Celebrating the Unusual With HGTV's Home Strange Home
Step inside these remarkable homes to see how visionary homeowners lived out their dreams and fantasies in the offbeat homes they created — including Luna Parc in New Jersey, Casa Neverlandia in Austin and a spaceship house in L.A.
Luna Parc: Surrealist Sanctuary
When Beetlejuice dreams, chances are it looks a lot like Luna Parc. This fantasy-inspired home and "environmental sculpture park" located in a secluded section of rural New Jersey is the vision and creation of artist Ricky Boscarino. The color-saturated multistoried gingerbread mansion sits on five acres of lush woods and has been the artist’s home — and his life's work — since he purchased it in 1989. When Boscarino bought the property, the house was a plain, gray one-story building badly in need of repair. He set about painting the exterior in vibrant colors and then, gradually over the years, added multiple levels and elaborate additions. Boscarino describes his project as an art theme park and, in fact, the property was named after an Italian amusement park he visited as a youth.
Luna Parc is not just the artist's home. It is itself a perpetual artistic work-in-progress. The grand ballroom, the largest room in the house, serves as a gallery of Boscarino's works as well as a virtual museum of curios and oddities. The "chandelier" is made from objects found mostly on the property and extends through a floor opening into the cantina below.
Luna Parc: Kitchen Kitsch Taken to the Limit
Luna Parc's kitchen is another homage to the eclectic, sporting a wild assortment of colors, vintage kitchen items, lava lamps, skulls, skeletons, surfaces covered entirely in bottle caps and a wall treatment fashioned from more than 10,000 wine corks.
Luna Parc Loo: Form Follows Function
This bathroom in Luna Parc took more than five years to create and is another space that looks as if it could be straight out of a Tim Burton film. Covered in tile fragments — more than one million of them — the bath is a Gaudi-esque kaleidoscope of color. It's equipped with a freestanding shower as well as a urinal and bidet, and is described by Boscarino as "a monument to the body and its functions."
Luna Parc: Upstairs With Panache
A newer addition on the home, custom-built by Boscarino along with friends and relatives, includes this staircase with custom metalwork and a sunlit atrium that opens onto the artist's tile studio.
Luna Parc Studio: Seeds of Creativity
The tile studio's wall is covered in a mural that, according to the artist, represents the stages of birth and life, and alludes metaphorically to the artistic and creative process. The mural has been an ongoing project for more than six years.
Artist Ricky Boscarino stands outside his one-of-a-kind New Jersey home with Home Strange Home host Chuck Nice. "I would consider my home strange," says Boscarino, "and I would say that's its joy." His stated plan is to keep working on the house, as a singular and collective art piece, until he reaches age 106.
Ground Control to Major Tom
This unusual hillside home just off Mulholland Drive in Studio City, Calif. — known informally as "the spaceship house" — belongs to Hollywood voice-over actor Jess Harnell, the voice behind Roger Rabbit and Animaniacs' Wacko, among many others. Because of the home's visual resemblance to a spacecraft, passersby often mistake it for the home of neighbor (and erstwhile Starfleet captain) William Shatner.
The upstairs dining room in the spaceship house was decorated by Jess Harnell's girlfriend, Christine. It was designed to be romantic but still in keeping with the glam and rock motif found throughout the rest of the home. Key features include a cracked-glass tabletop and a silver and black rug made of tattered leather. Wall-mounted candles and custom lighting in hues of red, purple and, most especially, blue make for a visually striking display after the sun goes down.
Meet George Jetson ... and Meet the Beatles, and Batman, and Robin and ...
Among his many other pursuits, spaceship-house owner Jess Harnell is an incurable collector. His foyer doubles as a gallery of framed and autographed photos and animation art, while this "fun room" houses his collection of career mementos and ample evidence of a healthy pop-culture obsession. Among the rare pieces found in this treasure trove of memorabilia is the actual talking flute from Sid and Marty Kroft's iconic '60s Saturday-morning show, H.R. Pufnstuf.
Spaceship House: A Lunar Module With a View
Without doubt, the home's most famous feature is the overhanging living room. It's the focal point in the home's unique design and is from the mind of architect and builder Robert Harvey Oshatz. The contemporary American architect is known for his highly stylized homes characterized by floating and freeform structures, curved and organic shapes and sustainable green design. The home's living room was purposefully elevated to a height above the power lines and features a huge curvilinear window, thus offering a perfectly unobstructed view of the Studio City skyline and Hollywood Hills.
Spaceship House and Rock-Star Pool
A cool Hollywood pad would scarcely be complete without a suitably spectacular pool. The one in the backyard of the spaceship house features a stone surround, working waterfall and a cabana spacious enough to entertain owner Jess Harnell's band mates.
