Whimzeyland, Safety Harbor
We believe in authenticity and love when we discover Authentic Floridians who beat to their own drum.
On our way to the 9th Annual Orange Festival in Dunedin this past weekend, my husband Randy and I decided to make a quick, impromptu pitstop in Safety Harbor to check out “Whimzey”, the home of Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda.
We’ve heard about this house for YEARS and had never had the chance to see it in person. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, we captured photos of this unique, multi-colored, ever-evolving, creative, eclectic gingerbread cottage and studio … by the way, our quick pitstop will eventually become a big feature story on Safety Harbor. In the meantime, here’s a little sneak peek of what we discovered at Whimzeyland.
When we arrived at 1206 3rd Street N in Safety Harbor, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. We knew this house had been featured in numerous TV shows and magazines, but were still unsure what we would find. We didn’t know where we should park or if we were going to get arrested for trespassing. We knew the owners were artists and were on the road this time of the year doing art festivals and shows, so we cautiously proceeded to explore their whimsical property.
We parked on the street, although there is a mulch area parking area, we weren’t sure if that parking area was for the owners or unexpected guests, like us.
Fun, large Jester head sculptures and Mardi Gras beads greeted us as we followed the path into this artists’ slice of paradise. Although we were hesitant to just freely roam the surroundings at first, it became very apparent that the homeowners welcomed respectful visitors … even unexpected ones, like us.
One of the many charms of Whimzeyland are the hundreds and hundreds of bowling balls bordering the flowerbeds while vibrant mosaic sidewalks lead guests thru the gardens. It’s a place where bottle trees and palm trees live in peace and harmony.
The mosaic tiles reminded us of a cross between the Wizard of Oz and our fabulous trip to Barcelona. The entire place is so bright and cheery, we just found ourselves smiling as we followed along the path.
To the right of the entrance was a welcoming multi-use outdoor area. I thought it was a gift shop (forgetting this was actually someone’s home and not a museum), but it’s really a covered porch that appears to be used for dining, creating art, enjoying a music jam session or whatever other need may pop up for the owners.
We roamed around in awe before picking up a postcard for the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center (SHAMc), which was started by the owners of the house and a friend of theirs. We made a mental note that SHAMc would have to be a part of another Authentic Florida road trip when we had more time. We already had a full-itinerary for the day and time was ticking.
We were nervous to peek in the windows since we were not sure if people were staying in the main house or cottage. We knew we had to come back when the owners were expecting us, so we could do a more thorough story on the whole house and the people behind it and maybe even get to see the inside of the house. (Stay tuned …)
As mentioned, the owners are both artists, who travel frequently to art shows/festivals. Although they were out of town this particular weekend when we decided to pop by, their good friend, Heather Richardson, who we ended up meeting in a kismet way at SHAMc, confirmed that the owners have no issues with people enjoying their property like we did.
Everywhere we turned, there was something fun to see at Whimzeyland. We especially loved how they used bowling balls as garden separators. Apparently, many of the bowling balls were left by people who knew the owners would put the balls to good use. (My mom has a bowling ball garden at her house in Winter Park and her friends have supplied the majority of her bowling balls).
The whole place is truly a visual feast. The owners have created such a fine mixture of Florida’s natural landscaping with original art splashed into the setting. So clever and creative! And, so cool, that this community embraces it!
Visitors can also get some great ideas on how to recycle their everyday household goods and turn them into works of art. For example, the colorful bottle gardens are inspirational and easy to create. (NOTE: if you look carefully, you may catch some pop culture icons thrown into the mix … for example, we spy a french fry ride from a McDonald-Land playground).
It never ceases to amaze me how adding a bit of color can make such a huge difference. It feels like the commercial celebrations of Easter, Christmas and your birthday every day at Whimzeyland!
Do you think anyone could ever be in a bad mood around all this happiness and quirk? We think not! Just look at those coloful flower arrangements!
These photos just give you a glimpse of what makes Whimzeyland so whimsy! It’s Florida Kitsch at its finest!!!
So, the next time you are near Safety Harbor in Pinellas County, plug Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda’s wonderful home address into your GPS and see Whimzeyland first-hand. Also, make sure you plan time to visit SHAMc.
Before we headed out to the Orange Festival, we decided to drive down the Main Street of Safety Harbor. We spotted a fire station that had an interesting mural painted on it. On a fluke, I decided to circle the block to go back and take a photo of the station. Lo and behold it was the perfect place to circle the block because we literally stumbled upon SHAMc … what an amazing place it is!!!
Safety Harbor Art and Music Center is a 501(c) non-profit organization whose mission is to promote knowledge of and education in the fine arts, the visual arts, and the performing arts. All donations are tax-deductible and greatly contribute to the arts in the community.
Safety Harbor Art and Music Center (SHAMc) was a lifelong dream for Todd Ramquist, Kiaralinda and Heather Richardson, who are the Founders. Thanks to a Pepsi Refresh Grant, as well as the support of the community and people around the world, they were able to start the transformation of the Rigsby House into what is now known as SHAMc.
Since acquiring the property years ago, they have transformed it into their dream center – a place where children and the children-at-heart can gather to celebrate art.
Look for an Authentic Floridians vlog coming soon to our YouTube Channel for more about SHAMc.