Cribz: Polka Dot House adds color to Grinnell

Residents+of+Polka+Dot+House+pose+with+their+beloved+cats.+Photo+by+Paul+Hansen.+

Residents of Polka Dot House pose with their beloved cats. Photo by Paul Hansen.

By Marcus Cassidy
cassidym@grinnell.ed

Despite the humble and rural aesthetic of the neighborhood, visitors at 1007 East St. will find themselves pleasantly bombarded with a colorful exterior of polka dots. Affectionately called the “Bubble House” by its landlord, the multicolored house is home to Claire Kopachik, Ryland Rich, Melanie Holst, Catherine Stone, Kaia Cullenward, all `22, Lily Thornton `23, and Kate Wiley, who does not attend Grinnell. 

Due to a stroke of fate with a Facebook ad written by Holst, these friends cherish a home with an interior as colorful as its outside walls. “I crafted a genius ad. it took me so long, and basically a lot of people reached out and it ended up that they were perfect people that we needed,” said Holst about finding her current roommates. 

“We have a roommate, Kate Wiley, who graduated. She grew up in Grinnell. .. She lives here, but she mostly lives out of town now, so she still has a room here,” Kopachick said.

Polka Dot House gains notoriety from its multicolored spots, but the dynamics inside the house are just as lively. Every room of the house provides some level of complexity and character. Every bedroom has its own signature color, the bathrooms have clawfoot bathtubs and their living room even has two speakers made at the Makerlab in downtown Grinnell. 

“Now, this fireplace is a really essential part of the house because I had a really bad concussion here. We used to have an outlet here and I was charging my phone and I stood up too fast and I had a brain bleed,” said Holst. “I made this [sculpture] last year from a camp chair that fell into a fire when I was super concussed. So this is my homage to last year, it’s like I wrote a little poem here. I don’t really remember where it starts though.” 

 “Last year, the house was put on this Facebook page, the quirkiest houses in each state, so it was an architectural tour and people were driving in the alley and taking pictures of me while I was in the kitchen,” said Holst. 

Originally a women’s cross country house, the house began accepting non-affiliated residents last year. As a result, the home contains lots of memorabilia and relics from its past tenants. Notably, former residents left behind furniture, selectively dangerous stairs, and textbooks for future occupants. 

“I can feel the presence of everybody that lived in this house before us, and I really appreciate that,” said Holst. “Every once in a while, you’ll be talking and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, I lived in that house and in this room’ and it’s just nice. They leave things behind, so it feels like we’re continuing a Grinnell tradition.” 

 In addition to its vibrant, visual appeal, previous residents labeled various kitchen appliances as a way of remaining connected. 

“This [toaster] is the ‘master blaster,’ the fridge is ‘random water filler.’ I really like the kitchen. ‘Chop chop,’ yeah, chopping boards. ‘Sweets and treats,’ yeah, that’s the baking cabinet, and we only bought half that stuff,” Stone said. 

Living alongside the human occupants, several pets wander the hardwood floors of polka dot house. Oliver the cat spends his leisure time sleeping in the bathtubs and trying to escape the front door while Lulu the lizard enjoys quiet, alone time in the bedroom. 

 “Oh, the cats really want to get outside. That’s their main goal. They just want to escape like they’re in jail. But yeah, they’re always excited to see us,” said Thornton. 

Next year, the house plans to return to housing primarily women’s cross country runners, but its tenants will have already made fond memories and meaningful experiences.