I fell in love with Miranda Lake's home after seeing it beautifully featured in Valorie Hart and Sara Essex Bradley's wonderful book House Proud: Unique Home Design, Louisiana.I knew right away that I had to meet the woman behind this magical home with the 1952 double-decker bus in the back yard. Miranda's home is fearless, playful and offbeat. I'm delighted I had the opportunity to explore this strange wonderland and share it with you.
Stepping onto the grounds of Miranda Lake’s New Orleans home feels like being transported into the whimsical world she depicts in her artwork. Just as her encaustic collages portray surreal scenes featuring cleverly juxtaposed animals and objects, Miranda’s Uptown home treats visitors to a visual feast of artfully assembled vignettes with similar motifs. The front porch alone is a delightful display: A plastic deer head peers out from a pot of colorful flowers; a small toy horse rests in front of a vintage scale holding an arrangement of succulents; a collection of tiny birds emerge from a rusty typewriter.
“I see this house as an extension of my portfolio work,” Miranda explains. “It’s as much me and as much of my art as it is a house. It is an experience.” The experience is filled with collections of “beautifully strange” decorative objects she finds in a variety of places including junk stores, eBay, Etsy, Craigslist and travel. Her love of biology, zoology and all things having to do with animals is abundantly clear. In addition to her two dogs, Mr. Whipple and Birdie, and four bunnies, Tumpta, Flapjack, Toofus, and L.B. Fou Fou, the house is filled with creatures of land and sea in various forms: plastic toys, ceramic vases, entomological specimens, faux and real taxidermy. Animals are depicted in paintings, printed on pillows, and seem to appear wherever you turn.
When Miranda bought the house 15 years ago, she knew right away that the 1910 shotgun house on Jena Street was perfect. In fact, it was the only house she looked at. “It’s a special house. It’s deceptively large. It looks teeny from the front but keeps going, going and going.” The back half of the house is divided into a separate apartment, adding the bonus of a built-in source of income. If she needed any proof that it was meant to be, she got it two weeks before she moved in when she was shopping on Magazine Street. The stars aligned when she stumbled upon a fated find: a hand-painted 1920’s wood bar with a tag that read, “Made by the Coco-Cola Company for the Jena Street Social Club.” The bar is now the focal point of her parlor.
When Miranda acquired the empty lot next door just before Katrina hit in 2005, she was able to add a swimming pool and transform the property into the compound it is today. It is a rarity in New Orleans for a modest home to have so much yard space.
It’s hard to believe the grounds that surround Miranda’s home started out as an empty patch of grass surrounded by a chain link fence. A lush garden path filled with little surprises – a claw foot tub filled with small horse figurines, antique toys tucked into the greenery – winds around the property and leads visitors into a magical adult playground where Miranda’s unique artistic vision comes to life. A fully restored ’62 Shasta camper trailer and a 1952 double-decker bus, which she describes as “one big shiny, giant happy pill you can actually get inside of,” are parked alongside a stunning lap pool. Miranda bought the bus from a friend and plans to get it water tight and eventually hook up electricity, air conditioning, and install a sound system. She envisions it as a poolside cabana. The atmosphere is perfect for Miranda’s casual lifestyle, where friends feel free to drop by for a swim.
Miranda’s home embodies the easy, offbeat spirit of New Orleans. Although she was raised in rural Connecticut, she has found a muse in the Crescent City. “The crumbling decay is just eye candy for me. It’s like Shakespeare here. The whole cycle of life is very easy to see and feel. It’s all around you.”
You can see the full tour and learn more about Miranda's style and inspiration on Apartment Therapy.
Photos and text by Jacqueline Marque