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By Ryan Johnson, Published August 10 2013

Pretty in Pink: Owners of pink homes explain color's appeal

Ask a kid in the neighborhood and you might hear stories about the Cotton Candy House or the Fairy Tale House.

But to Roxanne and Dennis Heizelman, the vibrant pink Victorian house at 423 10th St. S. is just home.

It became their labor of love when they bought the house in 2005 after moving from their native Sawyer, N.D., to be closer to their children.

Roxanne said at the time, it didn’t fit her personality – it was painted an unattractive “yellow-yellow,” she said, with bland white trim. But it had potential that drew them to buy it, even though they had spent a year looking at homes in the surrounding area because they didn’t want to live in Fargo.

The Heizelmans spent their first winter here researching websites and magazines, looking for ideas to make the drab but detailed structure from 1893 stand out.

“We tried a blue, and we checked out a green, and we even went with a white with different colors,” she said.

But husband Dennis decided there was a perfect color for the home – a vibrant shade of cotton candy pink that has made their house a neighborhood landmark.

He started the massive task of repainting the house in 2007, when he scraped off the old paint and added purples and blues to accent the intricate detail of the flourishes around the exterior.

Dennis finished the work in 2009, adding the vibrant pink that he said has earned its share of gawkers.

He said there were some drive-by critics while he was painting the house – “God, what an ugly color!” – but the vast majority of people who he talks with now enjoy it, like the vacationer from Georgia who used their garage sale as an excuse to check out the charming abode.

“A lady came in and said, ‘We’re not here really to buy anything, but we just love the color of your house,’ ” he said.

Or the husband and wife bicycling by one night when the man abruptly stopped to stare at the unique color combination.

“He said, ‘I just love the colors that you’re doing.’ And about by then, his wife went ahead and came back and looked at him and said, ‘Oh, I just can’t wait until we get home. You’ve got work to do.’ ”

Roxanne thinks their house is a “happy color,” and a part of her own “colorful” personality. The purple and blue accents are their take on the “painted ladies” architectural design that incorporates three or more colors into a home’s exterior to highlight details.

One look at the shades of pink and purple that adorn most walls inside the home prove that she’s a fan of color.

“It makes me smile every day when I come home from work and I’m tired,” she said.

PICKING A COLOR

About a block away from the Heizelmans’ home sits another pink house, though its owners aren’t as happy about the color.

Renee Fischer said she and her husband, Bob, bought the house at 1126 Fourth Ave. S. in 1990 and decided to update the cream paint in 1992.

“When I first opened the paint and looked at it, I thought, ‘My husband’s going to kill me,’ because it was so pink,” she said. “I thought it was going to be more of that brownish, salmonish color. But it’s pink.”

Fischer said the family hasn’t dealt with much grief over the accidentally pink shade that now covers their house built in 1912.

“But it was a lot of work, so we are just going to deal with it until it’s time to paint it again,” she said.

Fischer said some of Fargo’s pink house owners might be proud to stand out on their block. But she said she’d rather have a more regular color that doesn’t make them feel all alone in their neighborhood.

“I wish I was a little more eccentric and really loved it, but we don’t really love it,” she said.

Richard Shelton’s home at 109 Sixth Ave. N. is a similar shade of pink, but he said he loves the color – he’s repainted it three times since it first became the salmon-colored home on the block in 1998.

Shelton bought the home in 1982, when it was white. He said he did some research to restore its original 1907 appearance.

He scraped off several layers of paint and found it had been pink at one time. So he found a combination salmon with a red accent and hired a friend to spruce up the outside.

“It sort of started a trend through the whole neighborhood,” he said. “We were kind of monochrome, and since then everybody’s kind of going to accent colors in two different colors.”

He said it’s marked a return to how the houses in this older neighborhood used to look, before more recent styles inspired drab exteriors.

But Shelton said his home gets more attention for its other features – especially the large solar panels facing Sixth Avenue North and the tall Hollyhock flowering plants that stand proudly in front of the home.

“It is the Hollyhock House,” he said.

Carlee O’Dell said the kids attending nearby Horace Mann Elementary School gave her vibrant house its nickname after she painted it in 1997 – the Rainbow House.

She bought the home at 817 Second St. N., built in 1909, 24 years ago with a white exterior and blue trim.

O’Dell wanted to make it fit her personality, so she picked some of her favorite colors and filled in a drawing of her house until she found a combination she liked. But not everyone liked the bright lavender with green and blue trim and pink gutters she picked.

“My next-door neighbor at the time – this old Norwegian guy – came over, and we had it primed so it was all white and he said, ‘It looks so nice.’ I said, ‘Well Carl, this is just the primer and come around to the front where we’ve started putting the colors up.’ He just stood there and stared at it, and then he said, ‘I think I need sunglasses,’ and went home,” she said.

O’Dell said she also has watched people drive around the block a few times to take it all in.

But she said neighbors now use her house as a landmark when giving directions to visitors, and when she starts repainting it next year, the same lavender that has since faded to a shade of pink will once again make her home stand out.

“It’s happy and it’s different,” she said. “It’s got some whimsy to it, and it’s not like everybody else’s.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587