As the weather warms, we Tucsonans get busy in our gardens.
As the weather warms, we Tucsonans get busy in our gardens.
Santa Barbara’s distinctive architectural style was the inspiration for this Tucson home.
BY ROMI CARRELL WITTMAN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMY HASKELL
Sitting at the end of a quiet street, shaded by a dense canopy of mesquite trees, is a home that looks as if it was plucked from picturesque Santa Barbara, California. This was exactly the look that Georgann and John Munic aspired to when they built their 6,000-square-foot home. Santa Barbara architecture fuses design elements from many regions, most notably Spanish Colonial, Italian and Mediterranean. These iconic elements can be seen throughout the Munic property.
Inside and outside, no detail has been overlooked. The landscaping— using mostly native plants such as succulents and Golden Barrel cacti — ensures that the main focus remains on the home itself. Pea gravel, a staple in European gardens, was used in the outdoor spaces to evoke an Old World feel. Cantera stone accents further enhance the outdoor spaces.
Tall glass double doors serve as the home’s entryway and are framed by concrete cast stone. As Georgann explains, guests enter a canvas of crisp, white walls framed by 14-inch mahogany moldings and baseboards. A stretch of hand-scored and waxed concrete covers the floors.
This formal living room, or salon, has an immaculate, high-contrast design aesthetic. White slipcovered sofas and chairs are positioned to create intimate seating areas, while an eclectic array of antiques and artwork, some from Latin American art purveyor Holler & Saunders Ltd., provides visual interest.
Georgann handled the interior design of the home. Her approach reflects juxtaposition, and the unexpected surprise of contrast can be seen throughout. An example is the way she has designed certain rooms, such as the library and the master suite having their own foyers. This adds both elegance and privacy.
Each room also has double doors to afford access to exterior personal spaces. Arguably, the most stunning of these spaces is located off the library. Here, the patio is covered by a custom-made metal pergola that casts geometric shadows onto the concrete pavers below. These shapes change as the sun moves across the sky, creating an ever-changing art show. This garden holds a stunning array of barrel cacti planted en masse.
Located on opposite sides of the master bedroom foyer are identical dressing rooms, complete with mirrored doors. The walls are embellished with delicate, handpainted art created by Becky Hengsteler.
The master bath en suite was designed to have a spa-like ambience.
Two handcrafted mahogany vanities featuring Rosso Levante marble flank opposite walls of the space.
“The master en suite is a quiet, sunlit sanctuary with double doors leading out to a private garden and fireplace wall, which can be enjoyed from the soaking tub,” says Georgann.
The home always has been shared with the community during many charitable events and celebrations, including the wedding reception of their son and daughter-in-law.
As Georgann says, “I’ve always felt one’s home should be a reflection of its owners. In building, you leave a bit of your soul, a watermark for all those who follow to enjoy.”
Del Sol Tucson Landscaping, LLC., delsoltucson.com
Holler & Saunders Ltd., hollersaunders.com
People who claim that the desert landscape is boring have never been here in spring when the cacti blossom into a palette of many hues.
BY DEBBY LARSEN
Cacti are one of nature’s dichotomies; their thorny sculptural spheres, spiraling columns and flat paddles are paired with beautiful tissue-paper-like flowers, creating a glorious contrast.
Some species, such as the ubiquitous prickly pear, cover the landscape with displays ranging from yellow to pink. Most species of cacti bloom in April, while others are late bloomers, extending the colorful show.
Beavertail Prickly Pear (Opuntia)
Low-spreading and slow growing, this cactus has blue-gray pads covered in tiny brown barbs rather than spines. It displays lovely pink to magenta blooms.
Torch Cactus (Trichocereus)
Trichocereus hybrids are columnar cacti that are admired for their brilliant flowers in a range of colors. Some cultivars produce magnificent displays in flushes (the period when all of a plant’s flowers are in bloom) over time.
Hedgehog Cacti (Echinocereus)
Heavily spined and short statured, this cactus forms dense, low-clustered mounds. It produces large, brightly colored flowers, such as this variety, called Claret Cup.
