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Treasure Trove

On a secluded ridge near Garrapata Beach, Erik Seniska indulges his highly skilled decorative whims.

Erik Seniska likes to call himself the EyE. The moniker refers to his supreme ability to seek out the one object, plant or rock (depending on whether he’s in a junk shop, a nursery or at the beach) that will, when given the right amount of love and repurposing, become a crown jewel—wherever it settles. Seniska grew up in Florida and, after studying graphic arts at Florida State University, moved first to Boston, then to New York during the ’80s and ’90s. He headed west, to San Francisco, where he lived for four years. As a working artist, he met architect Mary Ann Schicketanz (of Carver + Schicketanz) at a show house where he had displayed some decorative painting. The two hit it off, and Seniska won his first large commission doing his combed paint technique on a ceiling in a large Big Sur home of Schicketanz’s design.

Soon employed full-time at Carver + Schicketanz and living in Big Sur, Seniska was introduced to a couple from Silicon Valley. They’d purchased a distinctive piece of property—two plots, actually: one with a small house (designed by the area’s most famous architect, Mickey Meunnig) overlooking the ocean close to Garrapata State Beach, on the northern reaches toward Carmel; the other, an entire hillside with little ramshackle buildings dotting the ridge. The owners first asked the artist to direct the landscaping around the oceanfront property. In a truly inspired moment, however, they told him he could do anything he wanted to the structures along the ridge.

Of his client, Seniska says, “She is like the Peggy Guggenheim of tramp art.” This is most apparent in the abandoned hunting cabin (tagged Fish Fry by its former owner), where Seniska lived alone for nine months, laboring on his masterpiece, high atop a virtually impassable dirt road. Seniska painted the interior and exterior, and he tricked it all out with his repurposed art: Everything from the knobs on the cabinets to the living room chairs to the picture frames in the bedroom were handmade by Seniska using treasures accumulated as he hunted.

He describes the process with equal parts drama and reverie: “It was blisteringly hot up there. I was basically camping out. I’d work on the west side of the house in the morning, and as the sun moved, so did I. The pattern on the outside is based on a West African motif that I saw painted on the sides of mud huts.”

Every inch of Fish Fry, the meditation construct and ammo-shack has Seniska’s touch. The complex was gutted with some help from local contractors, and details—like the corrugated metal trim—were added, but the bones themselves weren’t changed. The combed and pattern painted surfaces, the horizontal patchwork wood walls, and the feeling of being in an adult playhouse all make Fish Fry the perfect spot for his clients to “get away” from the more rugged elements by the beach. The EyE definitely likes to design with a wink.

By Cat Doran.
Photographed by Lisa Eisner.

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