Adam’s DIY Ode To Ornamentalism in Philadelphia

published Sep 27, 2013
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(Image credit: Bridget Pizzo)

Name: Adam Wallacavage
Location: South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Size: 3000 square feet
Years Lived In: 13; Owned

Stepping inside Adam’s home is akin to stepping inside a set designer’s brain. Everywhere you look, it’s a creative smorgasbord for the eyes. But what makes this place even more spectacular is the fact that Adam’s home is composed of his own creations, most of which he crafted with his own two hands. His house is what dreams are made of in that he goes where most of us aspire to go but dare not, bravely displaying whatever he fancies.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Bridget Pizzo)
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

And Adam fancies fancy decor. But how does one afford Victorian-style luxury on a skate rat’s budget? Well, in this case, Adam rolls up his sleeves and gets to work. The result: a magical space that blends opulence with DIY skate style, where the sea meets street, and whimsy is always in residence.

I first heard tales of Adam’s incredible South Philly home years ago, when I interned at the artist community Space 1026. (“It’s like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea!”) But it wasn’t until I saw it with my own eyes that I realized the tales were all true: Adam is a creative genius and, yes, the place is swarming (crawling?) with octopi…chandeliers, that is.

Prior to attending the University of the Arts (BFA Photography), Adam was a Navy Seabee, where he flexed his carpentry muscles for the US Naval Construction Battalion. This experience, coupled with his childhood years spent exploring the Jersey shore, fostered his deep love for the ocean. A little over ten years ago, Adam experimented with plaster and taught himself how to make his signature octopus chandeliers. He has even perfected his own “secret sauce” that gives the sculptures their glossy look. His chandeliers have been exhibited in galleries and in private collections around the world — in Tokyo, São Paulo, Rome, London, Miami, Los Angeles, Vienna, and New York.

(Image credit: Bridget Pizzo)

But Adam’s house is far from being strictly aquatic. It is full of surprises that range from humorous, to posh, to punk, to flea market kitsch. For example, there is an oriental style “opium den room”, where lounging becomes an art form. There are not one, but two pink bedrooms, one with a Murphy bed that I was surprised to find was not original (Adam installed it), and the other with the daintiest pink-yellow hued walls that Adam painted himself in a “keep on painting till it feels right” fashion. Even the crown molding throughout the home is Adam’s handiwork (complete with tiny plaster owl figurines both inside and outside the home). The front parlor room, where his pet lovebirds are free to fly or to roost in their unlocked cages, has the feel of a hunting lodge. Adam, too, admits to flitting from room to room, sleeping in different spaces as he pleases. This freedom to do as one is inspired best sums up Adam’s playful approach to his home.

I am reminded of my own 1900s-era Philadelphia home, where I was convinced a beautiful living room fireplace was buried behind a plaster wall. Friends and I chipped away for hours only to find that there was indeed no fireplace, only a vent. Instead of getting upset, I laughed and hung a mantelpiece and a mirror and pretended it was a fireplace anyway. Because after all, there are no home design police; there are no guides to follow. Why not make up your own rules and take chances? Take a page from Adam’s book and get inspired to let your imagination run free.

Please visit Adam’s upcoming solo exhibit of new works, “Magic Mountain,” from October 19th – November 16th at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York City. The opening reception will be on October 19th from 7-9pm. Follow Adam’s funny posts and see his new creations on his website, instagram, facebook and twitter. Copies of his photography retrospective book, “Monster Sized Monster,” can be purchased here.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Minimalism.

Inspiration: Militant Ornamentalism.

Favorite Element: High ceilings, and the ability to be able to do whatever I want with the place.

Biggest Challenge: Creating opulence with no money.

What Friends Say: My friends don’t really say anything because they are used to it, but visitors trip out on it.

Biggest Embarrassment: When my friends have lewd conversations on my back deck and everything is perfectly audible to every neighbor in the back alley because of the way the sound echos and travels.

Proudest DIY: Learning how to make my own cast plaster moldings and ornamentation, which led me to making the chandeliers.

Biggest Indulgence: I never had money when I was renovating the place, so I always did things as cheaply as possible, but last year I bought a fancy new high-tech furnace and water heater.

Best Advice: Don’t be afraid to do something outrageous to your place if that’s what you want. I wanted this place to be the way it is, but for some reason I was hesitant and didn’t go the distance until my second go around. Do what you want!

Dream Sources: The Royal Pavilion of Brighton. That place is a major influence in what I make.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


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Thanks, Adam!

(Images: Bridget Pizzo)

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