About Contra Designs

I founded Contra Designs in 2015 after hearing people gush over my hand painted countertop and Herman Miller chairs, which had been sitting in the lobby of my husband's business for several months. I always thought they were awesome (of course), but it took those extra votes of confidence to make me realize just how special they were. 

The name Contra Designs arose from my love of contrast and contradictions, which shows in my pieces. Bright colors are offset with black and white patterns, realistic is blended with graphic, and each element stands out on its own while at the same time creating balance and harmony together in the piece as a whole.

I founded Contra Designs in 2015 after hearing people gush over my hand painted countertop and Herman Miller chairs, which had been sitting in the lobby of my husband's business for several months. I always thought they were awesome (of course), but it took those extra votes of confidence to make me realize just how special they were. 

The name Contra Designs arose from my love of contrast and contradictions, which shows in my pieces. Bright colors are offset with black and white patterns, realistic is blended with graphic, and each element stands out on its own while at the same time creating balance and harmony together in the piece as a whole.

ArtprizeTable_Denna.jpg

My Background

My artistic journey began when I was a little girl with flowers. I knew every flower in my neighborhood by season and would pick them and bring them home to my mother. She put an abrupt end to it when I brought home all of the branches from the neighbor’s pussy willow tree, but that didn't stop me from seeking them out and staring at them, trying to copy their unique shapes and colors onto paper. As I began to study famous paintings–Monets, Renoirs, Ertés, or those of Mary Engelbreit and Larua Cornell–I found inspiration to try new techniques with every new discovery. Like many artists, I was encouraged to pursue a "more sensible" career path, and temporarily abandoned my art for business school.

After college, (better known as the first round) I started taking watercolor classes. At the time, I was working as a sales rep., but when I kept canceling appointments to stay home and paint, my sales career quickly ended. I enrolled in Kendall College of Art and Design, and was subsequently accepted into a prestigious masters program at Syracuse University for Illustration with an emphasis in fashion illustration. After I graduated, I taught at Kendall for two years. Throughout my adult life, I have worked diligently to master my craft and style, developing a deep appreciation for trying new combinations of textures, colors and patterns. 

My artwork today is a combination of many artistic influences, along with my own eclectic-folk style. Growing up in West Michigan, the office furniture capital of the U.S., probably played a role in my draw to using furniture as a medium. Paper and paint just wasn’t making the cut. As I was out shopping one day, I stumbled across a raw wood countertop. I immediately fell in love, reveling in every contour and "flaw" in the wood. The texture inspired me. So, I took it home, and began sketching and painting furiously, using the natural grain of the wood to influence the layout and design of the piece. After hours of labor and deliberation, it was finished. One of the most difficult things for me was entrusting another person to seal with a top coat. I was relieved when I picked up the flawless finished piece, and proudly displayed it in the heart of my home: the kitchen island.

When we moved to a new home last year, we converted the countertop into our kitchen table. It continues to garner awed compliments from every visitor who comes to call, and always sparks pleasant conversation. It is a wonderful experience that I wish to share with others through the personalized pieces I create for their homes. Every piece I create is unique, and sealed to protect every brush stroke. I take special care to ensure the highest level of quality and imagery on every project. Being a certified Holy Fire Reiki Master, each piece comes imbued with a unique fingerprint of healing reiki energy, creating a center for positivity and balance. 

My studio is located in Grand Haven, Michigan where I live with my husband of 30 years. I have two grown children and one grandson who all live in Colorado. I can be seen frequently traveling with my furry companion Penne (also known affectionately as Beans).

Fun Facts About Denna

  • Hearts are my true obsession (if you couldn't tell).
  • I am a published author of an illustrated children's book.
  • I've been a vegetarian for over 45 years, except for my 2 year pilgrimage toward bacon.
  • Favorite past times include visiting art museums, garden nurseries and new grocery stores.
  • I also love tandem biking with my husband, and spending face time (real or digital) with family.
  • My favorite flower is a tulip because it reminds me of my Dutch heritage.
  • My favorite colors are purple, orange and blue.
  • We name all of our dogs after pastas (such as Penne, who stared in one of my photoshoots).