Phoenix Off-Tour

I was taking a client to a good place for breakfast before the first home on a garden tour, but the entire center I often frequented while in Phoenix was closed shut.

The landscape was still in decent condition, though the wildflowers once growing there are gone from poor maintenance.

Entering, before we learned the bad news.


On axis: a native Prosopis torreyana underplanted with Agave parryi var. truncata and Echinocactus grusonii.

Leaving, also on axis: Carnegia gigantea with a solo Agave americana.


I knew I lived in the wrong place when those who knew little about what I had learned years earlier as a 19 year old college sophomore argued with me. Design principles like axis or repetition seem so logical.


At either end of Scottsdale Road is this sign making a bold claim. I’m for anywhere making bold claims that have backing, and this does.






Spring Light

Following a recent pre-construction meeting one morning away from the day job, using more vacation time to do so, I was glad to visit El Paso’s new Transmountain Hospital. You might remember I was the LA on its HKS-led project team.

The light was perfect, and the spaces I designed are settling in.


Masses of similar plants contrasting other masses would never satisfy some, but it satisfies the need for ease of maintenance, and rhythm driving or walking.


Available plants in quantities meant natives like Prosopis glandulosa, Muhlenbergia emersleyi, Chrysactinia mexicana, and Agave parryi. And adapted plants like Salvia clevelandii and Zephyranthes candida.


The bright green of newly-leafed out Prosopis really is stunning against shadowy buildings and mountains, or bright blue skies.


On to the break area, designed especially for nighttime sitting.


Soon, the Salvia and Zephyranthes candida will be in bloom for the front doors area.


The physicians parking area is stunning, and sweetly scented with near-native Acacia farnesiana. (take that old genus name, taxonomists!)


Ahhh, the bold mountain islands on the east side of the Rio Grande Rift…



If you’re entering from the west, off Resler, this is part of the greeting.


Masses of the common Dasylirion wheeleri…just know when this planting is a few more years old, it will look almost too dense in spots but be spare and interesting in most of it.

The unknowing person would never imagine any of that.


Time to head back home and to the now-day job.

Do you ever look at large-scale landscapes the public uses? Do you know the severe time and budget constraints on those? Or the array of other challenges on each one?

Time for bed, computer software diagnostics for hours over months are enough challenge.

Mid-Century Roadtrip

Modern Phoenix announced their Mid-Century Modern (MCM) home tour tickets were going on sale, so I was ready.

I’ve wanted to attend for years. The day tickets went on sale at 8 am, I waited until 9. I got onto the 2nd tour, departing an hour later than the already-sold out 1st tour. All tickets sold out before 11 am.

You might see why I recommend going in 2019; exteriors to interiors were thought-out.

All houses on tour were built or designed in 1959, except where noted.


#1 The Buena Terror


Arizona designs often feature garden walls or low walls, combined with sculptural accent plants. This house’s 1/3 pivot front door and salvaged sofa make a hit.


Windows and long wall frames help add light to an interior room, plus texture on the wall. I can’t help but think of Donald Judd’s wall-mounted art in Marfa.



#2 The Beck Residence


This stacked bond method to lay concrete block looks great, but I mostly see it used in Arizona. No stucco, no problem.


Even a hip infant nursery with its own patio. Their outdoor furnishings are key to adding interest and life.


Vintage stereo equipment…


She was in the right place for this shot.



I’ve interspersed some houses with some of Phoenix’ signs that state weather warnings, if you dare visit in the summer! This type of thing is all over their open spaces.

A Phoenix summer is as intense as a Minnesota winter.



#3 Bellamak Residence


My photos don’t do justice to this very edgy, yet serene and comfortable house.  Plus interior shots were not allowed; just know those were stunning yet welcoming, using very polished surfaces and forms. And zero clutter.

As if in Phoenix, one would even care about being indoors from November to April…

Colorful cruiser-style bikes galore


Sunny Camelback from a shady entry


I could hang out for hours at their fireplace or by their pool.



#4 Mucha Casa


I’ve always admired the use of low walls in Arizona landscapes, as opposed to courtyards that open to gravelscapes or wide-open spaces with no bones. They provide scale but don’t block beauty.



#5 Gordon Rogers Home and Studio


More bikes and more great garden spaces. This is a home tour?


I enjoyed his studio being open, to see all the sketches and plans in progress.


I finally had to let go of a client whose front space was so stunning over this. Let strong plantings be the border; using an edge is usually more clutter than good.



This must be the winter sign. 85-95F in their summer is about 2-8 am.



I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Rolls Royce convertible at the trailheads I frequent, but I’ve never mountain biked or hiked near Paradise Valley. That day was paradise.




#6 The Evertson House


This vignette again shows how inexpensive simplicity rules: the wall with corner insets, aggregate paving bands in the concrete, and the sloping roof line. The blue car and view don’t hurt!

This is a Ralph Haver design.


Positive affirmations for wall art is a matter of expression, but everything else most would agree on. #justsayin In and out.



#7 Kucharo’s Xanadu


Yet another classic car, strategically placed. But this inexpensive common CMU block wall, designed uncommonly…

This was the only house not built in 1959 on this tour…it was built in 1962.


And another excellent CMU wall, and another, and …


Buying a new house has me admiring bathrooms that work, by simply adding the right touch.


It turns out, this modern home tour, where we could photograph almost everything, had so much quality garden design. That’s compared to a number of gardens I saw on an actual garden tour a couple weeks later, where we could not take photographs anywhere.

I have no plans to return to that garden tour, though I will probably post one of their past garden tours from 6 years ago, with excellent design and where photos were allowed.

I will plan to return to a future MCM home tour, however!

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