Alexa Meade and Chris Hughes got friendly at dinner parties. “I called them dates,” Hughes recalls, “she called them group hangs.” Eventually he moved into her Echo Park apartment, and the Funhouse House was born.
“The mirrors were the first thing; I wanted to be able to see out every window in the house at the same time while lying in bed,” Meade says. “So Chris came up with this system of putting mirrors on hinges to zigzag around corners, bending the light.”
“I'm a math nerd and computer scientist,” Hughes admits. “And as an engineer about all things, I get to help with the building — it's the part of the Funhouse where I get to shine.”
After outfitting the one-bedroom home with swiveling mirrors, Hughes and Meade let their imaginations take over.
A linen closet became the Nelson Mandela Memorial, outfitted with blacklights, foam floors and brightly colored hanging fabric, swinging like psychedelic jellyfish. “Sometimes I'll bring somebody in here,” Meade says, “and I'll just know they need more time, so I'll leave them to it.”
An old television console found on the curb has been hollowed out and stuffed with different colored lights that are switched on by remote control: Channel one is black-and-white, channel two is color. The console's back has been removed, so guests and stick their heads inside and become channel three: public access.
The tiny kitchen nook becomes a disco, replete with a fog machine, sound system, colorful lasers and even a cup holder for VIP bottle service.
Covered in rainbows, prisms, neon shelves and arranged jars, the Funhouse bounces color and creativity from every corner. “It's hard to have a bad day in a Funhouse,” Meade says. “Yep, you just can't have a bad attitude marching down your rainbow stairs on the way to work,” Hughes agrees.
Meade, a visual artist who paints directly on her portrait subjects to create the illusion of a two-dimensional space, has shown her work internationally and even given a TED Talk that's been viewed nearly 2.5 million times on Ted.com.
“The house is kind of an extension of my fascination with light and shadows, mirrors and illusion — it's like a testing ground where we get to come up with new ideas for how to make the world seem not quite as it is,” she says.
“I'd like to add some kind of roller-coaster element,” Hughes says about future build plans. But with construction of a Carl Sagan Space Lounge already under way, Meade and Hughes are sure to share billions and billions of smiles during the ups and downs in their Echo Park Funhouse.
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CORRECTION: This article was amended to reflect that Meade's TED talk has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times online, rather than 200,000 times as previously stated.