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Thursday, November 27, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Touring the Alternative Parade of Homes one by one
The New Girl describes strangers' houses
Take a tour of the 2007 Alternative Parade of Homes.

The Vilas neighborhood just north of Lake Wingra was flooded with wide-eyed and nosy souls checking out the open houses at the Alternative Parade of Homes hosted by Historic Madison, Inc. on Sunday. A brief description of each of the eleven homes on display follows below.

Here is a brief overview of each stop on the parade, which included homes on Adams Street, Madison Street, Grant Street, and Vilas Avenue.

  • 1636 Adams St.: This house was the first one I swept through, and initially I was unimpressed. I wanted to be wowed, I wanted to walk into a Pottery Barn commercial. I walked into a home, and, in theory, that is just fine. Cool massive necklace thing hanging from that backyard tree, though.

  • 1710 Adams St.: Bland from the outside, sweet Yahweh from the inside! Scrabble and Mindtrap never fit so perfectly in a house; this place was like one giant game, the object being to get from one side to the other without getting stuck in a cranny and having a panic attack. What a maze! Ostentatious in some areas, theoretically cool in others. I wondered, how do you find your spouse? Your kid? Life must be interesting living in a colorized Escher print.

  • 1626 Madison St.: This was like stepping into the home of someone you know; it felt lived in, not just nice. Given the extensive book collection, from Eragon and Philip K. Dick novels to travel and photography, it seems that these folks have more intriguing things to spend money on that ostentatious decor.

  • 1815 Jefferson St.: Time warp! Walking into this house was like stepping into the childhood home of my best friend in elementary school. The French country yellow and the slightly sweet perfume aroma made me want to play dress up and dance to Michael Bolton, but I restrained myself. As I wondered at age 8, how do the kids exist with all those breakables? Did I miss the tethers?

  • 1915 Jefferson St.: The standout in this home was not the stately brick facade, but the collection of old family photographs. The couple owning this house, I gather, is fairly young, and it intrigued me; home prices in Madison are well below those on both coasts. It makes me wonder why folks living in their studio apartments with the flip-up beds don't move out to the Midwest and actually get a space

  • 1821 Vilas Ave.: Aside from contrasting kitchen, this house was green hued, shadowy and cozy, as if you'd find a gnome sitting at the piano or in a chair smoking a pipe. The porch looked over a fabulous garden that kept the enchanting feel even on the outside.

  • 1815 Vilas Ave.: Rugs from the owners' travels and original fixtures decorated this house, which included a bright, fresh kitchen that was both homey and classy. The upstairs was off limits in this case. I can only imagine the piles of crap that people moved to the upstairs quarters. Where did the normal stuff go? People's mail, cleaners, shoes?

  • 1813 Vilas Ave.: A Southwestern theme made this house unique. The bent-wire horse on the back wall was enough to provide hours of amusement. However, the best part of this house sat on the front steps. Karin was my favorite greeter on the tour. "I'm almost done with all the houses," a man said to her. "And then what? You'll get a prize?" she said. Saucy!

  • 1811 Vilas Ave.: Whimsical Picasso wallpaper decorated the water closet and added flair to a house that reminded me of a restaurant. The thick wood beams in the ceiling and structure were mimicked in the furniture, giving a heavy feeling overall, as if nothing could topple it.

  • 1720 Vilas Ave.: This domicile had a very European and nautical feel. The large windows added loads of light that brought out all the gorgeous imperfections in the grainy wood throughout the house. The kitchen was the best sight to behold. At first, the cracked, lemon yellow paint jolted my eye, but the etching of recipes on the wall and loud wallpaper peeking out above the stove made it charming and rustic.

  • 1101 Grant St.: The hodgepodge of peace propaganda, pianos, paintings, plants, artwork and curios seemed to suggest these folks were well traveled. Some of the homes had very sparse upstairs quarters and lush but sterile ground floors. This was one of the few houses that seemed to hold pieces with a story or history, not just a price tag.

All participating residences received a Barbara Essock rendering of their home as featured in the brochure ticket and as seen in previous years of the Alternative Parade of Homes, such as in the 2005 tour of the Marquette Bungalow Historic District.

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