Category Archives: Design Diversions

The New House … Before

We moved into our new house in mid-February (our first Phoenix place was just a rental, this one is the real deal) and I finally got around to putting the first floor plan into CAD.  So here she is (with a little furniture because why not):


The house was built in 1986 in a stucco-land neighborhood in an area of Phoenix known as Ahwahtukee.  From the front, this beaut is all garage:

it's all garage

This is not the aesthetic we were going for at all but it is next to a mountain so we overlooked it.  Plus, how often does one sit at the end of one’s driveway to observe one’s house?  Not often, one would imagine.  Oh, how I would love to paint this house one day and put it out of its tan misery.

lr 1

These images are from the Zillow listing and are even fleshier-beige than it is in real life.  Realtor photos kill me.  The nice thing about this house is that the main living space is very open.

wet bar

The wet bar’s days are numbered.  The kitchen sink is literally steps away, why do we need a mini-sink here?  I have plans to wall this nook off and turn it into a proper pantry.


Another living room view with the glorious fans.  This image is a little skewed, I don’t think it is showing the true size of the room.  The sliders on the right go out to the patio and the backyard and cut off on the left side of the photo would be the door to the laundry room and passageway to the garage.

dr nook

The breakfast nook with the octopus wrought iron light fixture.  Off to the side you can see the door to the powder room that is under the stairs.  We had to pry that phone off the wall and patch the hole it left ….

kitchen 1

And … an itty bitty kitchen!  That’s why I’m planning for a wet bar to pantry conversion because there is not enough room in all these cabinets for food and plates and pots and pans.  Not to worry, we’ll work it all out!  The wall on the other side of the fridge (not shown) is where the old-school phone was.

hot tub view

Here’s one corner of the backyard, the “sandbox” where the hot tub lives.  JT and I visited a material yard the other day to look at some pavers.  Some day soon that sand will be history just like the wet bar.  The hot tub just needed a little work to get up and running and was doing great until a few weeks ago when it died.  We need to call our hot tub guy up again and get it checked out.  Ironically enough he lived in STL for a time and worked at Mississippi Nights back in the day.  It’s a little big world.

the sandy beach view

More of the backyard and the mountain beyond, standing from the vantage point of a little out from the back patio.

backyard from corner

And this is the whole backyard from the vantage point of the back corner where we triangle into the mountain preserve.  It’s a lot of rock and it gets full, baking hot desert sun all day so we have yet to come up with a different landscape plan.  At this point, we have enough ideas up our sleeves to keep us busy for a while.

So that’s the yard and first floor – I started on the CAD plan of the upstairs but I haven’t made it too far – this house is all different shapes jutting each and every way – the floor plate for the two floors doesn’t line up at all and it means more work to decipher everything.  It’s a big change from our 800 SF brick bungalow that was a little more straightforward.  However so far life in the desert and especially in our new house has been great for JT and me.  Next weekend when we have the long weekend and some more free time I’ll take some “during” shots of our first floor as it is now!

Have a great week and happy stuffing day!  Cheers – CT

The Wright Stuff

Okay, sorry.  Probably everyone has used that blog title when referring to a Frank Lloyd Wright house.


Last Tuesday in the midst of project deadlines and proposal writing, a few of my colleague and I had a chance to visit the David and Gladys Wright House.  Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a retirement home for his son and daughter-in-law David and Gladys and built by David himself as acting G.C., the house and land is so amazing.

The house and guest house sit on 6 acres that is in the middle of a bustling area of town called Arcadia.  It’s a bit like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia – to visit the house now, you drive down Camelback, a busy street, turn into the Camelback Church of Christ parking lot and open a door in the wall onto this oasis of peacefulness.


There is a long and complicated back story as to how the house came to be open to the public and not demolished.  Tonight there is a vote at the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission to see what its future might hold.  Above is an image of a 3D scan the current owner has done to see about the state of the structure.  You can see all the little blue dots are the scan points and the round light circles are were the tripods were during the scan.  Modern technology is pretty cool.  You can also see the pool in the courtyard that is currently filled in making its ghostly appearance.


This house is like a ship – all the storage is built in and everything is elegant and functional.


Detailing – look at that hearth grate – there are two identical – one in the main living space and this one in the master bedroom.


And above, the view from the master bedroom – you can see the front door tucked in above the bougainvillea and beyond a perfectly framed shot of the head of the camel for which Camelback Mountain is named.  Not too shabby.


The guest house is strikingly modern for a house built and designed in the early 50s. I love the current landscaping although all the lawn is a bit lush for this neck of the woods – our new house has only desert landscape “xeriscape” which is a lot easier to maintain – but look at all the blue stone and carefully placed agaves around the guest house – love it.


