(Shade recently had the good fortune to go road tripping, driving thousands of miles to see friends and family. Delightful time which included an extraordinary invitation to visit the most extraordinary home haunted by the most extraordinary people. So, with that, “Let’s go to press…”)
If ever there was a poster child for this blog, the epitome of both “curio” and “lair”, this is it! Located in Southern Alabama, decorated by married couple and artists, Melissa Byrd (Aleuranthropy) and Daniel Byrd (CoffinRust), this is not merely a cabinet but an entire house of wonder.
Like the most infamous Ripley’s artifact, what this couple has achieved almost defies belief. With a positively Hitchcockian attention to detail they have created an atmosphere so rich in magic and macabre it is unmatched by anything I have ever seen or experienced before.
Melissa and Daniel describe their chosen total environment as an “Adverse Abode”.
“Our home is like a circus sideshow that has set up shop within the walls of an early 20th century New Orleans brothel. Rich, sultry colors accentuate the large, dark furniture. Real human remains, lascivious and occult imagery and strange artifacts abound as the air is filled with the combined scents of absinthe, incense and candles.”
— Daniel Byrd
Upon entering the first thing I was immediately struck by were the colors. Halloween jewel tone wall colors of blood red, pumpkin and purple are accented by dark heavy chocolate-black furniture, hard wood floors, beautiful upholstery and the cushiest black leather couches. Lighting is soft, indirect, muted, cozy. Literally took my breath away! The books, the bones, the bed o’ nails — all speak of an Addamses aesthetic, that exquisite signature combination of old world elegance and spookiness.
(Below is an “in progress” shot taken during construction. Vantage point from dining room, through foyer into living room. While this article will focus more on the end-product than the process, I did want to show the gorgeously vibrant wall colors and how they jive so well together.)
(Finished dining room below. The entire room feels like autumn spice with the pumpkin walls and dark mossy green fabrics. The hutch is beautifully lit display showcasing all sorts of culinary curiosities .)
(Double double toil and trouble. Fireplace is inhabited by real, cast-iron black cauldron a la the Disney movie. Creepily lit with glowing embers and overflowing green ghosty smoke like a hell-broth boil and bubble. )
The curio-esque display cases and presentation of oddities is hypnotizing, it’s like a cross between The Haunted Mansion and the Mütter Museum. You could spend days wandering the house and not see it all. You will find books on cannibalism in the dining room table-side hutch, genuine human skulls happily sitting on mantel, framed classic horror movie posters, vintage advertisements and quackery, shadow-boxed relics and so much more. Razzle-dazzle eye-candy wherever the gaze goes.
My favorite exhibit is the handmade Bed of Nails. Daniel made this quintessential circus sideshow contraption from scratch and, of its construction, says,
I’m using 3.5″ nails, and I decided on 1″ spacing between the nails although I’ve read most Sideshow performers typically have it 1/2″ or less. But 1″ spacing meant MUCH fewer nails and makes it more “hardcore” since there are fewer nails to distribute weight upon. This also meant I was able to use pegboard to map out the holes for drilling, which meant no measuring was required.
Make no mistake — this is a real, working Bed of Nails. I know because I got the chance to try it out. Getting some help lowering oneself is a must. The getting up and getting down is tricky because there are moments when weight distribution is such that you can get punctured. Also, just because the physics mojo keeps majority of body parts from becoming tenderized meat, don’t forget to watch your head. Nails do not get softer or less stabby. Hence the pillow. I imagine blood n’ brain ooze would cause a terrific mess and this doesn’t strike me as the easiest piece of furniture to clean… However, large stains and suspiciously encrusted nails would be fantastic conversation-starter.
There is so much more to this house it is impossible to cover everything. And I’m quite sure I’ve forgotten some things since I spent most of my time slightly dazed, utterly speechless, mouth hanging open, trying to make my eyes BIGGER so I could see MORE.
Overall, what is so awesomely outstanding about this environment is how together it is, the level of completion, that extra finish, extra polish. A feast of the senses like the most meticulously prepared meal or the most passionately played opera. There is not one chink in the armor, no place where the spell is broken. Colors, textures, sounds, furniture, floors, lighting, shadows, knick knacks in nooks and crannies, all a part of a tightly woven fabric with not a stitch out of place, not a seam too loose. Step through these heavily barricaded doors and you step not into a home but another world.
Best of all, the house is a perfect representation of my perfectly enchanting hosts. Everything within these walls speaks of its owners, the decor a direct manifestation of their personality. Sensuous, spooky Old World jazzy Southern charm, executed with magnificent taste, all with a delightful gallows humor that won me over instantly. Thank you mucho to Melissa and Daniel Byrd for their 5 star hospitality and for allowing Zaftig and I to give everyone a peek into their lair!