This Somerville Woman Is Making Incredible Cat Houses From Upcycled Wine Crates

les chateaux"Thank you, come again."

A little over a month ago, Lisette Tamkei had just put the finishing touches on a set of shelves, and she wasn’t quite ready to set down the paint brush. The Davis Square resident realized she missed the feeling of painting, so she turned to the house she’d recently built for her kitten, Calypso, out of upcycled wine crates.

“I was like, ‘Oh, well, I might as well make it into something,'” Tamkei says.

Her partner came up with an idea: Since she was a huge Simpsons fan, why not turn the structure into a cat-sized Kwik-E-Mart? (She also has an affinity for miniatures, so decorating a tiny Springfield structure was right in her wheelhouse.) “It was, like, ridiculously fun,” Tamkei says. “I don’t remember the last time I made something that was that fun.” Shortly thereafter, she turned her cat’s litter box cover into another Simpson’s landmark—Moe’s bar—and posted photos to Instagram under the name Les Chateaux, not thinking much of it until a friend reached to ask if she could get a custom cat house of her own.

“I don’t know if she was joking or not, but I was having fun making them,” Tamkei says. She agreed, and because that cat had a black-and-white tuxedo coat—quite the fancy fur-ball—they decided he’d be right at home in a Parisian (Purr-isian?) cafe. Mr. Sid’s—her first commissioned piece—opened its doors earlier this week.

It may have started as a hobby, but Tamkei has already taken on her next project: a hobbit house modeled after Bilbo’s Bag End in The Lord of the Rings for the owner of Thoughtful Paws Pet Care, who saw the mini-Moe’s when she was checking in on Tamkei’s kitty. “It’s gonna be hard… I’m probably gonna have to take two boxes and—I don’t know!” she laughs.

Still, she’s up fur the challenge. Her coworkers have joked that she’s accidentally becoming a small business owner, and in the coming weeks, if it seems like people are interested, she says she might put together an Etsy page to collect orders. (Right now, interested owners can contact her via Instagram.)

And if it remains a hobby, that’s fine, too. After all, there are always more Simpsons-themed buildings to be made—Krusty Burger, the nuclear power plant, Duff Brewery, the Android’s Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop…

“My house is going to turn into Springfield,” Tamkei laughs. “It could go on. I’m going to have to buy another apartment.”