9. He was an active – if eccentric – home handyman.
When he wasn’t indulging his artistic pursuits, the retired rock icon could often be found hard at work on a variety of DIY projects. His semi-detached home, once shared with his late mother, became filled with alterations and makeshift furnishings that reflected the fractured mind of its sole inhabitant. Doorknobs were replaced with plastic toy hippos or pieces of square wood, and flimsy plywood shelves lined each room. Furniture was haphazardly painted garish hues, and floor tiles were a clashing mosaic of textures.
“The house, he wrecked,” his sister told Chapman. “Every wall would be painted a different color. The idea of painting a room with the same color was just nonsensical to him. I used to say to him, ‘Do two walls the same color.’ ‘But why?’ he’d say. ‘They’re all different walls.’ The house was very colorful and anybody else would say it was a disaster. But that’s how he liked it. We used to go to [hardware stores] B&Q and Homebase and get all this wood endlessly and do lots of DIY projects, which were very funny. He used to laugh at them because they never worked at all.”
The projects all possess a charmingly childlike simplicity. End tables, walking-stick stands, letter racks and workboxes were roughly nailed together with chipboard. Bits of wood were glued to legs of a stool in an aesthetically displeasing but functional attempt to add height. The effect is both goofy and poignant.
Following Barrett’s death in 2006, most of these items were auctioned off, fetching prices on par with relics. A homemade bread bin, described in the Cheffins auction-house catalogue as “crudely constructed from sheets of plywood, screwed and glued together, the gaps filled with wood filler, with hinged fall front,” netted 1,400 pounds. The auction raised 121,000 pounds in all, which the Barrett family donated to a scholarship for local art students.
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