Here’s a panoramic of a bunch of architects and designers taking an architecture nerd break on the roof of the house.  What a view.  What a breath of fresh air on a hectic Tuesday.

You all have to visit the David and Gladys Wright house on your next trip to Phoenix and see it for yourself.  Photos don’t do it justice.  And if the vote tonight and zoning things and whatever else go well, there will also be an underground education center, café and gift shop at the site as well.  I hope that’s soon!  Cheers – CT

PS – Good news – the David and Gladys Wright house was recommended as a historic landmark!  See more here.  Congrats to all who have fought so hard for this house.

PPS – This is humorous to me: FLW’s subtitle for this house was “How to Live in the Southwest” … you know, in an architectural gem in the sky with a view of a magnificent mountain and ten acres of citrus groves.  Sounds great!

Portland … It’s all true.

Hey guys – happy Friday!  In theory both JT and I are off on Fridays thanks to our 4-10 schedule but I have a project that waits until Friday to need me.  The joy.  Oh well, what do you do?  Relive an earlier vacation?  Okay!

So we had never been anywhere in the Pacific Northwest before and we decided that early August would be a perfect time to escape the desert and break up the looooong summer we get here in Phoenix.  We landed at PDX (with the new carpet, boo) and learned that everything you’ve ever heard about Portland is true.

I’ll just give you a quick, non-linear recap because we saw and did and drank so much on our trip that there’s not enough internet or pictures to really go through it all.  So.


Nature – they have that in spades.  Everything was SO GREEN!  We mainly stayed downtown but on the last day we rented a car and drove out to see some of the sights.


They have nature in town too – we visited the (free) International Rose Test Garden as it was in full bloom.  Amazing.  Roses for miles and they all have a slightly different scent but I thought the overall base smell was kind of lemon-y.  We lucked out and got the most beautiful weather while we were vacationing.  It was sunny and a little hot (not Phoenix hot) during the day and cool and perfect in the evening.


Beer.  Portland is the micro-brewery capital of the world or something. We visited a few places – Deschutes, Widmer Brothers (did the brewery tour) and McMenamins (the one in the Pearl District).


We did AirBnB for our lodgings and while we had a little hiccup at the beginning, it worked out okay and was a great location and view – we were in a historic building on the 8th floor near Madison and 6th Avenue downtown.  The photo below on the left is a view from the balcony looking west-ish and the other photo is JT after a grueling afternoon beer tasting – that’s hard work.  We loved the space, especially all the plants.  It was a little urban jungle and we slept with those doors open every night.  It let in all the awesome cool fresh air and the yells from the hobos fighting.  (Portland has A LOT of homeless people.)


The apartment was within walking distance of a few metro stops and especially close to the Art Museum.  We saw the Ai Weiwei exhibit that is now set to open in Phoenix in about a month.  The space they used in Portland was well suited to the installation, I might have to check it out here as well to compare.


What else?  Shopping – did that.  Everything was delightfully Portland-esque, made of real wood or leather and artisanally handcrafted by a hipster and displayed on a live edge tree slice.  We visited Powell’s Books twice and got nice and lost.  I also had my first visit to a brick and mortar Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store only to learn they are soon opening one in Scottsdale.


We saw a lot of the iconic Portland things (besides the hipsters, but they were everywhere).  There is a convenience chain called the “Plaid Pantry” – awesome.  We stumbled under the “Portlandia” statue on our way home from too much dining and drinking one night (see blurry night photo below).  We visited the food shacks (like food trucks but not actually driveable) a few too many times and the “Wolf + Bear” one below was quintessential Portland down to the font of the sign.  While there we saw a guy riding a unicycle playing the bagpipe and wearing a Darth Vader helmet – all in the name of keeping Portland weird.


We partied with the liberals at a free Bernie Sanders rally (There was more beer there too) and rode the metro back over one of Portland’s many bridges.
BERNIEWe dined and dined – visiting Clyde Common in the Ace Hotel and taking in a Portland sunset at Departures on the top of the Meiers + Frank building.


They had the best Asian noodle dish there (it was a pasta strand that was as thick as my pinky with a good spicy sauce on it) and a separate “special” menu just for vegans.  It was hard to pick when I had a whole menu to peruse!


We rode the tram, we walked around some more, drank lots of coffee and we took it all in.  Portland was amazing – beautiful and hand crafted and full of beer.  Four days wasn’t enough but we crammed a lot in.  We plan on going back to visit the Oregon countryside and all of the wineries.  Cheers to (maybe) next summer!  CT

P.S. – JT also has a post coming up today about one of his guitar projects and his online “Thompson Guitar and Thrift” store.  This has been a way better option for him than the crazy fees of eBay and maybe we’re one step closer to a brick and mortar “Thompson Guitar and Thrift” …. I’d better start on my estate sale-ing and Goodwill searching so I can be ready to keep up with him!


