When Kalen Helfrich and Jared Manning were married in October 2013, they purchased a 115-year-old shotgun house on a quiet residential street in Schnitzelburg. Their friends, and other young people, were moving into the area, a nice mix with the established older people who had lived in the neighborhood all their lives. Places to eat, drink and hang out were beginning to populate the adjoining streets.
And their new house was close to where they work. Kalen is a hair stylist at Fierce Salon on Frankfort Avenue. Jared is an ophthalmic and lasik technician at the Eye Care Institute on Story Avenue.
As they decorated their new 1,300-square-foot space, they found their aesthetic tastes blended into one. They both liked neutral palettes as a backdrop for the artwork, collectibles and kitschy objects they like to acquire. Many of their artist friends are represented on the walls, shelves and surfaces throughout the house.
Kalen has also filled the house with period items â€“ like old clocks and a sewing machine table â€“ from her grandmotherâ€™s house.
They haunted antique malls and thrift stores to find unusual pop culture items for the walls and tabletops, mixing family photos with superhero images.
When pendant lights they bought from Restoration Hardware proved too long to hang in the space above the kitchen table, where a ceiling fan had been, Jared hung hooks and a galvanized pipe on the ceiling and wrapped and hung the long cord to create a chandelier thatâ€™s a piece of art.
He took old palette wood to create a planked wall in the hallway bathroom. He made a bedroom lamp out of Mason jars.
And some of his choices were edgy, too, like the portrait he made of Kalen and himself using 8-bit digital forms, like characters in an old Nintendo game.
As Kalen walked us through the house, pointing out things theyâ€™d done, her commentary was filled with, â€œJared did this . . . Jared did that . . .â€
â€œHeâ€™s really an artist at heart,â€ she said. â€œHe wishes he had more time to do it.â€
But for a real peek into Jaredâ€™s artistic heart, and mind, Kalen took us into the side room Jared calls his â€œstudy,â€ and she calls â€œthe nerdery.â€
The room is a gallery â€“ a museum actually â€“ a testimonial to the popular culture Jared grew up with in the 1980s and â€˜90s. Itâ€™s stuffed with references, sort of like the way the Beatlesâ€™ â€œSgt. Pepperâ€™s…â€ album cover was stuffed with references, or like the myriad images in a cartoon panel in an old Mad Magazine. Everywhere you look, you nod and smile.
Comic book images, superhero characters, movie and TV references. There are figures, pictures, drawings and merchandise from Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men, Star Trek, Hellboy, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Transformers, Captain America, Superman, Batman and the Hulk.
Thereâ€™s the green lantern from The Green Lantern. Thereâ€™s Dr. Whoâ€™s fez. Thereâ€™s the Stay Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters. There are images on the wall of Frankenstein, Steve Martin and Muhammad Ali.
Chewbacca and Wonder Woman share a shelf because, said Kalen, â€œthatâ€™s what Jared calls us.â€
â€œJared always has his eyes open for things,â€ she said, â€œon e-Bay, in comic book shops and flea markets.â€
Thereâ€™s a set of Campbell Soup cans the company released a year or two ago, artistic homages to the Andy Warhol soup cans of the 1960s.
Thereâ€™s a set of old swords on the wall because, well, â€œJared just likes Medieval stuff.â€
His collectorâ€™s heart extends to a cabinet filled with bourbon bottles, some mainstream, some the very esoteric brands known only to Kentucky bourbon aficionados.
Kalen has so far managed to keep Jaredâ€™s â€œnerderyâ€ confined to just the one room in the house, lest it upset the rest of the family, 10-year-olds Brick, a lab/Great Dane mix, and Molly, a German Shepherd mix. She said theyâ€™ve already disconnected the sound on one of those old bird wall clocks, the kind that chimes a different chirp every hour, because it was driving the dogs nuts.
Jared brought Brick into the family, Molly came with Kalen. In fact, said Kalen, they came from the same shelter, two weeks apart, before Kalen and Jared had even met, introduced by mutual friends.
â€œI guess weâ€™re one of those blended families,â€ she says.
Thereâ€™s a pillow on one of the chairs that says, simply, LIVE JOYFULLY. Amidst all the artwork and pop culture, the fun and the games, that seems to say everything about this particular family blend.
Photos by Chris Humphreys | The Voice-Tribune