Real People. Stihl People.

Rural Missouri Magazine


Where home is art

Jeff and Alisha Brundege's love of art is seen in their castle-like Rogersville home

by Heather Berry


Jeff and Alishia stand in front of a wall-size portrait of the Madonna they began painting one Christmas Eve. They call her “Our Lady of Perpetual Construction.”

As the saying goes, “A man’s home is his castle.” That’s the case for one couple’s home in Rogersville, a few miles east of Springfield.

Since 1971 artist Jeff Brundege has taken an acre of land and what used to be a small stucco bungalow and turned it into a stylish 4,000-square-foot masterpiece.

“Our house is definitely high maintenance and it’s not a project for the light-hearted,” says Jeff, as he surveys the kingdom he and his wife, Alishia, are creating.

The Brundeges say they’ve had real estate agents and architects stop by and nearly demand they sell the place, but Jeff and Alishia smile and say, “No, thanks.”

Depending on which of the numerous doors you enter, your eyes will gaze upon a potpourri of architectural styles from baroque, art nouveau, Afrikaans Dutch and Mongolian to name only a few.
A staircase winds sharply upward toward turreted rooms where a encrusted crypt-like door opens into a bathroom where a carved stone face depicting the north wind peers into the window from a nearby gable. A sitting room feels more like an old church sanctuary as a mural-size Madonna gazes upon visitors.

Gothic influences find their way into Jeff’s woodwork throughout the home, often hiding what Alishia doesn’t like sitting out in the open — modern technology.

A giant swan seems to float gracefully upon the raised floor in Jeff and Alishia’s bedroom. The piece, carved by Jeff, has been on display at numerous art shows.

Jeff opens a small Gothic-style door on the wall to reveal phone and computer lines. Opposite, an ornate wooden panel hides file cabinets and cookbooks.

A Springfield native, Jeff’s interest in art began as a young teen. An old Dutch painter living a few houses down from Jeff’s family gave young Brundege art lessons in exchange for doing a few chores.
“I’d bring my easel and paints to their kitchen and his wife would feed me wonderful sweets while he would review my last venture,” says Jeff. “As I painted, he’d stand behind me and if I picked something up incorrectly, he’d rap my hands with a mall stick (used by artists to steady their hands while painting.)

The lessons were hard, but I learned a lot.”

Jeff went on to major in art at Southwest Missouri State University and in the ‘60s moved to New York, hoping to become a children’s book illustrator. He rented a storage loft on Wall Street and hoped for a break.

“I truly was the proverbial starving artist,” he says. “About the only thing I had in that loft were a lot of shelves, my art stuff and a toilet.”

Out of necessity, Jeff tore down the shelves and built a kitchen, bedroom and workspace. When people came to the loft to view his artwork, they would comment on his woodworking skills. He soon found himself building cabinets and remodeling lofts for people.

Jeff moved back to the Springfield area in 1970 to help his sister build her home. He settled in a little cabin on her place and made cabinets and furniture.

Turrets and arched windows often find their way into Jeff’s architectural designs.

Soon after the project ended, Jeff purchased a small bungalow and began adding on — and on. And just about every design he liked ended up in the renovation plan.

“Jeff’s mom saved much of his artwork from when he was young and there are some common themes which have ended up in our home,” says Alishia. “The only difference is now it’s years later and we’re living in the art.”

One might wonder how a wife could be so tolerant of her husband’s elaborate creativity. Lucky for Jeff, Alishia is also an artist, specializing in fine art paintings. She has also taught elementary school art classes for the past 21 years in Springfield.

Jeff says about anything can inspire them to add a new addition or embellishment to their home.
“My mother-in-law sent us a card and the flap on the envelope had the most wonderful shape. It was very similar to this,” Jeff says, pointing to the ornately scalloped roofline of their large garage.

When Jeff isn’t adding on to their home, he works on commissioned art pieces in bronze, wood, resin and ivory. He says he’s never really advertised his abilities over the years — the work mainly comes to him by word-of-mouth.

Some of his more notable works are the 12-foot-tall lions which guard the entrance of John Q. Hammons’ Grand Palace Hotel in Myrtle Beach, S.C., 25 ornately carved fireplaces at Big Cedar Lodge near Branson and a bronze bobcat created as a time capsule on display at The American National Fish and Wildlife Museum in Springfield.

“I believe art needs to pull you in and entertain you,” says Jeff. “I want it to tell some kind of story.”
The Webster Electric Cooperative member recently completed a commissioned ivory piece. It was carved from a 4-foot piece of legally obtained ivory tusk which took his client nearly two years to find.

In addition to his own art Jeff teaches art classes at his home studio.

“Usually he commissioned functional pieces, but this time he wanted art for art’s sake,” says Jeff. “The tusk became a semi-nude female holding a bird on her finger.”

Jeff says he has several projects he’d like to complete for their house. From a walkway with arched openings, Jeff gazes out toward the backyard.

“Eventually, I’d like water to run below this so we can look through the arches and get that Venice effect.”

If you ask Alishia which piece of Jeff’s art is her favorite, she hesitates and then says, “The house — it’s my favorite work Jeff’s ever done.”

You may contact Jeff and Alishia Brundege via e-mail at brundegestudio@gtcinternet.com.

Rural Missouri magazine - November 2014
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