Dwelling: An Artist’s Approach


After 42 months—and eight days—of renovation, cartoonist Eric Decetis’ Land Park home is ready for its close-up.

Go ahead. Ask cartoonist Eric Decetis how long he’s been rehabbing his Land Park home. The question barely leaves your lips before he shoots back a number: 40 months and 17 days the first time we visited him; 42 months, eight days when we visited again a few weeks later. But who’s counting? “When I started work on this house, I wanted to make it art instead of just a remodel,” says the award-winning cartoonist and creator of a wacky line of cards and calendars distributed throughout the world. First a disclaimer: This isn’t a story about how hilarious Decetis is. If you’re looking for laughs, Google him and chortle yourself silly. This is a story about Decetis’ art, which in this case happens to be a house. “I wanted to make it very unique and cool and the way it should be,” he remembers. “I said, ‘I can make this look like art.’”

And so he did. Enlisting Jim Fargo of Fargo Construction and Mary Ann Downey of Mary Ann Downey Interior Design, both of Sacramento, Decetis immersed himself in the rescue of a Tudor constructed in 1929 by revered local homebuilder Squeaky Williams. “I can honestly say there isn’t anything Eric hasn’t thought about, down to the tiniest detail,” Downey says about her client. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for her to arrive at the house and find a Decetis’ mock-up of a feature they’d been talking about tacked to the wall. “That’s just who he is,” she says.

Decetis began his home-rehab odyssey on a house whose “good bones” were beat. Putting it to rights, he says, “was a challenge for Jim and me and Mary Ann and everybody.” Chalk that up to his aesthetic. “I focus on details that drive me nuts,” he says. “I start one thing and work until I finish. I can’t think of anything else until that’s done.”

Combining vintage style with 21st-century function was Downey’s mission. “How to bring those together was the tricky part we would work through together,” she says. “In my 30 years of design, it’s always been important to me that remodels look like they have always been there. . . . I’ve done all different styles and all different years, so it was easy for me to meld into Eric’s mindset. . . . That’s just what designers do. If they’re not collaborating, they’re not designing.”

With most of the big stuff behind him, so to speak, Decetis says he’s happy. “Everything works,” he says simply. “This is the happiest I’ve been since I don’t know when.” A fair trade for someone who makes people laugh for a living and chooses an artist’s approach, no matter what the medium.