Tulsa artists Rob and Melissa Key were drawn to Tulsa for different reasons, but both found appreciation for their media in the city.
Melissa is a native of New Orleans, where she enjoyed a thriving career as a contemporary artist and freelance photographer. Katrina’s devastating aftermath prompted Melissa to move to Tulsa.
Rob, a native of Oilton, Okla., worked on the East Coast in the aviation industry, where he mastered his welding skills. The tumultuous devastation of Sept. 11 prompted his move to West Palm Beach, Fla., for five years, designing and producing metal art for multi-million-dollar homes.
“I moved to Tulsa in 2005 because I thought Tulsa needed a good iron shop. I barely had a business card,” Rob says, laughing. “My business grew by word of mouth.”
Today, his metal art company employs 15 people.
Rob and Melissa met through an online dating site and forged a friendship. They married a decade ago and now share their home with their 8-year-old son, Finn.
So what happens when two highly creative and artistic people merge their multiple talents to build a contemporary home?
“I’m a right-brain abstract artist, and he’s artsy, too. We are always talking about art and ideas,” Melissa says.
“My ideas come from everywhere,” Rob laughs. “Once an idea is born, it becomes a reality, almost overnight.”
Melissa wanted a home that echoed her love for New Orleans. Rob wanted a showcase for his exquisite metal art, including doorways and staircases, patio swings and sculptures.
The result is a 4,400-square-foot, two-story, dramatic home that has architectural whispers of old New Orleans mansions.
Melissa loves white, so white walls and floor-to-ceiling white draperies are contrasted with sleek, black wrought-iron railings and a center staircase, designed and built by Rob. White walls provide an ideal backdrop for Melissa’s larger-than-life abstract paintings, many with gold leaf traces.
“The seasons change my color palette,” she says. “I like different colors, and my art is a reflection of how my surroundings inspire me. Light and sunshine make me happy, so we are always opening doors to the outside.”
Twelve-foot ceilings and 10-foot interior panel doors, hand-crafted from cypress wood harvested from New Orleans swamps, provide a dramatic feel to the home.
“Originally, pocket doors in New Orleans mansions were left ‘naked,’ so the wood grain was evident,” Rob explains.
Oak wood flooring is arranged in a chevron pattern, which is mimicked in the fireplace interior.
For the Keys, the kitchen is the heart of the home. An enormous island of Italian Carrera marble is the centerpiece.
“I love to cook. It’s where everyone gathers,” Melissa notes. “The countertop is similar to those in New Orleans homes. The ladies there always made their pralines on a marble slab.”
Metal bar stools, crafted by Rob, line two sides of the island. Covered in white Icelandic sheep skin, they add texture to the setting.
The sumptuous patio beckons from every room. The pure white of the outdoor area with its pool and white Carrera border, white brick fireplace, covered pavilion and open seating area, reflects the couple’s talent for superb design.
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