Easily recognized as the iconic sentinel of the Sonoran Desert, this slow-growing, columnar giant reaches up to 50 feet. A corona of large, night-blooming, white flowers appears in May, followed by red edible fruit in June.
Fishhook Barrel (Ferocactus)
This basketball-shaped, long-lived cactus has ridges of curved red or yellow spines. Yellow or orange flowers form a crown, followed by a crop of yellow-pineapple-shaped fruit with many tiny black seeds.
Staghorn Cholla (Opuntia)
This very spiny, tree-like cactus has rod-shaped branches that are favored by native birds for nesting. The cholla species should not be planted in high-traffic landscape spaces!
Small and spherical in shape, this species is covered with tiny spines. A ring of pink flowers appears at one time, followed by a circle of oval-shaped, red fruit.
Santa Rita Prickly Pear (Opuntia)
This low-growing, clumping variety has flat, round, reddish-purple pads and fewer spines than others in its family. The pads’ hue deepens when stressed by drought or cold.
When foothills homeowners approached Pro Remodeling to replace their existing pool, they also had the firm build a pool house.
The owners of a beautiful Catalina foothills home wanted to have a nicer pool to replace their existing one. They also decided to
add a pool/guest house. The project was designed by local architect Jake Boen of In Place Architecture. Local contractor John Almond of Pro Remodeling, Inc. completed the construction.
The homeowners wanted the new structure to be built near the pool, so they could relax after a refreshing dip. It also would serve as an inviting spot for entertaining, as well as accommodating overnight guests. Accent lighting, travertine pool decking and the interesting patio overhang design make this a truly special addition.
The first phase of construction involved tearing out the old pool and prepping the land. The pool house was new construction, so additional utilities had to be run to the site. Heavy rocks and caliche made the job more difficult.
“That stage took big equipment to level and buttress the ground,” Almond explains. Extensive rip rap retaining walls had to be removed and, as a precaution, the crew cut a new road onto the property to avoid destroying the homeowner’s existing driveway with all the heavy equipment.
The center-piece of the house is a row of tall windows that make up an entire wall of the home.
Once the ground was ready for the pool construction to begin, Almond and his crew stepped aside as the subcontractor completed his work. “The pool is between the residence and guest house so it had to go in first,” Almond adds. “We had to work with each other so we weren’t getting in their way, but we worked well together.”
The finished product is a stunning backyard retreat. The pool house features a kitchenette and a bedroom with full bath, making it perfect for outdoor entertaining as well as hosting overnight guests. The centerpiece of the house is a row of tall windows that make up an entire wall of the home. They fold back, effectively disappearing, creating a seamless indoor/outdoor space ideal for temperate days.
“The windows are 10 feet tall and have a mechanism that makes them very easy to operate,” Almond says.
For cooler evenings, the pool house has a Rumford fireplace, a specialty hearth that is tall and shallow, reflecting more heat than a traditional fireplace. The fireplace surround is stacked travertine.
Custom-made cabinetry and natural stonework can be found throughout the house. “The homeowner picked the colors and the finishes, and we used Chris Trainor, a former employee of ours who is now a custom cabinet maker,” he notes.
Almond says the job, which took about 10 months to complete, is one of his personal favorites and is a signature project for his company. “I enjoy the awesome look of it. The finished product is so nice,” he adds.
Construction: Pro Remodeling: www.pro-remodeling.com
Architect: Jake Boen, In Place Architecture, PLLC, www.inplacearchitecture.com
Pool Builder: Pools By Design, www.poolsbydesignaz.com
Windows and Doors: Pella Windows and Doors, www.pella.com
A dark and dull outdoor area was transformed into spaces of openness and light.
Beach serenity and desert views. Lightness and shade. Openness and intimacy. The desires of a couple changing their Foothills home’s backyard appeared to pull in different directions. But landscape designer Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery, APLD, saw the potential of meeting them all in the redo of the 1993 hacienda-style home.
The pool’s facelift includes a cantilevered edge and light-blue paint job. New pool edging is accented with a border of black beach stones.
