The House That Built Me | Cover Story | Salt Lake City Weekly
Support the Free Press.
Facts matter. Truth matters. Journalism matters.
Salt Lake City Weekly has been Utah's source of independent news and in-depth journalism since 1984.
Donate today to ensure the legacy continues.

News » Cover Story

The House That Built Me

Larger-than-life renovation became a potter's magnum opus



Page 2 of 2


Not completely insane, Behunin employed an out-of-work friend and also hired contractor Mike Allred, whom he found on the web, to help with framing, finish work and siding.

“He’s a stud—there’s no question about it,” says Allred, who has worked on hundreds of homes. “It’s the most eclectic thing I’ve worked on by far. The thing about Ben is how he combines dissimilar materials and makes them look like they belong together.”

Allred was impressed by the saving and planning that took place prior to the project and the herculean efforts of one man.

“That is so rare to meet someone who has the discipline, self control and vision to do that and the guts to try and pull that off,” Allred says.

By the end of summer, Behunin’s intricately designed home project still wasn’t complete.

His “blisters had blisters,” Behunin says, but he was now lean, stronger and in the best health of his life.

As the weeks dragged on, the paint—21 vibrant colors—finally went up on the walls.

Still, his pottery work suffered. He would wake up early, work for a few hours on pottery, then work on the house all day, and then go back into the studio in the evening for a few more hours of pottery. Behunin normally uses between 6 and 10 tons of clay a year, but in 2011, he used only about 3, and that was mostly after the remodel.

Behunin developed stomach ulcers and would go days without seeing his children or his wife, who was busy helping to care for her ailing mother.

“In some ways, that saved our marriage,” he says. “We didn’t fight about anything because we each had our own mountains to conquer, and we were busy. … You have to be flexible to do a project like this.”

And as work continued, something strange happened with his arthritis. A woman showed up to his studio one day and told him to try a couple of bracelets that contained rare magnets. Who knows if it was the magnets, or losing weight and eating the right things, staying away from sugars, all of the hard work—or a “miracle,” which is what Behunin figures—but the arthritis was in full retreat by the end of the summer of 2011.

He hasn’t taken a pill for pain or swelling in his hands since June 2011.


Temple of Creativity
The home people see today, inside and out, is nothing short of amazing—a “single piece of art,” Conover says, that leaves people in awe. Passing by, it’s impossible to miss the house, on 800 South just west of East High School.

On most of the stairs and around every corner inside the house are mosaics of the colorful tiles that Behunin formed and fired in his studio and backyard kiln. Nearly every room has accents or defining characteristics that are laid out in the one-of-a-kind tiles, some whimsical, others carrying a blast of spirituality.

The “potter’s potty” in the basement is alone worth a trip to Behunin’s home for a peek—knock first, and no reading materials needed in this eye-popping potty.

Behunin put up brown tiles that bear his children’s names, Eve and Isaac, jokingly referring to them as his “little shits.”

He’s a deeply spiritual man, but not one without a sense of humor. “One of my favorite tiles says, ‘Choose the Right, Damn It!’ ” Behunin notes. “I believe God has a fabulous sense of humor. He has to—He created us all.”

“Ben marked every square inch with his creative genius, and yet it flows with unusual beauty and insight,” Conover says. “His home is like a song to be sung.”

One thing that stands out for Conover are the quotes on the tiles that are all over the house: Yield Only to Truth. Every Day Is a Bonus. Do Unto Others As Though You Were the Others. Pray Always. Proceed As the Way Opens. Come and Dine. Stay Calm. Do It. Have I Done Any Good In the World Today? Free Fart Zone. Dream Big. Be Satisfied. Simplify.

There are many, many more.

The Behunins moved back into their jaw-dropping home Nov. 15, 2011, after six months of almost constant construction.


Imagine living next door.

“Even if there was a night of loud noise over there, we would just mention something about it the next day, and it would all quit,” says Kathy Schall, who, with her husband, Andrew, lives directly east of the Behunins. “He definitely likes his neighbors and wants to make them happy.”

And, yes, they were in awe.

“We’ve experienced how much he loves his kids—we’ve seen what he did for them,” Andrew says.

“I’m trying to convince him that we need to redo our basement,” his wife says with a wry smile. Andrew rolls his eyes and sighs at the spillover effect.

Kathy says she wishes she were as creative as her neighbor, an impact Behunin was going for when he dreamed up the project.

“It has been fun having my neighbors thank me for the gift our home is to our neighborhood,” Behunin says. “I hope my home gives people a reason to slow down as they drive past it and get them thinking about what they can do to make their world a little more charming. As they say, if we each do a little, we can all do a lot.”

The home will be open for Behunin’s annual Mother’s Day studio open houses, held May 10-12. His studio is open for appointments by calling 801-883-0146; he can also be reached via his website,