The first thing you notice are the rocks — thousands of them — forming intricate mosaics on walls, doors and even stair risers.
“The house is highly textured,” said artist/homeowner Lauri Svedberg, in an understatement if there ever was one. “Often I’d see a material, fall in love, and think, ‘I’ve got to use it.’ ’’
Armed with boundless energy, creativity and a glue gun, Svedberg transformed her “average box” of a house into a fantasyland that could serve as the backdrop for a music video, theatrical production or a really cool party.
Rocks aren’t her only medium. She painted one room to evoke a birch forest, and another to suggest a canopied tent of leopard, zebra and cheetah-print draperies. “I love animals so much; I love the patterns of their fur,” she said.
She’s proudest of her mosaic doorway arch made of semiprecious stones, minerals and colorful rocks collected during her travels. The arch frames a view of an eye-catching window — made of 77 circles of glass.
When Svedberg had to replace a window in the 1912 house, she discovered that new windows wouldn’t fit the opening. “I couldn’t just go to Menard’s,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘I betcha I could build a window.’ ” So she did, using rows of Mason jars framed by even more rocks, to create a Casablanca-meets-Flintstones effect.
Now after 35 years of living and creating in her residential gallery, the retired art and philosophy teacher is moving on, to a trailer in Palm Springs, where the desert climate is kinder to her arthritis.
But how do you price, market and sell a home that’s also an art installation?
“There are no comps,” Svedberg said, because there are no comparable properties.
And the standard advice, to repaint in neutral colors, wouldn’t turn Svedberg’s house into a plain-vanilla listing. “I don’t think this place would look good painted white,” she said. ‘You couldn’t just paint it white and have it look like an uber-modern Ikea house.”
It’s going to take a special buyer, said listing agent Michael Gacek of Edina Realty, who plans to use social media, location marketing and a grass-roots campaign to reach a targeted audience.
“I’ve sold some interesting homes in my day, and this is high on the list, as far as interesting,” he said. “It’s definitely a head-turner — well-known in the neighborhood and in the artist community. It’s over the top, and I’m going to sell over the top.”
Art and taprooms
The home’s location in the Waite Park neighborhood of northeast Minneapolis is a plus. Northeast was recently named “Best Arts District” in the country, according to a USA Today readers’ poll; that corner of the city is already a destination for artisans, hipsters and others with a taste for the distinctive and offbeat.
“Northeast is known for arts and taprooms right now,” noted Gacek, a lifelong resident. “I can see some of the people I’ve met in the ’hood living there. This is the epitome of an artsy Nordeast house — this is art to the max.”
Although Svedberg’s rock-encrusted decor is eccentric, the property has many mainstream amenities, Gacek noted. It sits on a generous corner lot that Svedberg has landscaped into terraced gardens of low-maintenance perennials and rustic cobblestones salvaged from old streets of Minneapolis. There’s also an attached tuck-under garage, a coveted feature in older urban neighborhoods.
One end of the living room has a solarium window that floods the space with light. Svedberg also added a large studio, a second-floor octagonal room with windows all around, offering a panoramic view of the neighborhood.
“It’s beautiful,” said Gacek, although the studio’s 764 square feet can’t be included in the home’s square footage because the room isn’t heated. (Officially, not counting the studio, the home offers 1,078 finished square feet.) It includes one bedroom and one bathroom, where Svedberg added a rock-wall shower beneath a skylight.
“I wanted the impression of taking a shower outside,” she said. She built the rock wall but not the shower’s mechanicals. “I don’t do plumbing or electrical — I leave that to the pros,” she said.
Svedberg, who also doesn’t cook, covered her kitchen cupboards, pantry and even appliances with rock mosaics.
“It’s hard to find the appliances under the rocks,” Gacek said, “But they’re all there, and they all work.”
Dabbling with wolves
Like many artists, Svedberg and her creative output have evolved over the years. For a while, every room had a different theme and color scheme, including an urban room, an outer-space room and a forest room.
Picasso had his blue period; Svedberg had her wolf period.
“There was a time when there was wolf stuff all over the house,” she said. The animal remains a motif on the exterior, represented on her garage door and a pair of life-size statues in her yard. “It’s known as ‘the Wolf House,’ and I’ve been known as ‘the Wolf Lady,’ ” she said.
But her home’s current artistic statement is its best, in her opinion. “This is my favorite incarnation because it’s seamless,” she said. “It’s textured mixed media in earth tones — nature with a twist.”
Svedberg loves the home she’s created. “If I could magically zap this down to Palm Springs, that would be ideal,” she said.
But she’s a realist. She knows that her masterpiece could become someone else’s do-over. The next owner might dismantle her work — or even tear the house down and start fresh.
“The logical part of me says, ‘Whoever buys it has the right to do with it what they want,’ ” she said. “But I would be a little nostalgic. My fondest hope is that someone will buy it and keep it alive. If I walked in here in five years and it was all pink and hearts and flowers, I’d probably throw up.”
Then again, if that’s their thing, she’d be the last one to cramp their style. “I really love it when people express themselves through their environment,” she said. “Even if someone likes pink. Go for it!”
Michael Gacek of Edina Realty has the listing, 612-781-1337, www.nemplshomes.com.