“Our House,” is what Xeth (pronounced Seth) Feinberg and Rose Bevens like to call their house when they’re not jokingly referring to it as “Belly Acres.” Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Their small, white, clapboard Pennsylvania home is set back from the River Road in Damascus; close enough for a walk to town over the Callicoon, NY Bridge. “We like our little house, the quirky charm of a town we can easily walk to, seeing bald eagles flying around, trying to grow things the deer won’t eat,” says Feinberg. “We’ve made a lot of friends and try to be part of the community.”
Prior to moving to Wayne County, Bevens (a jewelry designer) and Feinberg (an animator) were living and working out of a “funky” apartment on Canal Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. “I made an entire animated feature film in the spare room,” says Feinberg, whose work has appeared in “Ice Age,” “Robots” and “Queer Duck: The Movie.”
“There were lots of mice, the ceiling would occasionally fall in, [restaurateurs] had a business chopping up chicken parts in the back alley next to a noisy hipster bar,” says Feinberg of their former abode. “And of course, the rent kept going up. So we decided to alter our lifestyle.”
Home ownership in rural PA not only provided a much overdue reprieve for this married couple; it also gave way to a fun opportunity to festoon an even larger space in their style of “American Eccentric.” Belly Acres is filled to the brim with all things ranging from classic mid-century modern to the kitschiest kitsch, as evidenced by a Lucite ottoman filled with fake pink roses. “Rose loves to collect furniture and objects dating from art deco to Danish modern to American Heywood Wakefield,” notes Feinberg. “It’s just good, creative design.”
Most of their collection came together via auction houses, church sales and Salvation Armies and serves as a reprise from their round-the-clock self-employment. “I appreciate interesting things designed from the turn of the century onward. The pink-and-white kitchen is just for my sanity,” says Bevens. “All these cheerful tchotchke faces are cheering me on to get stuff done. The decor is an extension of the same interests that come through in my jewelry and art projects. I like all the decades of the 20th century—at least up to the ‘80s.”
Bevens, an art school grad with a penchant for ceramic squirrels, has been collecting for years and basically finds things almost everywhere she goes. According to Feinberg, she’s “definitely the mastermind,” though he says he has “some influence for better or worse.” “We are both into making art and collecting curious things and have a weakness for inanimate objects with faces,” says Bevens. “Everything I don’t bring home is a regret.” Asked how she keeps what appears to be hundreds of figurines clean, Bevens states, “Dust adds character. But more seriously: very gently with good old fashioned soap and water.”
According to Bevens, she grew up in a house that was “mainly beige” but as a young girl would frequent yard sales and flea markets with her dad. Together they’d look for bargains and pick up colorful oddities. “Over the years I’ve gone through stages of more [or] less avid searching and collecting,” says Bevens of her continued assemblage. “One thing you learn is that nothing is really worth anything unless you appreciate it.” In general, the style of Belly Acres includes objects from the 1930s all the way up and through the 1960s, and according to Bevens is “a mix of history, art and commercialism that’s endlessly fascinating.”
Bevens’ appreciation for quirky objects of the past became a career when she realized that many of the vintage items she’d collected could be repurposed, combined and even “saved” by turning them into new forms. At first, she made Christmas wreaths by intertwining vintage ornaments with yuletide figures and velvet bows. However, working with vintage glass bulbs soon became too fragile a venture that “took up lots of room,” so she switched to crafting jewelry. “It’s just a way to express myself,” she says. “I’ve always loved jewelry and decorative arts. I like to think I’m creating new heirlooms from lost memories.” Look for her jewelry line, Heirloomy by Rose, on Etsy.
Feinberg grew up in Pittsburgh during the mid-20th century in a family that actually ran a Scandinavian modern furniture store. As a boy, he loved cartoons and drawing. In college, his interests also veered toward film, sound, music production, acting and writing.
“Animation is a way that combines all those things,” he explains. “I’d been doing graphic arts and newspaper production but was able to get involved with the first wave of dot-com animation when the technology started to become accessible and inexpensive.” Besides working as an independent animator (www.xeth.com), Feinberg has produced two psychedelic garage-rock albums for The Prefab Messiahs, illustrated books and comics and spawned numerous fine art paintings, all within the walls of Belly Acres. He’s also made some serious attempts at handling the exterior grounds; a work load that became the impetus for the moniker “Belly Acres.”
“I basically handle the exterior, but not without constant input from Rose,” says he. “When we moved here, the house was basically sitting in a mowed field with just a few oddly placed trees. I had elaborate dreams of gardens and extensive landscaping but have come to accept that the local deer herd ultimately calls most of the shots. Deer fencing only slows them down a little now and then. I’ve spent a lot of effort trying to replace lawn with wildflowers and flower gardens. I think defaulting to just mowing grass is a shame. One day maybe we’ll get around to some vegetable gardening, but that’s a whole other project.”
Like many in the river valley who work from home, Bevens and Feinberg often take breaks in the form of walks. “No matter where we go, when we cross that bridge from Callicoon we realize we’ve managed to live in a special, beautiful place,” says Feinberg. “We don’t need anything more than a place like this!” A silver aluminum Christmas tree and their adopted Carin Terrier Mr. Tinkerbell complete the picture.