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Famed Venice Canals home: proudly — and loudly — welcoming

Famed Venice Canals home: proudly — and loudly — welcoming
Nely Galan takes care of the home's upkeep, while husband Brian Ulf has taken on the "greeter" role. (Christina House/For The Times)

When your home becomes more famous than you, what's the best response?

"I run and hide," said Nely Galan, former president of entertainment for Telemundo.  "People say, 'It's the most Instagrammed house in the world.' About 150,000 photos the last time we checked."

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Her eye-popping Venice Canals home — a compound of three structures married through saturated hues of yellow, orange, pink and fuchsia — was last featured in The Times in 2011. That story, Galan says, helped launched an invasion; the home has been besieged by TV and film crews, tourists, art students, architects, wedding parties and a parade of selfie sticks.

"You were a blessing and a curse," said Galan, who lives with husband Brian Ulf, 16-year-old son Lukas and the family's miniature Yorkshire terrier, Desi. But the family has also embraced the gawkers and looky-loos.

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Galan and Ulf at their colorful home.
Galan and Ulf at their colorful home. (Christina House/For The Times)

"Neighbors say I'm so OCD, always painting and fixing, but I feel I'm the keeper of this house," said Cuban-born Galan, who is now an author. "If I don't maintain it, I'm cheating the tourists. It brings people so much joy."

The couple's main Steven Ehrlich-designed house straddles a "T" canal, affording a commanding channel view while providing prime optics for sightseers.

The luminous colors, chosen by artist Patssi Valdez in 2010, flex so much wattage that a neighbor's room two houses away is blushed yellow. Eight coats of paint were required to achieve the degree of irradiance the structures throw off.

Among the first to arrive on the couple's step were celebrities.

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"Michael Richards [Seinfeld's Cosmo Kramer] read the article and became obsessed with finding the house," said Galan, who gave Richards a tour after Ulf spotted him snapping photos. "He told us, 'I'm in love with your house,'" said Galan. "I gave him a list of all my suppliers."

Late sportscaster Bud Collins, known for his own multihued wardrobe, had been a visitor, and Ricki Lake also knocked on Galan's door, cued to the home by actress Camryn Manheim, who lives nearby.

Galan and Ulf on the deck of their popular home.
Galan and Ulf on the deck of their popular home. (Christina House/For The Times)

At times, the home can seem to be everywhere.

The couple often spot their residence on websites, TV and in movies. While exiting nearby Rose Café, Ulf looked up to see an oil painting of his house with a $1,600 price tag.

Galan may have created the home's lionized style, but Ulf has become the property's social face, often shouting "Bonjour!" or "Ciao!" to passersby from the front deck, which is set with lime green furniture.

"I tell him, 'Don't let everyone in,' but when I'm gone, he lets everyone in," joked Galan. "He makes Cuban coffee for people, brings them up to the roof deck to get better photos."

Busloads of foreign tourists are routinely dropped near the house. Ulf occasionally invites a few into an interior courtyard. "I try to make their day special," said Ulf, chief executive of StrongHouse Realty Advisors. "No one who sees the house ever stays in a bad mood."

"I love that Brian's on the deck, always ready to say hi — he's so cheerful, sociable," said Angela Bakke who produces a monthly magazine for canal residents. "He's the perfect person to live there."

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On a recent Sunday, tourists pointed at the home, snapping off sunglasses for a closer examination.

"Stunning," said Bronnie Styles, on holiday from New Zealand. "No one would let you do this in Auckland."

"The colors, so perfect," said a woman from Belarus. "I wish to have it."

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