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Pandemic projects: Artist-teacher transforms Spokane Valley home into colorful sanctuary

Artist and educator Carrie Scozzaro could now add “successful home renovator” to her list of titles. Here she is seen on March 17 in her transformed Spokane Valley home that she has dubbed The Fortress.  (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)
Artist and educator Carrie Scozzaro could now add “successful home renovator” to her list of titles. Here she is seen on March 17 in her transformed Spokane Valley home that she has dubbed The Fortress. (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)
By Cindy Hval The Spokesman-Review

When Carrie Scozzaro purchased her Spokane Valley home in November 2019, she had no idea that the quirky little house surrounded by a rock fence, would become her sanctuary during the frightening early months of the pandemic.

Actually, it’s what was on the outside that attracted her first.

“The garden got me,” Scozzaro said. “The previous owner had built nine raised beds – I’ve already added four more.”

She looked out at her third-acre plot, green hedges, large boulders and the raised beds.

“When I’m done, this place will look like a park,” she said.

But first, she tackled the inside.

Scozzaro is a freelance writer and teaches art at North Idaho College. She used her creative skills to transform the ’60s-era concrete block house into a colorful oasis.

“Originally, there was no color – everything was white walls,” she explained.

She started in the bathroom, stripping the black and white checkerboard flooring and painting it gray. After securing some tile, she bought a tile-cutter and created her own pattern installing it on the lower half of the walls.

The shower is separate from the tub, so Scozzaro painted the tub enclosure bright green, adorned it with artwork, and hung a black lace curtain.

The green is repeated in the kitchen.

“It’s Kermit the Frog green,” she said, laughing.

She accented the green by painting some kitchen cupboards black and trimming others in the same black paint. An empty space between the stove and sink became an open cupboard with triangular shelves.

Her most recent feat involved moving a mustard-colored hanging lamp from the living room to the kitchen.

“I’d never done wiring before,” she said.

Then she grinned.

“I’m just that person. I figure it out.”

Almost everything she created came from scavenged, re-purposed, recycled or reclaimed items. She did finally replace her father‘s old jigsaw with a new model and bought a good quality cordless drill and a small sledgehammer.

“I’ve always liked to build things. The key is knowing that you’re going to make mistakes,” Scozzaro said. “This was my sculpture project during COVID.”

Her bedroom gives her the most satisfaction. She transformed the tiny drab room into a cozy nest that offered a feeling of peace and security during anxious days.

She painted the walls seafoam green and built wall-to-wall shelving from other pieces of furniture. Drawers scavenged from an art supply cabinet became a dresser, draped with homemade curtains.

Her bed faces her bucolic backyard, and when the sun sets, twinkling LED candles on shelves and a corner cupboard she built add to the serene feel of the space.

Across the hall, a skylight offers natural light to her studio. The home’s former owner, Melvin Bestide, was also an artist.

Bestide died suddenly, and Scozzaro would love to know more about his work. The estate left several pieces of his art in the home, as well as the architectural drawings depicting the additions and changes he’d made to the home.

The main space is 1,000 square feet, but Bestide had added a mud room, a shop and two sheds.

Scozzaro feels she and the house are a perfect fit.

“It’s really quirky, and so am I,” she said. “Ultimately, I’d love to turn this into an artist-in-residency home.”

She hopes her efforts inspire other women to tackle their own home improvement projects.

“If you want to paint it purple, do it,” Scozzaro said. “This is the way that I got to be strong during the pandemic – with bold color, and not being afraid of putting a hole in the wall.”

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Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com

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