Chic in the Desert

A large pergola provides shade for an outdoor dining room.

Homeowners Rick and Lynn Gregson with their dog Stella.

The dining room is a focal
point of the home. The muraled
ceiling adds color and elegance.

Lynn’s art studio
doubles as a cozy
guest room.

An antique wooden pediment, which
adorns a hallway door, was found on a trip to
St. Louis. One of Lynn’s paintings is placed
above the buffet.

The wooden fireplace surround is
original to this ’40s-era home.

By Taylor Hughes  |  Photography by Amy Haskell

Visitors to the central Tucson home of Lynn and Rick Gregson are greeted by a pansy-lined walkway. It leads to a vibrant yellow door that complements a nearby brightly painted yellow bicycle, whose floral pattern prompted Lynn to refer to its use as, “driving Miss Daisy.” Clearly, at this house, the distinctive touches that make it so unique are everywhere.
The cozy brick abode was built in 1942, but the Gregsons didn’t become, in their words, “custodians,” until 2013. Their supervisory phrasing reflects how important it has been to them to maintain the integrity of a place that has thrived for 75 years, “so that the next residents can carry on the tradition.”
Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Lynn lived in a few areas around Tucson before finding her niche. She never felt that those locations connected her to the rich culture of the community, or the artistic atmosphere that she loved. The Gregsons’ residence of the last four years is the ideal place for them, with its proximity to favorite places such as the UA Poetry Center and the Cup Café, which provide ample opportunities for people watching.
Rick owns GBP Risk Solutions, a local independent insurance company, and Lynn was an art teacher at Sahuaro High School before she retired. She frequently paints at Brenda Semanick’s studio, and many of her compositions decorate the walls of the couple’s home. Semanick is a well-established local artist who teaches classes once a week to encourage students with some knowledge of oil painting to go more in-depth in their studies. At home, Lynn has turned a small bedroom — full of natural light — into an art studio, complete with a day bed and canvases galore.
Another design cue can be found a short distance away — both Lynn and Rick are big fans of the Arizona Inn, which they call their “country club.” “Arizona Inn blue is something that Rick and I definitely wanted to incorporate,” Lynn says of the color scheme, which is included on various walls, furniture pieces and decorative accents.
She still visits St. Louis at least three times a year, and elements of that city’s culture also have had an impact on the home’s décor, including reclaimed wood that is utilized over doorways and in picture frames.
She describes her design aesthetic as shabby chic, and the organized chaos of her home stylistically mirrors the diversity of activities and people surrounding it. A focal point is the dining area, where the round ceiling is accented with a colorful mural. Lynn describes the painting as a collaboration, stating that she “came up with the design in an attempt to represent an Italian platter or piece of pottery.” Helping her bring the vision to life were Joe Pagac, who painted it, and Cyndi Johnson, who added the patina and final touches. The dining table beneath is covered in paper, colored pencils and crayons of every shade to encourage their artistic expression.
When the house was built during WWII, the average height of an American man was about 5'6". Rick is 6'5", and some structures in the home have been modified to accommodate him. During the summer of 2016, the Gregsons used the services of John McCaleb of McCaleb Construction Inc., to change their ceiling from flat to slanted, incorporating dark wood beams. In other too-low areas of the house, Rick designed raised shower and door additions. Another element of the house was enlarged for less crucial reasons. Classy Closets expanded the master bedroom closet space, providing room for clothes, a multitude of shoes and hats, and a “Betsey Johnson” nook that’s bursting with jewelry and accessories.
The Gregsons stay busy in a variety of ways. Rick plays saxophone in the band DayJob, and he and Lynn have volunteered at, and supported, organizations such as Green Fields School, the American Heart Association and El Rio Health. They enjoy sharing the home with their four children and nine grandchildren.
To add to their space for entertaining, Lynn and Rick recently employed Tanzillo and Son to add a pergola to their backyard. “We needed shade,” Lynn says, endeavoring to incorporate a backyard element that was both functional for large groups and still an intimate space. Their pergola fulfills both needs, while also allowing the Gregsons to keep grassy play areas for their family, and maintaining the integrity of the older home. Designed by Rick, the backyard space features antique shutters, a unique chandelier, and sheer linen curtains that gently blow on breezy days. The outdoor concrete fireplace, which ties the features together, was done by Brad Brewer of Meridian Design & Construction. The pergola’s rustic table is from Antigua de Mexico, owned by Dino Alfaro, who creates and customizes doors, lights and furniture. The Gregsons also have known Dino and his family for more than 25 years. Although the overall addition to the backyard wasn’t entirely pre-planned, Lynn says that “in spite of this, it came together for us and our needs as we chose items we loved or connected the pergola to our older home.”
When it came to both the backyard and the rest of the home, the Gregsons sought help from a variety of sources, all of whom they consider friends. For Lynn and Rick, feeling that “we were always working with friends, with good people” not only improved the experience of home improvement, but expanded on the feelings of integrity and community. The Gregsons’ addition to their backyard provides the perfect place to relax by the fireplace and hear the hoots of their owl “neighbors.” HG

Closets: Classy Closets,
Outdoor Pergola: Tanzillo and Son, LLC,
(520) 629-0592
Furniture: Antigua de Mexico,
Concrete Construction: Brad Brewer, Meridian Design & Construction, (520) 850-8284