© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Curious Cbus: Who Is Behind The Colorful "Camo House" Near Campus?

Adora Namigadde
Bernard and Lisa Beck are the artists and owners behind the "Camo House" in the University District.

This story is part of the Curious Cbusproject. You ask the questions, you vote for one of the questions and we answer. This question was adapted from Reddit user panurge987.

Driving down 4th Street near the Ohio State University campus, it's nearly impossible to miss the "Camo House." The wildly-painted, multi-colored home draws plenty of attention - and that's on purpose.

Husband and wife Bernard and Linda Beck have lived in the "Camo House" since 1977.

"We wanted more of a house from an artist, I think," Bernard says. "So I was able to do like an art house - a painting on a house rather than just a house."

The house earned its nickname over the years. It didn't always look this way.

When the Becks bought the home, it was painted brown. Now, it's a bit harder to describe how it looks, even from the artist himself.

"Gee, that's hard to say," Bernard says. "Lots of different colors, it looks like."

It's a mix of bright blue, green, purple and red squiggly lines. There are snakes woven throughout, some sections of splatter paint, and even some people abstractly painted in. 

Credit Adora Namigadde
Originally, the "Camo House" was boring and brown. But Bernard Beck wanted to paint it in a way he couldn't paint others.

The exterior of the house acts as a canvas for the couple, now in their 70s, who met while studying at Penn State University. Bernard went for a bachelor’s and master’s in art while Linda took a variety of classes.

They both dabbled in multiple art forms, and Bernard even painted houses himself.

"A lot of people want their house white so there's no mistake," Bernard says. "And I wasn't really worried about making much of a mistake."

Eventually, he and Linda decided to change up their brown house, which they found boring. Bernard thought to do to their home what he couldn't do to others'.

"You have to paint your house, and he had this great idea," Linda says. "And I really love it. I love that idea, make the house a painting. I think it worked out really well."

First, they painted the sides different shades of blue, purple and pink. Eventually, they decided to paint the front gable to blend with the sky. 

Then, Bernard started painting a large snake winding around the house's exterior.

"But as I worked on that, I didn't really go for it too much," he says. "And the thing kind of evolved more into what they call a camo look."

Credit Adora Namigadde
Artist Linda Beck is one of the two people behind the "camo house." She met her husband Bernard while studying art at Penn State.

Bernard doesn't have a set schedule, but updates the paint regularly. When he does, he'll usually pick up five gallons of wrongly-mixed paint that's discounted at a local store.

"You can get some paints for $15 a gallon that new would have cost $60," he says.

The camo evolved first, and Linda added the snakes later.

"I love snakes," she says. "I like the symbolism of them, and they go back to Bible stories and they have a lot of meaning." 

They frequently attract visitors.

"I'm sure there are people that have complaints, but we've never heard any," Bernard says. "Everybody seems to enjoy it."

"As far as we know, yeah," Linda adds.

Although one time, a passerby thought the house's look meant that criminals lived inside.

"We ended up painting this shortly after 9/11, and then a police officer showed up, and because of the way the house was painted, there was somebody, a neighbor, who was concerned about it," Bernard says.

Credit Adora Namigadde
The house was last given a new paint job this year, but it'll be years before the Becks take on the challenge again.

The Becks last changed up the house this year, but they don't want to paint again until wear-and-tear renders the job necessary. That could take another decade.

Until then, the couple is happy to watch passerby snap photos and enjoy its presence in the neighborhood.

Got your own question about Central Ohio? Ask us below for Curious Cbus.


Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.