Snapshots from Phoenix

Hi everyone.  Have I mentioned that it is really hot in Phoenix right now?  It is really hot in Phoenix right now.  And now that July has kicked in, there is now humidity thanks to the monsoon storms.  I was told this place had dry heat.  I need a refund.

Nevertheless, the heat can’t keep me in – I refuse! Last weekend (4th of July weekend which was really long for us since we got Monday off as well (which to note is not an Arizona thing but rather a result of working 4 ten-hour days)) we did a little exploring and this weekend we did a little more.  I thought I’d share our adventures with you in a few snapshots.

Last weekend’s visit to the Antique Plaza in Mesa yielded a few results – some more vinyl for JT’s record collection and a cool copper printed map of Arizona for me.  There were some other items I didn’t want to leave behind . . .



The Antique Plaza was huge!  Some of the prices were right on, some were a little high and there was actually some MCM to be found (usually with the higher price tag).  We’ll be back.

We have a field mouse hiding in our house somewhere . . . I’m trying to catch him with peanut butter and love but the next step will be JT taking over the offensive and his methods are not so sweet.


Friday night while JT was out doing a band audition I met the mouse and went to Home Depot for the traps.  The next morning found me back at the Depot for a lighting class and meet and greet with (now) local blogger Jenny Komenda from Little Green Notebook.  The actual class went a little sideways and no one else took photos so I grabbed this shot with furtive shame on my phone (that’s Jenny on the right in the green blouse).


Jenny was super sweet and ready to relax a little after finishing up the Domino Magazine photo shoot at her house.  I can’t even imagine!

And no, that isn’t me above with a half buzzed head but the heat has convinced me that less hair is the better option.   Here’s a quick in-the-salon before pic to show just how long (and kind of straggly) my hair had become.


And after!  So much better for the summer!


So today I took my new haircut out into the heat and JT and I visited Cosanti which is the residence and studios of Paolo Soleri.  JT described it as looking like the place where Luke Skywalker lives and while I don’t have a good frame of reference on  that, it was a unique place that had primitive and futuristic aspects all at the same time.


Doesn’t that kind of look like a wooden spaceship came to land in the desert?  Steampunk kids take note, this place was started in the 1950s.


Also (random alert) there was a lot of olive trees among the vegetation and the site produces, bottles and sells its own olive oil.  Wowza.


I can’t wait to go up north and stay the night at Soleri’s larger experiment, Arcosanti.

What’s been going on with you guys?  Any tips for the heat?  Thank goodness my local grocery store carries a few flavors of coconut milk ice cream or I might have melted already.  Cheers – CT

(PS – More adventures to come – a day trip to Jerome and JT finds a new man chair.  Oooooh!)

Hot Crowd

Has anyone else noticed how Jimmy Fallon always comments that there is a “hot crowd” now that he’s on the Tonight Show?  And so the crowd cheers louder because he may be saying that they’re physically attractive but really he may be commenting on their general liveliness?  Well (to transition this thing over) we’re always a hot crowd here in Phoenix now that the days are mostly in the 100 to 100 degree range.  It’s like a long-standing joke on us (until September when we then laugh at the rest of the country).

We got up early a few weekends back to see if hiking was still feasible in this heat.  The Valley had a layer of smog when we were only 20 minutes in and not very high up the mountain.


The sun started baking us and we called it a little early to head back home, drink all the water we could find and generally lay about.


The heat means I open the doors to send the dogs out and in a few short minutes I see this out the back door . . .


So we let them back in and then they generally lay about the place.  Like so (Sophie, who finally learned how to use pillows):


And so:


And so (a princess and the pea Shenanigan when I piled up the dog beds so our robot vacuum could be unleashed in the bedroom):


One benefit of the heat is a 50% discount offered to Arizona residents for visits to Taliesin West.  JT and I thought the first tour on Saturday morning (9am) might be nice and empty but it was packed instead.  So it was a little difficult to take pictures due to the throng of fellow architecture enthusiasts we were surrounded by.


The tour was interesting, the sun was hot and I enjoyed nosing around.  As this was Wright’s winter home, he left a lot of the structures open with only canvas as a covering for a few years until his wife convinced him to go with glass.

I found a handsome man on the tour …


A sculpture I liked . . .


Oh, you wanted me to turn around? (Picture fail)


A picture of a picture (heading into the dinner theatre area – what don’t you have your architecture students/servants put on a dinner theatre for you on your winter vacation?)


(Sidenote: I didn’t realize my hair was getting so long . . .)


