Martha Friend’s House of Found Objects

This unique Somerville home is bursting with unique and quirky art surrounding the house with an endearing ephemeral grace.

by Michela Rahaim
February 4, 2022

If you wander down Highland, passing through the many little shops that make up Somerville, you can catch a glimpse of the careening and undulating blue glass sculptures of Martha Friend’s “Sapphire City” bursting from her front lawn — visible and sparkling only the brighter in the snow and blizzards of New England winters. 

Sister Gem Cities

Friend, a long-time resident of Somerville and verified whimsy queen, grew up in a family of artists and has passed the gene onto her children. She has been adding to her household installations since 2015 after she retired as a Health and English as a Second Language teacher at Revere Public Schools. Friend considers herself a “found-material artist,” often finding inspiration and objects in thrift stores, flea markets, and sometimes even the street. She has used rusty farm implements, seashells, vintage ceramics, old dolls, religious icons, plastic dinosaurs and glass figurines to build her creations and dazzle the neighborhood. 

She initially started in her backyard, creating a sweeping array of green glass, which she aptly named “Emerald City.” She has even painted the way for her guests by adding a yellow brick road in case they lose their way. A “Teapot Graveyard” is also featured, with lime and cobalt metalwork under a sky of glowing orbs. 

With lots of encouragement and the “need to sink her teeth into a project,” she began work on “Sapphire City,” branching out into her front yard and fully sharing her work with the world. A sister city to her Emerald masterpiece, her front lawn features skyscrapers of cobalt and teal, with glimmers of orange to add even more pizzazz. Watching over her miniature city is  “Dance Party,” a playful array of horses and action figures on her roof. 

Self-described as having a “love affair with rust,” Martha Friend’s Victorian wonder is a beautiful compilation of glass and objects that jut out of her lawn, surrounding her house with an ephemeral grace. With her home being impossible to miss, Martha has admitted that she frequently keeps her windows open so that she can overhear people’s remarks on her work and listen to the joy that she brings to passersby. While she didn’t expect her home to become a staple in the neighborhood, she says she was confident people would enjoy it and that she’s never received any negative comments. 

One passerby expressed her pleasure at viewing the local landmark: “I’ve circled [her] wonderful home. Fun, interesting, and an adventure; a feast for the eyes!” 

While another adamantly stated that, “Martha always amazes.” 

Always new additions

Martha always welcomes people to check out her yard, allowing people to circle her house and view her many installations. She will be participating in the Amory’s Somerville Open Studio and allowing people to view all of her work— inside and outside her house— the weekend of April 30. You can see some of her new work, including her dioramas, photographs, and a vast array of found objects to fully immerse you in a vibrant den of color. Anyone could spend an hour wandering around her collection and still discover a hidden treasure tucked artfully in a corner somewhere. (I personally enjoyed her sailor’s valentines box and the old-fashioned baby carriage that she has outfitted with lights, thermometers, and photographs!) 

Martha Friend is constantly rejuvenating her house, and working on new projects, so stop by her house to see what the next additions to her garden are! (I’ve been told there might be ninja turtles!)


Friend, Martha. Martha Friend Statement, 2008, 

Nolan, Erin. “Martha Friend’s Fantastic Multi-Colored Glass Menagerie.” The Somerville Times, 2019, 

Stories, Local. “Meet Martha Friend in Somerville.” Boston Voyager Magazine | Boston City Guide, 3 July 2018, 

Michela Rahaim knew she was destined to be a writer from her early obsession with punctuation and fascination with magical realism. She has written for the Borgen Project and The Mighty, and is currently working on her first novel.

More Local Stories

Eat Play Stay Orlando: Sanford

On this episode of Eat Play Stay Orlando explore what’s new in the Northern part of town. Sanford has a plethora of breweries, bars, and delicious dining options to choose from.

Hometown Tragedy: The Pike County Massacre

On this episode of Hometown Tragedy: Missing in Milwaukee, we’ll explore what happened to Jerica Banks, her children, and how it impacted their community.

Six New Orleans parks that are perfect locations to celebrate 4th of July

Head to one of these six New Orleans parks to celebrate Independence Day in the city.

Cheap Date Orlando: Punk Rock & Pooches

Two Orlando couples shop vintage, search for the perfect slice, visit a post-apocalyptic saloon, and take the stage on blind dates in Orlando.

Fit and Fab: Free summer workouts in Boston

Cover photo courtesy Getty Images Looking to get fit for the summer? Still wary of COVID-19 or just looking for some sunshine while you sweat? Here are some Boston free summer workouts across the city so you can keep moving all season long! Seaport Sweat May 2 to Sept. 29 Boston’s biggest free workout series…

What’s On the Menu?: Farm-to-table

The farm-to-table movement brings locally grown foods to your plate. Not only will enjoying farm-to-table meals allow you to indulge in fresh, nutritional, seasonal dishes, but farm-to-table dining helps the environment and supports the local economy.  Check out these delicious farm-to-table restaurants in Greenville, South Carolina on the latest episode of What’s On the Menu?. …

A guide to some of the best Black-owned brunch spots in NOLA

Gather the crew together, make those reservations, and celebrate all things Black at brunch. 

A guide to Pittsburgh’s summer events must-do list

Check out our roundup below for the can’t-miss events happening in the city over the next few months.

Eat Play Stay Orlando: Tarpon Springs

In this episode of Eat Play Stay Orlando you’ll be transported to a thriving Greek community nestled on Florida’s gulf coast. From sponge diving to flaming cheese to a Greek bakery that supplies a ginormous amount of baklava to the entire country, you’re sure to fall in love with Greek culture in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Dorchester doughnuts that pack a paczki

These traditional Polish pastries are the real deal.

Friday the 13th: A guide to the history behind common superstitions

Why does a black cat mean trouble? Will your mama’s back really break if you step on a crack?

South Boston

Boston Rob’s Guide to South Boston

Rob hits up a new wine tasting spot, gets a butt contouring treatment, knocks down some pins and then hits the ice at Warrior Ice Arena.

Episodes to Explore for Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day we’ve put together a collection of episodes about sustainability as well as some of our favorite episodes from Finding Adventure.

How a Failed Canal Project Created Nola’s Neutral Grounds

Nearly 200 years later, New Orleans’ neutral grounds are no longer the battleground the original Canal Street was. Now they play host to the battle for Mardi Gras throws instead.