Color, pattern and architectural detail.

That's what visitors to the Friends house will notice when they tour the house as part of Holy Trinity's holiday home tour.

Jennifer Friends, art enthusiast, mother to seven and designer of all that is wild and wonderful in this house, said she thinks of herself not as an artist but as an art lover.

"I'm artsy, but it's more in design," she said.

It is as a designer that she has made bold choices in both color and pattern in her family's home at 208 S. 17th Place.

With Santas on the mantel and a Santa tree in the dining room, those usually bright, eye-popping details of Christmas decorating barely stand out in a house that features black and white polka dot furniture paired with colorful geometric shapes on window coverings.

And everywhere there is the art the family has acquired over the years and moved with them from house to house.

Barry and Jennifer Friends moved to La Crosse a year ago and immediately fell in love with the house on 17th Place.

"It was no question when we saw this house," Jennifer said.

With seven kids, they had no trouble filling up the rooms. In fact, they still haven't moved all of their furniture from their old house in the Twin Cities, yet this house is bursting with furniture, detail and colorful art.

Upstairs in the master suite, the bathroom is being reworked to include a closet and a sliding glass door. The room is large, Jennifer said, so they didn't miss the space taken up by the new closet.

In the basement, half of the space is set up as a family room that turns into a bedroom when their college-age son comes home. But to keep it mostly a family room, they had a Murphy bed built that mostly is tucked out of sight into a wall that looks like cabinetry.

Even the carriage house does double duty as a bedroom, this one for Gaby, their daughter who was leaving for college as the Friends were moving to La Crosse.

Jennifer said she wanted to make sure Gaby felt like she had a space to come home to, and what a space it is. Because Gaby collects pigs, Jennifer painted whimsical pigs all the way up the stairs to the bedroom space above the garage. The space is large, bright and commands a great view of the main house and garden and is furnished with sun porch furniture that came from Jennifer's late mother's home.

"It's perfect for her," Jennifer said.

Back in the main house, there is art everywhere. If Jennifer travels somewhere, she will most likely return with a piece of art, like the painting she bought on the beach in Haiti for $40. Because three adopted children are African-American, Jennifer has sought out multicultural art so that it reflects the family.

Another large canvas, this one of crayons, was purchased when Jennifer and her daughter were making a college visit. Jennifer saw the painting as it was being created and asked the student if she could buy it.

A wander through the house will reveal many paintings by Jeff Boutin, an Eden Prairie, Minn., artist who Jennifer discovered while living in the Twin Cities. She liked a piece of his she saw on a home tour so much that she tracked him down to buy that particular piece of art, and then kept buying artwork from him.

A modern version of a grandfather clock was created by another artist who used pieces of old crates to create the clock's shell.

As you're walking through the house, don't just stare at the paintings. Be sure to look up because Jennifer has a passion for lights and chandeliers and has a wonderful collection in every room of the house. And she didn't have to go too far to find them, either.

"All of my chandeliers I bought through Wettsteins from a book they had."

Because she enjoys antiques but has a modern sensibility, she has managed to combine the best of both worlds in these unexpected interiors.

"I love antiques but I like it to be bright and light."

And as you travel the rooms on the way out the back door, be sure to keep track of how many lizards you see. Jennifer collects them - the metal, wood and ceramic kind - and they are crawling all over the house in unexpected places, including up the side of the fireplace.


What: Holy Trinity’s “Generation After Generation” holiday home tour

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6

Where: Barry and Jennifer Friends’ home, 208 S. 17th Place; Daniel and Jean Schreiter home, 1611 Madison St.; Virginia Thompson home, 1403 Johnson St.; Janet Papenfuss home, 131 S. Losey Blvd.; and Robert Jones and Tim Rortvedt home, 923 Cameron Ave.

Tickets: $15 in advance at Quillins stores in La Crosse, Ambiance, 115 S. Second St. and the Holy Trinity rectory; $20 day of tour with tickets available at Holy Trinity’s Leo Hall or at any of the homes.

Information: (608) 782-2028

St. Anne Cookie Walk and Bazaar: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Holy Trinity’s Leo Hall on the day of the home tour.

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