The view towards McDowell Mountain.  You can definitely see where Wright got his inspiration!  Time to get back inside and away from the sun’s burning rays!  Cheers – CT



A belated recap

It’s been a few weeks now since the Modern Phoenix hosted annual Home Tour.  This year the focus was Arcadia which is an area JT and I are interested in (among others) for when we finally buck up and buy a house here in the desert.  My pictures are not that great, there was a ton of people and it made it hard to get a whole room photographed without having at least five randos in it.  Modern Phoenix had a “Gauntlet” challenge and gave out a prize to one lucky dude who visited all the sites (we didn’t make it to all of them – I’m a dawdler and like to really look at everything).  They have his photos on their Facebook site here.

So here’s a quick look at some of my (crummy) photos —  this amazing barrel-vaulted kitchen overlooking a sunken living room is one of the few residential works that architect Paolo Soleri designed.  It was pretty amazing.


Soleri even designed the mailbox.  Like I said, pretty amazing.


This is from a meticulously curated bachelor pad.  His place was an awesome use of 800 sf.


This is the bachelor’s front hang-out area.   Move over kitty, I wouldn’t mind lounging here either.


This next house was owned by the people who own Modern Manor, a furniture store in the Melrose area that you never want to leave.  Their house was pretty much like that too.  I briefly googled around, hoping for a home tour somewhere but to no avail.  This place was too packed on the inside to get any photos but it was to die for (as is the store).


We drove into one of the last stops and I was reminded of St. Louis and the Ridgewood neighborhood where I had dreamed of owning a home one day.


One of the Ridgewood-esque homes had its own MCM play house in the backyard.  There were two houses on the tour on this little U-shape street and it looked like all the homeowners in the whole neighborhood were either architects or designers.  I was ready to move in.  There is definitely real estate stalking in my future.


This great office space was also an architect’s home and it was so peaceful and serene (the pool in the backyard always seems to impart a sense of calm.)


This one’s for you Nick Armadillo – a Nelson clock collector.  Like heavy-duty – they were all over the house.  And based on the neighborhood the house was in, I would hazard a guess that they are all originals.


Because the sun is such a prominent part of everyone’s lives here in Phoenix, solutions for dealing with its burning rays are always welcome.  This house had a great outdoor space with canopies that can be rotated to help cope with the sun at different angles.  Pretty ingenious.


A fun part of the tour was they had classic cars parked at almost every house that matched the vintage of the house.  Plus look at that container garden in the background . . . yum.


I saved the best for last – an Al Beadle house so high up on Camelback Mountain that you would be living amongst all the celebrities and athletes that call the Valley home (or at least their vacation home).


The house is currently gutted and they were showing plans to turn it into a little bit of a monster with large additions out the back but look at this MCM beauty . . .


That is literally the camel’s head of Camelback Mountain in the back left of the photo.  All in all I can’t come up with a better adjective than amazing.  It was so awesome to get to peek into all of these homes – some we could maybe afford one day and others that are clearly the stuff that lottery dreams are made of.  JT ventured a comment that we might have a home worthy of the tour someday.  I hope he’s right.

Cheers – CT

All by herself . . .

Since moving down to Phoenix and “retiring” (the nice way of saying I’m still unemployed), I have a lot of by myself time while JT is at work.  I’ve filled a lot of it with dog walking, grocery shopping, cooking, baking and helping my MIL find a place to live (we did it, she moved in last night).

I’ve noticed thought that when I’m at home all day, I’ll think up projects and plan them for the weekend and/or evenings when JT is around.  Finally the other day I had a realization that I could do it myself.  And so I did.  (Probably also spurred on by the fact that I had just read “Miss Harper Can Do It” by Jane Berentson, another way to fill some time and keep that brain working.)

I’ve already mentioned that our new house feels mansion-like compared to the small footprint of our brick bungalow in St. Louis.  For instance we now have a Master Bath.  A bathroom that is the master of all others.  I have my own sink and my own little nook for make-up-ing and other things women in their 30s do in the bathroom.  I had been looking for some artwork or a storage piece for that wall when an idea suddenly flashed into my head – I had just what I needed in the garage.


So, voila – a once empty wall now displays all my junk jewelry with the help of an old curtain rod from our STL master bedroom (we took down these wimpier rods when we hung the new curtains.)

There’s no earth-shattering invention here – I’m pretty sure this method for hanging necklaces has already been done and pinned many-a-time to Pinterest.  I just got a kick out of using something I had and getting out the handheld drill for a girl power moment.


I hung all the necklaces without clasps on the end and kept all the other in the middle so I can unfasten them to take them off the rod if needed for actual wearing but I’m thinking if this method gets too tangled, I might grab some of the Grundtal hooks at Ikea and hang each necklace on its own hook.  Oh, the thrill of being able to “grab” something at Ikea without a five-hour drive is still novel to me!  Cheers – CT