Jess and Christine strike a pose in the living room of their space-age home in L.A. In addition to being one of Hollywood's top voice actors, Jess Harnell is also vocalist in the band Rock Sugar, which he describes as "the world's first pop-metal mashup band." (The band does full metal renditions of Madonna and Journey songs.) "It just makes sense that I live in a house that defies explanation," says Harnell, "because I'm a cartoon rock star."
"But, Peter, how do we get to Neverland?"
Casa Neverlandia, nestled in a wooded area just south of downtown Austin, Texas, was designed and built by architect and artist James Talbot to be a place — like Peter Pan's fabled Neverland — where childhood never ends. The multilevel, eco-friendly cottage incorporates dozens of special touches created to suggest magic, play, dreams and fantasy. Before its radical conversion, the home started out as a dilapidated bungalow built in 1906.
Casa Neverlandia: Steadfastly Avoiding the Ordinary
The doorbell at Neverlandia is not the sort you might find at your local home store. More likely you might find it at Pee-Wee's Playhouse. It is, in fact, an assemblage of bells, tin pot lids and a playable xylophone. Visitors can compose their own doorbell ringtone right on the spot.
Multicolored and Multicultural
The side porch at Casa Neverlandia makes use of a combination of vivid colors along with an Eastern-inspired brick archway, glass blocks and a crimson-red porch swing.
Casa Neverlandia: Far Away From the Everyday
The second-story living space is dubbed "The Bali Room" and features a high-peaked ceiling and multiethnic accents and furnishings. This space gets used for everything from yoga to house concerts to a variation of Ping-Pong called "Zing Pong." The stair at the center of the space leads up to the master bedroom suite.
Casa Neverlandia: Fanciful Touches Everywhere
Just off the third-floor bedroom, the master bath carries through the bedroom's motifs of daring color combinations, intricate print tapestries — and tiger stripes.
I See Tree People
This tree face is just one of the little touches of whimsy waiting to be discovered around the grounds at Casa Neverlandia. Visitors will also discover a 100-year-old live oak tree, a 30-foot wooden tower connected to the house via swinging bridge and a firehouse-style pole for quickly getting from upstairs to down. The home's owners are also dedicated to the practices of green living. Apart from being a veritable funhouse for adults, their home also incorporates solar panels, onsite composting and the reuse of gray water for irrigating the plants and garden.
Casa Neverlandia: May You Stay Forever Young
Homeowners and perpetual dreamers Kaye and James Talbot stand outside their home, Casa Neverlandia. The Talbots, with their decidedly offbeat home, are doing their part to uphold their city's unofficial motto, "Keep Austin Weird."
Bruce Rosenbaum's home, located just south of Boston, is a place where the past meets the future in a uniquely visual way. Bruce and his wife Melanie bought this 1901 Victorian and wanted to decorate it in a style in keeping with its historical roots. They considered furnishing with antiques but opted for antique with a twist: steampunk.
Steampunk is an offbeat design style that draws on a sub-genre of science fiction. Visually it makes use of antiquated or early industrial imagery and machinery (steam engines, zeppelins, metal gears, pulleys, etc.) placed in a futuristic context. Need a reference point? Think Martin Scorsese's Hugo, Terry Gilliam's Brazil or those early illustrations of Martian machines from H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.
Old-Fashioned Modern Convenience
This one-time wood-burning oven was where the steampunk outfitting began for the Rosenbaum home. The late-1800s stove body is modernized with a glass stove cooktop and two ovens with electric heating elements. The control dials are housed inside what was once a receptacle for ashes.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
In the steampunk house, heat is provided in part through the use of this wood-burning stove. "My big belief," says Rosenbaum, "is that whatever you bring into the house should be fun, functional and beautiful. With steampunk design, that's the exact idea."
Perpetual Motion Machine
The monocycle, located in the steampunk library, is both an art piece and an exercise machine. The user sits on the bicycle seat and pedals, thus causing the outer structure to revolve.
This assemblage of objects is actually part of a computer workstation. Embellishments include an antique optical device known as ophthalmometer and a dental mannequin from the 1930s. "Bruce is a crazy guy," according to his wife Melanie. "He builds a lot of this stuff himself, but he also works with carpenters, plumbers, electricians — anybody else who can help him create the vision he has."
Rosenbaum's office was inspired by Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The fully functional computer workstation is built into a Victorian era pump organ. It incorporates an antique keyboard that conceals a built-in scanner, a web-cam housed in the body of an 1800s-vintage Brownie camera and audio speakers built into a Thomas Edison phonograph horn. "Steampunk is an art movement that's about this marrying of time periods," says Rosenbaum, "and repurposing and giving new life to objects — basically creating functional art."