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DailyTidings.com
  • Journey of many tiles

    Family spends years transforming home into a mosaic piece of art
  • LOS ANGELES — The transformation started simply enough, with a molded ceramic tile of a flower framed by Celtic tracery.
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  • LOS ANGELES — The transformation started simply enough, with a molded ceramic tile of a flower framed by Celtic tracery.
    Neither Aziz nor Louise Farnam can recall now where they found the periwinkle square, but, at their son Amiel's urging, they glued it to the upper-left corner of a low concrete retaining wall in front of their 1930s bungalow in Santa Monica, Calif.
    Both had seen the elaborately tiled mosques and mausoleums in Isfahan, in their native Iran. It didn't take long before they were scrounging in Southland secondhand stores, Catalina boutiques and Las Vegas casino shops for more tiles, plates and figurines.
    They collected pieces of cobalt blue, aqua, plum and yellows from pale to sunny. They broke or cut them with special nippers into irregular shapes and applied those to the wall, letting them radiate in no particular pattern from the original piece.
    They finished that wall, then tiled the walkway to the front door.
    From there, things escalated — to a traffic-stopping degree. Motorists routinely slam on their brakes to marvel at the eccentric artistry.
    "Everyone knows my house," Louise said. "Just say 'mosaic tile house in Santa Monica.' "
    About 13 years have passed since the couple set that first tile, and now the entire house on California Avenue at 26th Street is a shimmering montage that beckons the curious.
    One morning about two weeks ago, Aziz, 65, fitted bits of plates, floor tiles and orange hearts on the last remnant of bare wall near the two-car garage. A school of whimsical ceramic fish — each planted in the center of a tile adorned with circles of blue, green, tan, white and red glass beads — swam through the section.
    Aziz pointed above the fish, to a colorful bird plate. Atop it he had stationed a turkey. Both objects were treasures from Santa Catalina Island, saved for this crowning moment and placed high for their protection.
    "Most of my family and friends, especially my father-in-law, say, 'You're crazy, you're stupid,' " Aziz said. "But people stop and say, 'I love it.'"
    There has been no grand scheme, and Aziz's style and tastes have evolved. "Every hour you change the mind," he said. "There's always a new idea."
    He was impatient to be done. Later, a hired helper would fill in the mortar.
    How many pieces did he use to cover the house? "Twenty million," he says. Who's going to argue?
    Steve Mount, who lives next door, has watched the venture from the beginning and even advised Aziz on the grape motif for the Farnams' picture window, next to the mosaic apple tree worthy of Genesis. "I'll be out gardening and people will screech to a halt," Mount said. "It's a wonderful conversation-starter."
    Out back by the alley behind their houses, Aziz installed a psychedelic version of the Hollywood sign, with small plates for the O's, to give Mount something fun to look at. It's just around a corner from a stylized synagogue with symmetrical doors.
    Mount describes the home's exterior as a "'Where's Waldo?' event."
    Look closely, there in the upper-left corner of the front wall. That's a tiled depiction of Princess, Amiel's green-winged macaw.
    Walk along the side wall and behold plates with peacocks, lighthouses, palm trees and a kitten drowsing in a basket of yarn. A Delft-style tile with windmills stands out, as do mosaics of Shamu the orca, a unicorn, mountains, rivers and menorahs to honor the family's Jewish faith. There are tiles signifying the ocean: a seashell, a puffy fish, the scutes of a turtle's shell.
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