Unique home in the Jersey woods

@CNNMoney May 11, 2012: 11:11 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- One of America's most flamboyant private residences lies in the woods of northwest New Jersey. It's the personal vision of artist and craftsman Ricky Boscarino and reflects his eccentric world view.

Boscarino found early fame nearly 30 years ago as a maker of "RoachArt," dioramas of the universally despised pests in familiar tableaus such as at a bowling alley or eating "The Last Supper."

He expanded his art to life-like cockroach jewelry, still a prime source of income for him, and he now includes butterflies, ladybugs, scarab beetles and other insects on his works. He has jewelry lines depicting animals, kitchen objects, garden tools and other common items.

His biggest art project is his home.

He named it Luna Parc, after a small amusement park near Rome. He paid $90,000 in 1989 for a hunting cabin on five acres that had been abandoned for about 10 years. Ever since, he pursued the resurrection of the derelict house in his own idiosyncratic way while adhering to the local building codes.

"My friends thought, 'What's he doing? This is crazy,'" said Boscarino. "It needed so many repairs."

It also needed insulation, new windows, plumbing and heating and all sorts of other improvements.

A notable thing about the construction is the sheer labor he expended. Everywhere in the 2,800 square-foot house and surroundings, there's evidence of the toil he has put in to bring the project to life.

In the bathroom alone, he cemented nearly a million pieces of broken tile and stone onto the walls and floor. There's a large mosaic wave sweeping across one wall.

Take a tour of the house.

A garden wall is an amusing melange of shapes, images and patterns. Building eaves and gables are framed in intricate scroll-saw work. Color splashes everywhere.

"If you keep moving non-stop for 23 years, this is what happens," said Boscarino. "I'm obsessive by nature and I have really good skills. I took on one project after another."

The grounds are studded with Boscarino's sculptures. Many incorporate found objects, like blue ice tea bottles, while other are cast in concrete. One statue pays homage to a dearly departed pet; it features a cat in a ballet pose atop a bowling ball.

He credits his talents and interests to his family, who were artisans in Italy, "going back to the Medicis," he said.

For generations everyone in his family knew how to build things and work with all sorts of materials. His two sisters are both artists. His family members have worked on the house.

Much of decoration and art is playful, like license plate shingling on exterior walls or the wine cork walls in the kitchen. Much of it is undeniably beautiful.

"When people come here and are inspired, that's a compliment to me," he said.

He figures to make what he calls his "project" a lifetime job. He pays for it with sales of his jewelry, sculpture and ceramics, and calculates that he has sunk perhaps $1.5 million into the effort.

Boscarino hopes to live to be 106, and judging how youthful he looks at age 51, that seems attainable. He says if he's able to work on the home another 55 years, it still wouldn't be finished.

"When I check out, the project will be done," he said. To top of page

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