 12/22/96

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