Over the course of my life I’ve envied several friends for their incredible sense of design. One of them is Jacquie, who lives in California’s Sierra foothills, overlooking the south fork of the Yuba River.
Jacquie lives in a two-storey handmade house that she and her ex- built together decades ago. Constructed of wood and plaster, with a greenhouse at one end and a tin roof, it’s powered by solar panels. She burns oak and manzanita for heat in a vintage stove and gets her water from a spring, gravity-fed into the kitchen sink.
Everywhere you look there’s a nook or cranny, a vignette, some artistic juxtaposition of… …unlikely objects to catch your eye. The house is an eclectic blend of practical and decorative, repeated in so many ways and forms that visitors can’t help but surrender to Jacquie’s aesthetic.
The house perches above the river canyon, off a dirt road. Jacquie’s had visits from local wildlife including a curious mountain lion who looked into her windows during the day and several bears, who break in through the French doors every couple of years and ransack the kitchen, devouring anything sweet: jam, chocolate, cake mix, and honey.
Though she was mostly raised in Los Angeles, Jacquie’s heritage is French and Vietnamese. You can still hear the trace of a rural French childhood in her voice — it also explains her reverence for butter. She left L.A. to live a life in the pines and cedars nearly 50 years ago, and hasn’t looked back.
Jacquie’s a painter and long-time writer of illustrated journals. Many of the objects in her house were found as she traveled, and a story accompanies each one. She doesn’t display her own work at home, but did paint a door in her kitchen.
I don’t want to live in Jacquie’s house. I’m pretty fond of my own house. And I don’t want to be anyone but myself. But I wish I could sit for a few hours inside Jacquie’s brain and see the world the way she sees it. How does she put these combinations together that would never occur to most of us? Until someone invents mind-borrowing technology, I’m going to have to make do with admiring the fruits of her imagination.