Inside An Artists' House
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Along with online purchases and gifted objects, the couple can walk through the house and tell a visitor which items came from Renninger’s, the Centre Park Artifacts Bank in Reading, Green Dragon in Ephrata, Leesport Antiques, Ye Olde Good Things in Scranton and other antiques stores, salvage yards and warehouses throughout the area. Rebekah is always on the prowl for Spanish chandeliers, one of her passions.
Still, beyond the vintage items, there are some surprises. The wainscoting that gives the downstairs rooms and hallways such character is not really wainscoting at all. It is textured wallpaper painted with Rust-Oleum – yes, Rust-Oleum.
“It gives the wallpaper a candy gloss,” Rebekah says, stroking the wainscoted surface. The use of traditional oil paint throughout the house imparts a certain shine, particularly visible in the evening.
“I hate, hate latex paint,” she says. “You’ll never see it here.”
But what you will see among – and on – the walls are many works by Eric, a highly sought-out painter of everything from portraiture to medieval-style religious scenes. The walls of the living room are covered with his work because, as they both note, the house serves the needs of a family home and Eric’s business.
Most imposing is a huge canvas in an open second-floor bedroom that serves as his artist studio (work on the carriage house is still in the future). The canvas, at least seven feet high and perhaps 15-plus-feet long, is dark and dramatic and was commissioned for a motion picture now being filmed. The Armusiks will be traveling to deliver it to production on another continent in the fall. Confidentiality precludes photographing the canvas or Eric saying specifically the movie in which it will appear.
Traditions and the small town
The traditions and academic realism of Catholic religious paintings and artwork – and his upbringing in the dark, magnificent Slovak Catholic churches of his hometown – made a permanent impression that continues to influence Eric’s work, including the aforementioned canvas and another more recent 9-foot-tall crucifix commissioned by a priest for a church in Ohio. As the couple notes, the high ceilings were essential for Eric to work on the piece.
In addition to the fireplaces, Eric’s master woodworking is visible in every room in the house. In the far corner of the living room is a gentleman’s cabinet in which scotch and other liquors are stored. Although it appears to be an original built-in, Eric crafted it from an old sideboard/china cabinet and built it to hide unsightly pipes.
Rebekah lends her designer’s eye to the colors and many of the accoutrements of the house. The strong colors bring out the drama of her husband’s romantic realist works and serve as a mental setting, reminiscent of her grandmother’s tales of Slavic folklore, for those of her own – Memoirs of a Gothic Soul and the four subsequent related novels.
The big house and their flexible work schedules – as well as the children now attending regular school after years of homeschooling – allow both the Armusiks the time and space to create.
Knowing that a well-bonded, strong community lies just outside the front door adds an extra layer of inspiration.
The Armusiks have shared their home on holiday house tours that show the rich architectural heritage of Hamburg. Just as their neighbors helped them, they also lend a hand or design suggestions when others are renovating their homes.
“Hamburg is one of the nicest, most amazing towns,” says Rebekah. “There’s definitely a good sense of community. So many don’t realize how beautiful the houses are, how many opportunities are here.”
Eric has long helped with façade projects pro bono in town and also designed the “Welcome to Hamburg” signs in 2007. His affection is clearly more than simple words.
Rebekah and Eric believe they have found the home that will carry them through the years. Their kids echo their parents’ sentiment.
And, as for those friendly black cats, Boris and Mischa, there’s little chance they plan on going anywhere, either. After all, who else would do their nails, oops, claws?Writer’s note: To learn more about Rebekah and Eric Armusik, check out their respective websites: rebekaharmusik.com and ericarmusik.com.