Saturday, August 22, 2009

Do You Really Want A White House?

The President of the United States lives in a house that's painted white. It's called the White House. Clever, huh? The largest lake in New Brunswick is called Grand Lake. It is a grand lake indeed. Brent Rourke, the creative mind behind The Barn In Bloomfield, owns a wonderful business housed in a barn in Bloomfield. I've profiled Brent's business in my blog before, back on May 13. Brent has a global sense of design and a splendidly unfettered vision...most unusual for someone from this neck of the woods.

Brent's house, next to The Barn, is a colossus of a house. It looks like something that would have been owned by a globetrotting sea captain , though more understated that many ornate sea captains' cribs. Bloomfield is far from the sea (about 352 football fields away, or 20 miles) so I'm going to assume that the home was originally built for a farmer. It must have been owned by a successful farmer, or a farmer with thirty kids, or one with a sub-prime mortgage. The house is as big as the barn almost.

Up until recently the house was geisha girl white which it made it appear rather blandiose. You couldn't help but notice the size of the house, but the details were lost in its whiteness. Strangely, almost every active farm house in New Brunswick is Puritanical white. I don't know why unless coloured pigment wasn't available in the olden days (perhaps someone with historical insight could leave a comment explaining why all the maisons blanc?) In any event, the tradition lives on unquestioned. It's the New Brunswick voting Liberal because your father and grandfather did (like, duh!). Perhaps houses were painted white to reflect the summer heat, I simply don't know.

I recently returned from my seventh visit to les Iles de la Madeleine. If you want to be inspired, sometimes amused, by colourfully painted houses, then I can think of three places where you should visit: Iles de la Madeleine, the Caribbean, or Jelly Bean Row in St.John's (NL). When I see houses like those that call Jelly Bean Row home, I feel good. Of course I have no idea what's going on inside these houses. For all I know, some cod killing, Screech sopped miserable old barnacle is berating his wife and kids, but on the outside it's just so happy looking.

If the houses on les Iles de la Madeleine were all white, then my love of the islands would be greatly diminished. The architecture of les Iles is pretty much plain Jane, with a few notable exceptions, but when you put a coat of Versace on the girl next door, well, she starts to look like a supermodel. That's what paint does.

The people of New Brunswick, for the most part, are too conservative to try something bold or brave like the islanders. Meat and potatoes, every night at 5 p.m., then Steve Murphy and a dose (literally) of Cindy Day at six, followed by Wheel of Fortune and Corner Gas. It's too predictable here. We're scared to be different.

Brent Rourke is the exception to the rule.

I was midway along my drive to Saint John on Thursday when something caught my eye while coasting toward the stop sign in Bloomfield. It was one of those 'oh my god' moments when you see something that takes your breath away. It was Brent Rourke's had magically been transformed from a chubby white girl (named Jane) into a Picasso muse. I wasn't planning on stopping at the Barn In Bloomfield, but how could I ignore the gallery across the blooming field? I couldn't.

I drove into Brent and Susan Rourke's yard, got out of my car and stood in awe. I spoke to Susan about her choice of colour. She told me that she and Brent questioned their choice early on, but forged ahead unfazed. I'm glad they did.

The house is still being painted, with the southern side more or less complete. This paint job will polarize gawkers and rubberneckers, I'm sure. Some people won't be able to handle it and they'll spin out of control before crashing and burning on the ground. Evolution at work, I say. I love what this house has's a statement. To me it says that we must continue to grow and more forward, otherwise we'll stagnate. It speaks of brave new worlds.

The white house is now full of colour, on both sides of the border...and this makes me pretty happy.

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