If you saw Kathryn Kidd's house on Google Maps, you'd probably keep scrolling straight down that steep Manhattan Beach, California street until the ocean filled your computer screen. When a Google van captured it in February, it was a squat duplex that seemed to exist only to show that there are at least three shades of grayish-brown that could all accurately be described as 'taupe.'
But earlier this summer, Kidd commissioned a local artist to paint the exterior of her home, and she decided that, this time, she'd go with the kind of pink you rarely see outside of a 7-year-old's birthday party. In addition to the hottest of hot pinks, Kidd had two emojis added to the exterior, one with a zipped mouth, one with a wide smile and floppy tongue, and both of them with thick, oversized eyelashes on their loopy, oversized eyes.
Kidd, who doesn't live in the house, says she did it for her own personal LOLs. "Instead of everybody being so gloomy, always so depressed, always in other people’s business, I just wanted to send a message to be happy, be colorful, be positive, and enjoy," she told Easy Reader News. "Everything doesn’t have to be gray. It can be full of colors. Life is full of rainbows. I get tired of looking at gloomy buildings so I do something that makes me smile and probably makes someone else smile, too. That was my inspiration.”
But one of her neighbors says that she's lashing out—pun absolutely intended—at them for snitching on her to the city, and that Kidd is deliberately making fun of her appearance. Susan Wieland admits that she contacted the city when she learned that Kidd had listed the 39th Street house on Airbnb. (Short-term rentals of less than 30 days are illegal in Manhattan Beach.) She also said that she had eyelash extensions on the single occasion that she'd spoken to Kidd in person.
"I feel like I’ve been directly attacked with my eyelash extensions,” Wieland said. “It’s definitely directed. I had them done here in Manhattan Beach, and they did them way too big. Now it’s painted on the house. It’s mocking me. It’s heartbreaking. I mean, it’s literally staring right at me.” Wieland says she pulled her shades down in June after seeing the emoji paint job and has not opened them since, and that the creepy smiley faces have made her "depressed." (Kidd denies using Wieland as an emoji model, but did call her "paranoid" with "curious issues.")
In a now-deleted Instagram caption, emoji painter Z the Art joked about the whole situation. "Are your neighbors constantly ratting you out? Have they cost you thousands in fines? Have you wanted to tell them off lately?" he wrote. "Why risk a case, when you can hire me to paint them a pretty message? No verbal confrontations, speedy turnaround, open to photorealism and custom emojis. Hit the dm for a free quote today.” He hashtagged the post with #TheEmojiHouse, #artcommission...and #eyelashextensions.
Kidd had to pay a $4,000 fine because of her previous Airbnb listings, but her long-term tenants don't violate any of the city's laws—so now her neighbors are focusing solely on those emojis. Several local residents attended a city Planning Commission meeting on July 10, and they were disappointed to learn that because the smiley faces aren't vulgar, promoting a business, or advertising anything, they're not in violation of the city code. "If it’s private property, no public funding or involvement, and it meets the definition of a mural and it is not a sign, we have very little if any ability to prevent it,” Assistant City Attorney Micheal Estrada said during that meeting.
But the neighbors don't seem like they're going to stop until Kidd's house has been re-tauped. "To me, there are just so many ways the city could step in if they want to,” longtime resident Dina Doll told the Los Angeles Times. “At this point, there is no neutral for the city. Not taking action is condoning this. And do we really as a community want to condone this?” Doll, an attorney, is the person who originally reported Kidd's creative paint job to the city.
Several 39th Street residents not named Kathryn Kidd say that they'll be attending a second meeting with city officials on Tuesday night. (Presumably one of their arguments this time will be that the number of selfie-takers who visit #TheEmojiHouse are a safety issue or public nuisance). As for Kidd, she's not at all bothered. "I really don’t have any opinion, to be quite honest with you,” she said. “People are entitled to their own opinions. I’m not in violation of any laws.”
But how would you say that in emoji?