You can brag all you want about under-the-bed storage space and recessed cubbies – Brian Reaume has got you licked when it comes to domestic versatility.
In fact, he could hose down his whole living room and have it twinkling within the hour.
He wouldn’t, of course, since that would potentially ruin one of the most eclectic private art collections in Columbus, but it underscores the uniqueness of his Kenmore Park “Lustron” home, one of around 2,600 manufactured in Columbus just after the second Great War.
“It feels like a battleship, right?” Reaume tells me, a hint of slight boast in his voice. “It feels like it just landed.’”
“Low maintenance” barely begins to describe the prefabricated structures, constructed primarily of enameled steel panels and designed to be more cost-effective and/or durable than houses consisting of brick, plaster, or wood. (A re-constructed Lustron home is on display at the Ohio Historical Society).
Reaume, who purchased the house in 2008, knows a thing or two about non-traditional materials. The work he has created out of his Grandview studio, Birchwater, has fused everything from religious iconography to player piano scrolls to deer antlers. His installations form compelling narratives that are rustic and folklore-laden, or as he puts it, a “visual history of character and life.”
His home certainly fits that artistic mission statement, albeit serendipitously. Six years ago, he was on his way to check out an L-shaped farm house in foreclosure, and his eye was snagged by the canary yellow panel house with a small “For Sale by Owner” sign hanging out front. Immediately, he recognized it as a Lustron model. Ironically he just learned of their existence three months earlier in an issue of Architectural Digest.
“I just thought, ‘Holy shit,’” he said. “I knew I wanted it. The thing that really got me was I couldn’t believe how well laid out it was. On the outside it’s just this little box, which I love, because it’s so symmetric. And then walking in, it was a lot larger than I would assume it is. For me, it’s too much house. I could lob off 400 foot of this and be completely satisfied.”
Spoken like a man who’s spent plenty of time cooped in up an art studio. But the space is surprisingly open and breathable, and Reaume’s treatment of the décor gives it more nuance than you’d expect from a home that came with its own serial number.
The muted gray panels make for an excellent neutral space to display one of Reaume’s larger pieces, along with large canvases from Columbus ex-pats Carolyn Slebodnick and Dusty Rabjohn, while artwork from locals like Christopher Tennant, Adam Brouillette, and Wallace Peck share another living room wall with flea market finds and a boar’s head mount trophied by Reaume’s father. A rustic wood-burning space heater off the kitchen and an upcycled hospital cabinet in the bathroom are other fitting flourishes.
“It was a good opportunity, I like that…the art fits the house. With the walls, I really don’t have a choice. I can’t paint them, I’m not going to wallpaper them, so everything stands out.”
In fact, Reaume is holding a show dedicated to the building blocks of his post-WWII home. This month, he is producing Art of Lustron, which will feature the work of 36 individual artists – ranging from photography and illustration to sculpture and installation – all on individual Lustron house panels.
From time to time he may still think of the farmhouse that wasn’t, but Reaume has embraced his unofficial induction into this unique homeowners society.
“One day I would love to have an old farmhouse as my studio…12-foot ceilings and all that, because it feeds my work,” he said. “But I think this quiets my mind. It’s nice, because when I come here to rest, this is my safety. I encapsulate myself here.”
Art of Lustron, which will serve as a benefit for both the Whitehall Historical Society & The Lustron Preservation Society, will be run March 8 – 30, at Tacocat Co-Operative, featuring work from Reaume’s living room artists and many more. For more, visit www.tacocatcooperative.com.