Thursday, August 25, 2011

Don't Lance Boyle Heights!

Who me?

Boyle Heights?! Why would anyone want to go to Boyle Heights?  By some accounts, Boyle Heights is a boil on the landscape of LA and should just be lanced once and for all!  I find that before undergoing any painful medical procedure, it is imperative to inspect "the Boyle" just a little bit closer to find the hidden gems in one of Los Angeles' great, old neighborhoods and determine its favorable qualities.  I'll make a list..."Great Things About Boyle Heights":  its proximity to Downtown LA, the freedom to paint one's house tangerine and pink without fear of outshining the neighbor's turquoise/fuschia color scheme, the ease of procuring cheesy-mayonnaise corn on the cob, and the home of wacky tacky wunderkinds Ben & Erika!

The happy homemakers

Never were there two bright, shining examples of wacky tacky as are found in Ben & Erika.  From the front porch right on through to the kitchen, one is enveloped in their wacky tacky dreamscape!

One of my favorite spots is the front porch where gnomes
tend the miniature succulent garden.

Walking into their house, one comes to the conclusion that the architect of their mid-1920's, craftsman-style bungalow is doing one of three things - rejoicing, turning over in his grave, or (more likely),  stuffed and staring at you from the far corner of the living room.

wacky tacky has no list of design rules or any overwrought, organized system of beliefs. There is no doubt however, that wacky tacky resides here.  Ben & Erika embrace the spirit of wacky tacky through their often-unusual combination of collections and themes - and sometimes not so unusual...

Pee Wee & Dick

Ben & Erika do not just respect different people, places, and cultures - they collect!  Their collections of mid-Century novelties, ephemera, toys, art and music could fill a space much larger than their humble home.

They have Cowboys...

 ...and Indians...

...and Cowboys & Indians!
(I want these)

Of course, taxidermy is almost always a part of the wacky tacky equation.

As I have said before, I love vignettes that tell a story
about the home owner - or at very least their sense of fun.

As packed as the shelves may be, there is always room for the spooky, random and weird!

Their bedroom is a happy combination of nautical & aquatic, where seashells, velvet paintings, chalkware fish and ships rule the waves.  However, they did not follow through with the theme completely - no waterbed.

"Clipper ships sail in the ocean; Clipper ships never sail on rivers or lakes."

The thing that I really love about this wacky tacky home is that it is an amalgam of family heirlooms, thrift store/flea market finds, and the marriage of their collections, tastes and sensibilities when they themselves got married.

The kitchen is a little bit foreign country and a little bit rock n' roll.

I don't think there is a flat surface in this house that isn't occupied by some collection of tschotskes.

The master of this house still has to keep it clean.

The wackiest part about this - it was Sunday!!!!

In all of the wackiness, there is still a place to pause and reflect.

On a recent visit to their home, we actually made friends with the neighbor kids and hung out on the front porch.  We had an impromptu jam session; several guitars came out, maracas and a tambourine were involved, and two Fisher-Price Pull-A-Tune Xylophones rocked the house.

You may not believe it, but I can jam on this thing!

As we played, the ice cream man came by and a kindly, old gentleman tipped his hat, welcomed us to the neighborhood and stopped to chat for a while.  

It almost felt like we had joined The Colonel on a Tijuana Picnic!

The man asked where we were from and Erika politely responded that she was raised in the area and that they have lived in the house for years.  Understandably, the man viewed our young group of people from varying ethnic backgrounds as a bit of an uncommon sight in this particular area.  The man expressed that he was genuinely pleased that neighborhood was turning around and residents were taking a little more pride of place.  Which brings me to the topic of gentrification.  The word gentrification carries with it a terrible connotation.  People assume that it involves cultural enclaves  being destroyed and entire socio-economic groups being forced to flee their family homes.  However, I find that the term is used most by "gentrifiers" who employ the term only to make themselves appear more hip, culturally-aware, and to dissociate themselves from the other "gentry."

I must say that as far as gentrification goes, I'm all for it!  I love to see beautiful, historic neighborhoods resurrected.  What can be horrible about creating a more diverse community, raising property values, and investing in areas that are crying out for some much-needed attention?  Of course, I am not for the displacement of families and local businesses, but I wholeheartedly love to see neighborhoods reborn.  Also, at least in Southern California, it seems like "ungentrified" neighborhoods are the only ones in which first-time home buyers can afford to invest.

Herman agrees so wholeheartedly that he moved in and joined the Shriners!

As you ponder the pros and cons of gentrification and question the ability of Ben & Erika to clean all of those knick-knacks, I thought I'd leave you with a few extra photos of more cool things around their pad.

"Kindly Control Yourself, You Devil"
This one is hung above the fridge.

By now you should know that I love light fixtures!

Some pretty ladies

Roy & Dale

Ben & Erika's dog is pretty harmless.
Thus, forcing them to invest heavily in a watch-deer!


Mr. Tiny


  1. ah... the classic combo of front porch gnomes and succulents. it's just like pb&j.

  2. My mom did the same "sad clown" paint-by-numbers (it was a set of two.) And I read a lot of Herald-Examiners purchased in Boyle Heights-- as my dad left work at the big Sears building each day.