A Hippie in Anchorage

By STEVE KAUFMAN
Contributing Writier

Candace Welch’s motto is, “Life is too short for beige.”

And when you walk into her Frank Lloyd Wright-esque home in historic Anchorage, the visual assault is clearly not a neutral palette. Not from someone who proclaims that her favorite colors are purple and turquoise.

Hard to build a quiet, soothing envelope around purple and turquoise. But Welch has in fact succeeded. It certainly suits her spirit.

The house was built in 1952 by Louisville architect Norman Sweet, a contemporary designer very much influenced by Wright. By the time Welch found it in 2009, it was in need of updating – not architecturally so much, but as a living space. Or at least as her living space.

The City of Anchorage Historic Preservation Commission had some restrictions about what she could and couldn’t do, but most of those involved the part of the house facing the road.

Welch was no newcomer to restoring old homes. Since returning to Louisville from Chicago, she had bought, restored – and then sold – about 15 “neglected” homes before she wandered by this angular ranch house, set way back off the road and surrounded by Anchorage’s prototypical leafiness, in 2009.

“I loved the challenge and the work of restoring old houses,” she says. “But once I was finished, I got bored.”

Will this be another “get bored” project? “I don’t think so,” she said. “This is paradise. I don’t take vacations. Why would I? I just love being here.”

Not that the house was move-in ready. First, Welch did extensive remodeling, adding nearly 800 square feet of living space and putting up walls where hallways had been and doorways where there used to be walls. Her team included contemporary architect Jim Peterson, who shares her affinity for the Frank Lloyd Wright style, and builder Ron Wolford.

Adding and renovating space was tricky because of the way the architecture included so many different levels and planes. There are five roof lines. Some of the slanted ceilings soar to as high as almost 20 feet. And the different floor levels had to be seamlessly matched, as well.

And she said, everything was repurposed, nothing was torn down or destroyed. For example, when she pulled up a stone patio, she hand-carried the stones, one by one, to build an outdoor bar, kitchen and fire pit.

The house reflects exactly who Candy Welch is: the great-granddaughter of William Caldwell, who owned the historic Conrad Caldwell House (now a museum) on St. James Place in Old Louisville; and a child of the Sixties, a self-professed hippie.

Perhaps nothing so typifies the two sides of Welch as something hanging on the wall right in the front entrance. It’s a detailed reproduction of the Conrad Caldwell House made of papier mache and little wooden sticks; and it’s framed in (what else?) purple.

Throughout the house are beautiful old family antiques and rich wood pieces of furniture likely 100 years old. She also has an extensive collection of her artist mother’s intricate painted chinaware. Hanging on either side of a heavy brick fireplace are two hundred-year-old wooden gargoyles that had been made for hanging oil lanterns.

But Welch’s sensibilities aren’t limited to antiques. Her taste in art runs to modern and whimsical. In one room, she has a 10-foot wooden statue of Chief Hiawatha that came from a clothing store she had owned in Chicago. Her great room is papered with a crazy floral pattern “that just makes me smile.”

Her kitchen contains a top-of-the-line six-burner Viking range topped by an artistically curved oven hood and pendant ceiling lights that were altered to create a sculptural form.

Her turquoise bar stools are molded plastic and she has a Mr. Coffee that is the color – you guessed it.

“Purple is a very intricate color,” she insists, “from royal to gauche, deep to pale, childlike to offensive. It’s unique and interesting, but a lot of people don’t want to live there.”

One of her favorite finds was a slab of turquoise granite in her kitchen that she uses as an island top, on counters and as a back wall. It was sourced in Brazil by Global Granite & Marble and “costs more than my car.”

Despite all the architectural changes, the Prairie-style ranch house blends into the low-key, understated personality of the neighborhood. For example, it’s not clear from the road – you have to drive up the long driveway before you realize that the modernistic iron sculpture in front of the house is in fact a moose.

“Everyone else here has monuments to horses,” she said. “That’s my twisted sense of humor.”

Actually, it’s Bullwinkle Moose. That’s pure Candace.

Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune