Ranch House Re-envisioned


Homeowner Margarita Potts relaxes in her
Great Room with Lincoln, her Great Dane.

 A living room wall in this renovated 1960s
home was covered with reclaimed barn wood.

Gray cabinets, concrete countertops and a
glass-and-metal mosaic tile backsplash add
to the “industrial glam” look.

The dining table was custom-made of repurposed
wood from a bookcase. The collection of mirrors
on the newly uncovered adobe wall reflects light.

The original fireplace was reshaped, extended
and finished in a smooth gray concrete.

The master bedroom, closet and bath
were enlarged, creating a better flow. 

By Romi Carrell Wittman  |  Photography by Amy Haskell
Photo assistants Beatrice Anctil and Michael Artzi

Margarita Potts has never done things the “usual” way. This includes the way she bought her first home — through an auction, never having stepped inside.
“I honestly didn’t think I’d get it,” she says. “When I learned I had the winning bid, I had no idea what to do first. I was so overwhelmed.”
Potts has always been a bit unconventional. After graduating from high school, she went to work as a flight attendant. When a friend got work doing hair and makeup for the television and movie industry, she asked Potts to accompany her to help out.
“She said I was always the one who was good at hair and makeup,” Potts says. “Our motto was, ‘Fake it ’til you make it!’”
And a career was born.
Her career has taken her all over and introduced her to celebrities, politicians and other luminaries. For years, she split her time between Tucson and Los Angeles, with her young daughter and son staying with grandparents or their dad when she traveled. When asked why she didn’t simply relocate to Los Angeles, she shrugs. “I never wanted that 24/7 Los Angeles lifestyle. Tucson is where our roots are.”
In 2011, she decided to buy a home. While scanning properties online, she found a three-bedroom ranch-style adobe with detached guesthouse on an acre and a half of land. It was sitting vacant in the Catalina Foothills so she popped over and had a peek through the windows. Potts was drawn to the property because there was a main home as well as a separate structure that could be repurposed into a studio and storage space for her thriving business, which now also includes hair and makeup for weddings.
Built in 1964, the 1,500-square-foot home had all the hallmarks of the era: a tiny, dark kitchen; small, barely functional closets; low ceilings and, even more problematic, an aging infrastructure. Potts was stumped as to what to tackle first.
“I’m creative and artistic,” she notes. “I make people beautiful; I’m not a builder!”
Fortunately, she had some friends who could help. Paul Hoffman of AIS Industries — a local firm that constructs kitchens and other elements for restaurants — put her in touch with Matt Encinas of Arizona Building Care.
“Matt’s company has worked on a lot of the restaurants that have been going up downtown,” Potts says. She and Encinas hit it off, to the point that she began calling him her “Construction Boyfriend.”
“We had the same ideas and vision,” she says.
Her major design influence for the project was “industrial glam” — sleek lines, a muted gray palette, elegant glass-and-steel lighting fixtures, and repurposed or refurbished materials wherever possible. But, by far the biggest challenge of the project was correcting the problems that arose from years of neglect.
The electrical system needed to be brought up to code. The plumbing and gas lines, too, had to be re-plumbed both for safety and functionality. The major utilitarian appliances in the home — furnace, water heater, air conditioner — had to be replaced and, in some cases, relocated. The home lacked a washer and dryer hook-up, so Potts had them installed.
The low ceilings, so typical of homes built in the 1960s and 1970s, were raised three feet, opening up the home and making it feel more spacious. “I felt so much better after that was done,” she says.
She had the exterior sandblasted to reveal its adobe block construction and had a new carport built, replacing the old, broken 1960s decorative block work.
Inside the house, the kitchen was completely reconfigured and enlarged. Gray cabinets and concrete countertops provide the “industrial” feel, while whimsical steel and glass lighting fixtures provide the “glam.” Skylights and a wall of windows to the south allow in warm, welcoming light, as well as afford an expansive, photo-worthy view of the city in the valley below.
The master bedroom wasn’t much of a master by today’s standards. The closet wasn’t large enough and the bathroom felt more like a closet — dark and closed off. Encinas “borrowed” space from a guest room to create a larger closet. He also opened up the bathroom by removing some strangely placed half-walls and built-ins, then installed a gorgeous glass shower enclosure with a pebble floor and a rain shower head. The vanity is a repurposed dresser.
The living area was dominated by a large block fireplace. Potts refinished it with smooth, gray concrete, which introduced clean lines and visual continuity with the concrete counters in the kitchen. The adobe block walls, obscured by many coats of white paint, were sandblasted to reveal their natural color. To soften the space, the northern wall of the room was covered with 180-year old reclaimed wood from a barn in the Midwest. Several doors throughout the home use similar wood.
The construction and renovation took more than a year, during which time Potts lived in the studio with her Great Dane, Lincoln, for company. Though the home has been transformed, there are many additional things she wants to do, such as expanding the master bedroom. That will come in time, she says.
“I have great dreams and desires for my home, but I’m going to do it in a smart way,” she says. “A little at a time.” HG

Sources:
Arizona Building Care, (520) 409-7098
AIS Industries, www.aisindustries.com