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A house filled with adventures

May 13, 2012

[This article first appeared in the Bloomington, Indiana Herald-Times (see Click on any photo to enlarge.]

The living room of the refurbished bungalow is filled with artworks, books and mementos of countless travels.

John Linnemeier has led an enviably free-spirited life. He’s a Vietnam veteran, a former oil rig worker, a longtime house painter, an investor, and a talented photographer. He has visited more than one hundred countries while traveling the globe. He’s the author of the highly entertaining memoir, “How an Average Man Lived an Adventurous Life.” But his home shows that he is by no stretch of the imagination merely “average.”

Red alert! The Starship Enterprise crashes into the wall above the fireplace.

When a visitor steps through the front door, the eye is greeted by a wonderful jumble of colors and shapes, books and statuettes. Built-in shelving covers three walls of the living room, and window seats are upholstered with colorful textiles. A large model boat and a dancing bronze Ganesha face each other in one corner; an African mask is eerily lit from beneath by unseen spot lighting. A new fireplace surround has replaced the original (removed long ago while the house served as a rental). Above the mantel, a model of the starship Enterprise is frozen in the act of crashing into the wall, which is painted in trompe l’oeil style to show the plaster wall breaking beneath the impact, exposing the bricks of the chimney beneath. A dialogue balloon above the explosion contains a furious epithet in Klingon.

Suspended at the top of the stairwell, an Indian ship, an airplane, disco balls and colored Christmas tree ornaments share airspace.

“We consulted an expert in Klingon before painting, “ John laughed.

He owned the home as a rental for twenty years or so before deciding to move into it.

John explained, “It was five bedrooms, and I turned it back into the original three-bedroom configuration by taking down a wall that had divided the living room. The neighborhood was very glad to see a real person moving back in.”

Some of the whimsical (and beautiful) objects have personal meaning for him, while others simply make him happy. Like the impish brass face fixed into the wall near the bottom of the fireplace, or the light fixture shaped like the Michelin Tire Man, or the six-foot-long wooden cargo ship suspended above the stairwell, surrounded by disco balls and golden Christmas tree ornaments.

The home is filled with mementos of John’s many trips abroad.

“I like eclecticism,” John said. “I collect things I like. I don’t care if they’re antiques or not. I just like them for their own qualities. I’m interested in cool-looking stuff, and boats are cool! I have seven or eight models of boats, without even being particularly interested in boats as such.”

John’s current décor was made possible by plasterer Hugh Hazelrigg, who fashioned the fireplace and added soft curves between walls and ceiling in an upstairs bedroom; Vince Edwards, who helped design the new fireplace and the pergolas; and carpenter John Williams, who did work throughout. Clarity Design built the handsome living room shelving to accommodate the owner’s objects d’art, countless books and travel journals.

Plasterer Hugh Hazelrigg created a new fireplace surround with overhead arch to replace the original, which had been destroyed years ago when the living room was subdivided to make two rooms.

“I always admired artists, but wasn’t able to create my own,” John said. “Then I realized that things like interior decoration, or photography, require an eye, but you don’t need to be good with your hands.” His photography contains interesting abstract shapes that upon closer view resolve themselves to be reeds reflected in still water, or the angular fractals found inside a halved red cabbage.

Light is important to John. Both the living room and the kitchen offer between five and nine different forms of lighting to suit any mood. The window seats were added specifically to lure people to the natural light coming in the windows. Upstairs, a small dressing room enjoys its own special window seat overlooking the pond below. This was specifically installed for the enjoyment of John’s wife Gail.

In the upstairs bathroom, the mirrored walls with niches for artworks dazzle the eye with their countless reflections.

In the upstairs bathroom, virtually all the walls are covered with mirrors and mirrored tiles. Reflections break into infinitely smaller pieces because of the mirrored niches that contain small art objects, duplicated endlessly by the glass walls.

Being so close to the university, the Linnemeier home is surrounded by other houses that have been converted into student rentals. Why did he willingly move into a student enclave?

“It’s a nice house,” John shrugged, “why not? I like students! I’ve gotten to be friends with several of them. My advice to anyone who lives in a student neighborhood is to get a white noise machine. They can party all night and you won’t hear a thing. You’ll see them the next day and smile, and you won’t have to call the cops.”

The front of John’s bungalow.

The house is always evolving to accommodate new objects and new artworks. The decoration in the home reflects the important things in John’s life: whimsy, individuality, freedom, beauty.

“What the heck, we’re in the midst of this adventure of life, so live it up, and don’t be scared!” he said. “The most common regret of people who are dying is that they didn’t live their own lives, but lived instead as others expected them to. We should learn from this, so that on our deathbeds, we can say we gave life our best.”

He finished, “I feel happy each day when I sit here in this living room. I finally feel as though I have a house I could die happy in.”

 Read more about John’s self-published memoir at


From → Houses

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