On May 7, 2016, 11 Austin homeowners opened their doors for Weird Homes Tour visitors. Tour-goers wandered through curious dwellings full of art, thoughtful design and decorative oddities. In its third year, Weird Homes Tour donated a portion of proceeds to Foundation Communities, a local nonprofit that provides affordable housing.
If you weren’t able to attend Austin Weird Homes Tour this year, become a virtual tourist through this inside look at six homes on this year’s unique tour.
1/ Barton Hills Art Oasis
This Barton Hills home, which was once a French daycare/school, is filled with sturdy metal sculptures and smooth wooden furniture created by Valerie Chaussonet and her husband, respectively. The house feels inviting and alive with bright and variegated colors on the walls and ceiling, and books lining every shelf where art wasn’t already perched.
When I asked if I could take a photograph of her, Chaussonet posed with a piece from her Japanese series of metal sculptures that she started four years ago. This work was inspired by a prominent style of art in 17th-19th century Japan, called ukiyo-e. The female subject herself was derived from Sedna, the Inuit goddess of the sea. As an anthropologist, Chaussonet has a beautiful way of entwining culturally-significant images.
Visit her website for more information on her sculptures and paintings.
2/ The Village of the Witch
In a backyard in South Austin’s Garrison Park, a couple of Airstream trailers, a “guard house,” a red barn and acrobatic performances awaited Weird Homes Tour visitors.
The red barn houses Jessica Wagner’s art studio and magic table, as she is both an artist and practicing witch. During the tour, she asked participants to write a wish on a small piece of paper that she will tie to the “Wish Tree.” She intends to have a burning at the base of the tree during the next full moon to help the dreams come to fruition.
Next to the barn is a small building where Mary Byrd practices Thai massage and meditation. She lives in the main house, but confesses to sleeping in this area from time to time. It’s so peaceful and comforting that it’s easy to understand why.
3/ The Collectors
The owners of Uncommon Objects have lived in their Travis Heights bungalow for 23 years. Like their beloved South Congress store, their home holds ever-changing collections, often organized by shape and color. Walking up to the house, I noticed many interesting spherical knickknacks. These orbs can be found throughout the house, as well, like a game of “I Spy.”
Perhaps the most striking collection in the house is the wall dedicated to handmade Christmas ornaments made by the owners’ friends over the past 30 years. I asked Steve Wiman whether a particular ornament stood out to him that day. After taking a moment to look over a collection he deeply appreciates, he showed me a single leaf that had been sewn and “mended.” This reflected a theme of good health the year his wife suffered from a stroke.
“I love what Professor Dumpster is doing with Kasita! It’s a very cool look and feel,” Weird Homes Tour creator David Neff told me after I asked him which odd home he’d move into.
Kasita offers a glimpse of what future urban life could look like. This particular unit is 270 square feet, but a new prototype will be a bit larger. The idea is extraordinary and exciting: Kasita owners will be able to move their tiny homes to major cities around the United States by choosing a city in an app and getting plugged right into the grid.
5/ Barbara’s Bird Cage
Barbara Irwin’s home in Upper Boggy Creek holds an incredible amount of thoughtful found-object art that she has created throughout the years. Her work is organized by series like “The Towers of Power,” “In the Garden” and “Confinement.”
The series “Mirror Mirror” began after Irwin realized she had a large collection of mirrors. She sees the symbolism of reflection of self and space, but also notes that mirrors can be seen as mysterious objects. She shared that her personal relationship with mirrors isn’t particularly comfortable. But she appreciates that they demand the viewer deal with the absolute present instead of hiding in the past or waiting on the future.
Visit Irwin’s website for more artwork.
6/ Riggins’ Cabinet of Curiosities
Owners Cathy and Michael DeYoung bought their home after the filming of “Friday Night Lights” had ended. They had no idea their house belonged to the character of Tim Riggins on the show and would therefore be continuously visited by fans of the show even five years after it ended.
Since the show, this abode has taken on a new life as a home for skulls, blood splatter wallpaper, a WWII surgical table and even grenades. This collection felt charming and surprisingly welcoming, as Cathy DeYoung offered details on every object. She worked for the Los Angeles Police Department for seven years and processed over six thousand crime scenes as a fingerprint expert. She even inspired the “NCIS” character, Abby Sciuto.
Check out DeYoung’s book “Life in the Trenches: A Retrospective” to read about her life as a crime scene investigator.
So Much More to Austin Weird Homes Tour
“We had more homes than we’ve ever had before, and I think the quality was amazing. We also had great people helping out.” I spoke to David Neff after the event, and he was elated with the successful day.
These photos only gloss the surface of the rich lives that inhabit these six weird homes. Each homeowner is a kind and fascinating individual who helps make Austin the vibrant city we love.
@madameklm wants to know:
What was your favorite home on this year’s tour?