Story: Kerri Regan
STEP INSIDE A MASTERPIECE
Often, Armando Mejorado’s artwork takes shape on canvas. Other times it’s sculpted from salvaged metal.
Occasionally, however, he does things on a much larger scale, and he and designer Gary Desmond have turned their home into a work of art in its own right. From the street, the brick-accented house with an impeccably manicured yard blends into the quiet north Redding subdivision. But when guests cross the threshold of the 3,175-square-foot home, they do a double-take.
Vibrant paintings from floor to ceiling, metal sculptures, unique textiles and plenty of paint have turned an average house into a can’t-stop-talking-about-it home. “All the artwork is mine,” says Mejorado, 32.
Just inside the front door, the living room is overlooked by an Armando original, designed specifically to fit in a space above the front windows; he glued some 500 gold leaves onto wood, and then created a koi pond scene atop the gold.
In the dining room, six tall chairs are cloaked in white fabric around a table set with china, where saucer-sized white flowers sit atop wine goblets set at each place, much like one might find at a tony European eatery. They set their own floor in this room - squares of stone with fish-scale patterns match the battleshipgray walls. “This was our first floor job,” says Desmond, 40, who has also become a skilled drywaller during this home’s remodel that began eight years ago.
Mejorado and Desmond love to entertain, and the home is built for it – guests can easily circulate from the kitchen through the dining room to the living room, and then into the gallery. “We liked the motion of the house,” Mejorado says. In addition to small dinner parties, they also host blowouts a few times a year, along with an annual fundraiser where 100 percent of profits from his art sales go to a charity (this year’s beneficiary was the Westside Performing Arts Center).
The gallery is anchored by a bar that Mejorado made by stretching canvas over wood, then painting an orchid on it and coating it with resin to create a watertight countertop. Below, wine bottles fit into a rack; above the bar, shelves hold liquor bottles, wine glasses and assorted decorations.
Mejorado’s chromatic paintings hang on every wall, reminiscent of a metropolitan art gallery. “I love color. I’m not afraid of it,” Mejorado says. A turquoise peacock made from papier mache sits near a spiral staircase, its glass bead feathers flowing onto the carpet. “The Nest,” a sculpture in the middle of the room, features handwoven strands of wire and a base that cradles metal balls of varying sizes.
A painting of a geisha, with gold leaf surrounding her, hangs on the brick-red wall above the fireplace, and the mantel was decorated by Desmond with moss, chrysanthemums and butterflies (the theme changes seasonally). “People are so afraid to try something new. You don’t have to have white walls. You can be brave. The worst thing that could happen is that you have to repaint – we did our living room three times,” Mejorado says.
The wall entering the kitchen is painted with a mural of an entryway to a bistro. Inside the kitchen is perhaps the home’s most intriguing conversation piece – an approximately 10-foot square “window” in the floor, made of bridge glass, so you can see down to the wine cellar. “We had to re-engineer the floor,” Desmond explains.
A spiral staircase, once part of a San Francisco Victorian home, leads down to the 500-square-foot wine cellar and theater. A concrete floor helps keep the underground room at a constant 63 degrees, the homeowners say. Like virtually every fixer-upper project in their home, they created the room themselves. “Eight feet of dirt we took out of here, five gallons at a time. Well, technically 10, because I have two hands,” Mejorado says.
Despite the breathtaking interior, the backyard is actually one of the places where they find themselves spending much of their time. Metal sculptures and did-it-themselves landscaping have created a lush, serene oasis. “I do my gardening and jump in the pool during the summer,” Desmond says. And for a short while, the landscape featured a 32-foot-tall red “tree” that Mejorado built, which was visible from Interstate 5 until it collapsed in the late fall.
The North State has been home to Mejorado since he was 8, and Desmond moved from Los Angeles to Weaverville when he was about 16. They thought about pulling up stakes and moving elsewhere for work – “ we looked in Florida, Hawaii, San Francisco and New York,” Mejorado says. “But we decided to stay here. This is such a great community.”
Remodeling and opening their home to the people they enjoy helps them stay in touch, despite life’s fast pace. “We have friends who are tree-huggers and tree-cutters, people who are age 18 all the way up to age 98,” Desmond says.
“We love our friends, and this is our way of staying in contact with them.”