The Decorations All Go Together in Charley Lang's House of Puzzles, Where Each Piece Is One in a Million

updated 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Picture this, if you will—a house whose interior is covered with jigsaw puzzles. More than 1 million interlocking jigsaw pieces glued to walls, doors, ceilings, tables, windows and almost anything else that doesn't bark or answer the front door. For retired bartender Charley Lang, 67, the jig is finally up. His puzzling compulsion can no longer be ignored. He knocks off about one a day, usually a 1,000-piecer, and he has pasted 1,170 of the completed puzzles throughout his seven-room house in Carson, Calif. "Patience, that's number one," says Charley, explaining his puzzle-making skills, if not his obsession. "I have more patience than I know what to do with. My patience has patience."

Lang began his grand design seven years ago when a friend gave him 150 old puzzles to put together. He liked that. "Then a light bulb went off in my head," he says. "Why not try gluing them to the walls and the ceiling on the front porch? It won't do any harm." That mission completed (166 puzzles and 137,560 pieces later), Charley moved into the living room, then the den, bedrooms, hallway and bathroom. He added on a gazebo-shaped Temple of Puzzles in his backyard to contain 325 more puzzles. The only room he didn't completely cover, on wife Marjorie's orders, was the kitchen. "It gets too greasy in there," she says.

A year ago Charley fulfilled his most ambitious dream: He hit the 1-million-piece mark. To achieve that triumph, he had to build an extra room onto his house to contain 231 more puzzles. "It really felt good," he says of reaching his goal. "I just sat there in the middle of it, letting it all seep in."

By now you might think Charley would be puzzled-out. Well, he has only just begun, having ordered a 7,500-piece puzzle of an Italian mountain range. "I can't wait to get the darn thing," he says. Until it arrives, he still has stacks of puzzles he hasn't gotten to, many bought from the local Goodwill store. "They're 79 cents," he says, "but I get a dime off for being a senior citizen." Since he's about run out of room for his creations, he's thinking of building a backyard pyramid to be lined with puzzles. "I don't care how weird somebody might think it is," says Charley, "everybody should have a hobby."

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