An artist remakes her parents’ boring beige house into a wonderland
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An artist remakes her parents’ boring beige house into a wonderland

Held has spent the last five years transforming the two-bedroom house room-by-room with the arsenal of an art teacher—vats of glue, reams of fabric, stacks of sliced paper, bundles of thick-tipped Sharpie markers, and gallon after gallon of paint in a kaleidoscope of hues. The result is more gallery than house, each room an expressive experiment in taste and technique, and bursting with colors so juicy you can almost taste them.  

Held is a mixed media artist who blends her own photography with everything from textiles to beach sand to bright bursts of spray paint. Held was born in Australia and spent much of her childhood traveling the world with her parents, wandering galleries and hunting down architecturally significant structures across Italy, Greece and France. Held knows how lucky she was to learn in such an immediate and immersive way, but she admits it created some challenges. “I think that’s why sometimes I got frustrated in school,” she says, “because I learned so much by just seeing things in real life.”

When she went off to UC Berkeley, Held also studied architecture, a pursuit she initially loved—until she toured an actual working architecture office and saw all the junior architects huddled in a dark room clicking away at AutoCAD. She knew from watching her father at work that building projects could take decades to go from sketch to reality, and that initial bursts of inspiration were almost always stripped away.

“It’s kind of horrifying to me,” she says. “The chasm between what you think about versus what actually happens in the end. It’s so depressing.”