For some homeowners, a house is a canvas
Published: Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 11:55 a.m.
It's hard to miss the enormous 20-foot-wide American flag on the side of Richard Ormbrek's home. Comprised of around 180 tiles painted with scenes of Americana against a background of red and white stripes, the flag pops from the orange cedar shingles with traffic-stopping audacity.
This is actually the second major art project that Ormbrek has put on the house he shares with brother-in-law Bruce Edenso. The first — a traditional Haida Indian totem house design that covered the entire side of the home — was painted in 1975 and made the house something of a local landmark.
Neighbors gaped as the house was transformed, but only one seemed to mind, fearing it would bring down property values. So far, it seems, the Totem House has neither driven down property values in one of Seattle's hottest neighborhoods, nor affected the resale value of the home itself.
“I get offers every week to buy my home,” says Ormbrek. “Of course I'm not planning on selling the house — it's a very special place.”
Keith Wong, an agent in San Gabriel, Calif., for the national real-estate brokerage Redfin says a home's price and location are more important than aesthetics in tight markets.
“We educate our clients to look past cosmetics,” says Wong. “If a house has good bones, it has lots of potential.”
For those considering a creative makeover to their home, remember it's a fine line between special and tacky, Wong advises. And consider how long you'll be staying there.
“If you're planning on selling your home anytime soon, it's best to stick to cosmetics and keep with the characteristics of the neighborhood architecturally,” he says.
Jay Pennington of New Orleans put a twist on this suggestion when he offered his yard to host a year-long musical art installation. The double lot he purchased in 2007 came with a dilapidated, roughly 250-year-old Creole cottage on the property, which Pennington wanted to use in a creative way befitting the spirit of New Orleans.
A DJ, performer and artist manager who also goes by the name Rusty Lazer, Pennington is steeped in the art world. Pennington, along with Brooklyn-based street artist Swoon and New Orleans Airlift Co-Director Delaney Martin, came up with the idea of a musical village made from the salvaged remains of the cottage.
After obtaining city permits, Martin and artist Taylor Lee Shepherd paired artists with builders to create a lot-size shantytown with nine shacks that wheezed, thrummed and plinked as fully functioning instruments.
“It's New Orleans — people love music here,” says Pennington.
Performances of “The Music Box,” as the project was called, drew 15,000 visitors and a host of performers who played the instrumental buildings. It ended in May 2011 after four months of staggered performances. Most of it was dismantled and the pieces stored to be used in a permanent musical building known as Dithyrambalina.
Pennington still shares his property with the project's art director, Eliza Zeitlin, who lives in the permanent structure she built for the project — along with her menagerie of 30 animals.
“My house will never be just my house again,” says Pennington. “But I love that.”