A Brush Stroke of Luck


Kitchen before

Kitchen after

  The living area was given a facelift with new flooring and painted ceiling beams. 

 The original dining room cupboard was retained and became the inspiration for the overall kitchen remodel.

Homeowner Melanie Campbell-Carter.






A (Brush) Stroke of Luck

One Tucson transplant discovered the perfect property to fit her lifestyle and creative ambitions.

By Cherie Newton  |  Photography by Robin Stancliff

Melanie Campbell-Carter has accomplished a great deal since retiring from her medical practice in Texas. She relocated to Tucson more than a year ago, and has dedicated herself to creating botanical paintings. With the help of a team of experts, she has transformed a 70-plus-year-old home into a wonderful place to create and display her artwork.

Constructed by self-taught homebuilder Henry Clay Cox, her 1945 adobe abode was a mish-mash of styles and an assortment of add-on rooms — each with floors of differing heights and colors. Rustic built-ins and a looming peninsula divided the kitchen and dining rooms, resulting in a cumbersome lack of flow. The home and the overgrown garden were truly “in need of some love.” Fortunately, there was a casita on the property and she moved in there and embarked on the extensive changes that were needed.

“I knew I couldn’t do it all myself,” says Melanie. “I enlisted the help of many local artisans, designers and workers, and in the process of this renovation I found a wonderful community here in Tucson.”

Her first step was to call award-winning kitchen designer Carlie Korinek of CK Cabinetry and Design LLC. The original area for prep and cooking was confined to a small corner in the open dining room and was outdated. It had to be gutted. A farm-style sink was placed on one side of the room along with a new dishwasher and refrigerator. The sink now overlooks the front garden.

The original built-in, Shaker-style cupboard at the far end of the dining area was too precious to discard and became the inspiration and starting point for the kitchen’s redesign. Korinek brought in modified Shaker cabinets — with double-beveled panels in an ivory color with a mocha glaze — and the original antique cupboard was painted to match the cupboards. Identical hardware for the cupboard and cabinets aided the sense of unity. The cupboard’s bead board was painted to complement a quartz countertop. A subtle sage color of the Pental Quartz is reflected in a hand-glazed tile mural created by local artist Carly Quinn.

Next, all of the interior floors were leveled off and re-tiled by Isidro Mata, and the home was repainted inside and out.

“I didn’t want the colors of the house to be the star,” says Melanie. “I wanted the plants and the art to stand out, so the paint jobs got really toned down. We went with a creamy white inside. I tried to use neutral colors with the furnishings as well, so I can hang anything on the walls.”

The living room’s focal point, a beautiful fireplace mantel, is adorned with a sculpture by Taos artist Tammy Garcia, a house-warming gift Melanie bought herself to celebrate her new life in Tucson.

The main house sports a number of cool and comfortable areas for Melanie and her dog Ellie to enjoy, including two bedrooms, two baths and a large studio. The studio provides ample space in which to create botanical art, and custom cabinets by Juan Leon artfully store her supplies. Leon of Leon’s Furniture LLC also was able to create a coffee table for her living room using a piece of redwood that Melanie acquired on Craigslist.

Outside, Leon created two more treasures — large gates. The gates and a new fountain set the “hacienda tone” of her backyard, which was designed by Shelly Ann Abbott of Landscape Design West, LLC.

“I love the house, and I loved doing the remodeling, but it didn’t feel like home until I started doing the yard,” says Melanie. The backyard, now a tranquil retreat, was not conducive to her desire to paint alfresco. Nor did Ellie like wandering in the cholla overgrowth.

Melanie is pleased with the artfully placed berms and swales that control the flow of water and create a neutral palette for her collection of cacti, and plants such as salvia and chaparral sage. A beautiful slab of moss rock was preserved from a shipment of flagstone and used to create a destination in the farthest part of the yard, where Melanie can now sit and view Finger Rock in pink light at dusk, and watch for a desert tortoise that lives on her property.

Inspired by her energetic renovation journey, Melanie wrote a blog that enabled friends and family to put their own stamp on the results.  

“I was over at Metal Arts Village and saw a sculpture that looks like a barrel cactus. It’s by Steve Campbell and I loved it.” She purchased it and posted a photo and a friend gave her the bright idea to turn the artwork into a fire pit. Then cousins in Texas found a burner for her new fire pit sculpture.