Know Wonder

By Ron Donoho / Jeff "Turbo" Corrigan

Scotty Ziegler is a multi-medium artist provocateur who paints large-breasted mermaids and ultra-sexy women on canvas; can take a car apart and put it back together; holds multiple patents; sold toy ideas to Hasbro, Mattel and Fisher Price; and co-hosts the History Channel's reality show, Invention USA.

Imagine what this guy's house must look like.

"Everybody's got their crazy-ass deal that they want in a house, right?" Ziegler says. "Mine was a place downtown, in the Gaslamp, with no windows and high ceilings, in an old building with textures."

With the help of a local realtor, Ziegler found the perfect place: a third-floor unit in a midrise condo building at Sixth and Broadway. It had two stark white rooms and kitchen appliances, but no kitchen, per se. It was akin to a storage unit.

"Holy crap, I gotta have this," Ziegler recalls saying at the time.

Have it, he did. And he had a vision, which took 10 weeks to plan and a year to complete. Now, although Ziegler continues to add paintings to the space, he's generally satisfied with his unique urban encampment, aptly named "The Vault."

"The story starts at this big-ass door," he says of the stainless steel creation he forged. "I want people to come up and go, 'What the hell?' I want everything to have that crazy feel."

The inside is an adult playground with a vintage slot machine and a custom Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the living room. There's also a shower with one wall covered by a painting of a woman's face. No one uses the shower, but Ziegler likes that people say, "Hey, man, you've got a shower in your living room!"

Handmade circular stairways lead up to steel catwalks that hold three bedrooms. The master bedroom is referred to as the "VIP Lounge."

"It's cool here, because even when there's a DJ playing, you can talk all night and actually hear each other," Ziegler says. "That's the thing - this whole place is about being at the party and being away from the party at the same time."

Yes, DJs and parties. The original plan was for The Vault to be "like Superman's Fortress of Solitude," says Ziegler. That plan morphed. Now, he rents the space out for events.

The Vault's only "windows" are circular portholes that expose one room to another. One larger porthole on the catwalk level is actually a door.

But why no external windows?

"Because I want to control time," says Ziegler. "You're in my world. Time is the thing that always screws you. Things are going good, and you're on a roll, but then you see what time it is and get distracted...but when you're in here, there are no distractions. I control the environment."

One day, while Ziegler was painting in a studio that sits at the end of one of The Vault's catwalks, his wife, Angie, called in a bad mood. He asked why, and she said it was because she was driving in the rain.

"I had no idea it was raining," he says. "You have no idea how much going outside and seeing that it's raining changes the reference of where you head is."

When the Ziegler family (which includes daughters Brooke, 25, and Ariel, 21) does want to see outside, they do so via an exterior camera that shoots down Broadway and can send a live image to a 120-inch flat-screen TV in the living room.

The Zieglers have also been known to dial-up live feeds from cameras all over the globe. "It's like having a big window out onto anywhere in the world," says Scotty.

Ziegler engraved anecdotes and sayings all over The Vault. If one of these can sum up the entire residence, it's one on the kitchen counter (which is made from acid-dyed red steel) that reads: "Step One: Imagination."

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