Irie House: A Place Where Passion & Beauty Live in Harmony

By+Kathy Jonas

Photography by David Hubler

Dr. Paul McLeod’s sprawling home is aptly named “Irie” after the Jamaican word for “good vibe,” “full of happiness,” and “positive and powerful.” 

A regional dentist, McLeod was born in Jamaica and travels there once or twice a year to visit relatives and soak up the spirit of his homeland. While the exterior of his Michiana home is not spared the snow and ice that is inevitable in Northern Indiana for several months of the year, the interior of “Irie” is another world all together: filled with large sculptures, colorful paintings, books, lots of warm woods and a general welcoming and open feeling so common in more temperate climates. 

“Most of the art is done by people I know,” McLeod says of the many cherished pieces found in every room. “There’s a story behind everything in this house.” A true world traveler, he has visited Israel and Jordan, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, Nigeria, Uganda and Costa Rica, just to name a few locales. Next year, he’s exploring China and going back to Vietnam.

 

The History of “Irie”

The home was built in 2003 with the direction and loving guidance of his late wife, Sharon. Architects Evan Leduc and Alex Adekanmbi of ALDS Architecture and Design of Berrien Springs, Michigan helped create a place reflecting the couples’ love of regional and international art and diverse cultures of the world.

Leduc says a contemporary classical home was built with three connecting pavilions to not only allow the couple to entertain large groups of people (think the Villanova basketball team) but to feature the artwork and furniture they had collected over the years. “It reflects both their vision and how they live,” he adds. 

McLeod recalls with fondness his wife’s impeccable eye for detail and proportion and a whimsical side that positioned a large giraffe sculpture in the courtyard. She combined colors, textures, and scale with ease. The end result is a comfortable refuge, rather than a stuffy, sterile museum-like structure. 

 

Artist Peter Rujuwa 

The way McLeod collects art is more like a journey than a science. “I like to pick up something culturally inclusive when I travel,” says McLeod. “I like to see how people live and don’t necessarily find things in an art gallery.” He’s interested in the detail found in pieces, such as the rough patch on the elbow of a woman carved out of wood or the way pieces of hair are arranged.

Enter Peter Rujuwa, an artist from Zimbabwe, Africa, who has a studio in Greenwood, Indiana. Several of his wood and stone pieces now grace McLeod’s home. 

Rujuwa says he met Sharon McLeod at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and the couple visited his studio several times and invited him to display his work at a South Bend event and at a party at his house. “Out of all of this, I realized that Paul loves people and wants to develop along their dreams. He is a giver and he is selfless. My perception is that he derives a lot of satisfaction in lifting up other people. Paul is my inspiration with regards to human community service development.”

The artist, who came to Indiana with his family as a refugee eight years ago, says he’s had a passion for sculpture since age six when he and his friends made toys with the soapstone plentiful in the mountains surrounding his village. His “Shona” creations are cultural, tribal art that “affirm the co-existence between man and nature” and are named after his Zimbabwe tribe. 

 

Some of other examples of art found in McLeod’s home include:

• An intricately-carved wood crèche from Bethlehem found in a Palestinian-owned art gallery on a trip to Israel and Jordan.

• Two large carvings by artist Maria Winston,who he discovered through a piece in the administration building at Indiana University, South Bend.

• A tin drum from Morocco fashioned into a foyer chandelier.

• A Ugandan sculpture found while on a church mission trip with St. Michaels All-Angels Episcopal Church. 

 

McLeod likes to walk in a small shop and ask if they have something different. The clerk will walk in the back room and bring out a piece that appeals to his appreciation of detail, nuance and storytelling. “I’m more interested in the person than the name.”

His four children – Sidney, Morgan, Sadjah and Lauren – grew up surrounded by art and appreciate the “Irie” vibe of their dad’s home. They know their mom would be proud that the feeling of happiness, good will and excellence she helped create, lives on. Paul continues to travel the world with his new love, Trang, shipping home treasures filled with “Irie”. 

If you’re interested in learning more about this home, contact Jane Ralser at 574-229-2552.


 

Kathy Jonas is a freelance writer who lives in South Bend and Bloomington. Her interests are architecture, art and culture.