“They were just a pleasure to work with,” Przygoda-Montgomery says of the homeowners, she a Canyon Ranch employee, he a University of Arizona professor.
“She really drove the bus,” Przygoda-Montgomery adds. “She was adamant about being very involved with the color choices.”
The palette leans toward light and monochrome, the direct opposite of the old landscape that was filled with red brick, green grass, dark wood and a dark-blue pool surface.
To the homeowners, that old color combination said hot and overbearing. With a south-facing backyard that already was subject to intense sun, it wasn’t the relaxing feel they were after. “They wanted to take advantage of their city views and lush vegetation,” the designer explains about the desired ambiance.
There were several other landscaping issues that the couple wanted to tackle after living in the house for two years. A gathering area with a non-functioning fireplace was enclosed on two sides by a solid wall, and a ramada made it so dark and isolated that Przygoda-Montgomery called it a cave.
Additionally, a solid wall extended the length of the backyard, obscuring the mature eucalyptus and the desert beyond the barrier. There were other issues, as well. Even the plants were surrounded by walls that visually blocked the bottom of the planters and chopped up the space. The grass was contrary to the homeowners’ desire to conserve water. Lastly, the pool had been abandoned.
Grass, brick, the planter walls and the ramada were taken out. A big section of the wall perpendicular to the fireplace was cut out, allowing light to flow in and providing a view of the pool, the planters and the rest of the yard on the other side of the pool and to the desert in the distance.
Small windows on the wall with the fireplace added more light.
Both walls were covered in raw concrete stucco, providing texture and a neutral gray background for colorful pillows and potted plants. The fireplace was repaired so that it burns either gas or wood, and a built-in concrete bench was installed.
A light-colored rug dresses up the area around the dining table, which is surrounded by six white molded-plastic chairs.
Brick pavers have been replaced with ivory-colored ones, in which pearlized shells are embedded. They cool down the space, both to the eye and to the touch. By using a color palette of white, gray and blue, Przygoda-Montgomery bucked the trend of adding accents in vibrant Southwest hues that pop in the design.
“When you do reds and oranges, you’re seeing those hot colors,” she says. “I really love bringing in agave blues and seaside colors. It’s a relief to the eyes.”
The outdoor kitchen, a new feature, is of minimal size since a place to cook wasn’t a priority. “She wanted the tiniest barbecue,” the designer says of her client. A short countertop, made of recycled glass, surrounds the 24-inch-long barbecue.
The stunning feature that commands attention is the replacement for the ramada. White-painted wood beams radiate from the fireplace wall and end well past the dining area and over the kitchen.
They are held up by cross beams that seem to float above the walls. It’s engineered so that only one slim post was added, keeping the space open.
They’re topped by a five-sided piece of corrugated metal designed to provide as much shade as possible during the times the couple are likely to use the space. Przygoda-Montgomery says she was glad she was able to add this bit of rustic feel to the modern, minimal design. “Maybe it’s the Bohemian girl in me,” she says, “but I love the sound of the rain on a tin roof. It’s like a musical instrument.”
The pool was put back into service and given a facelift with a new cantilever edge and a light-blue paint job.
Next to it is a new gathering spot that features a square concrete fire pit. The area is defined by groundcover of stabilized decomposed granite.
Part of the back wall was cut away at this spot so that nighttime city views can be enjoyed by those seated in white Acapulco chairs or big pillows. It also allows the professor to see out of the yard from his home-office window.
With the planter walls gone, Przygoda-Montgomery could add low-growing cacti and flowering shrubs to complement larger trees and cacti.
A few stair steps from the fire pit is a lounge area with furniture that mirrors the pool in color and the dining area in style. Strings of light snake up the mesquites on this side of the yard, as well as hang from the beams of the metal roof at the fireplace. Globes of white light in the dining area and in the pool provide soft illumination for nighttime gatherings.
The project was completed nearly two years ago and the designer feels it has held up well. “What I love about this design is that it’s relatable for most people,” she says. “Sometimes designs can be so over the top that most people couldn’t afford it. This is practical, beautiful and affordable design.
“I call it barefoot luxury.”
…and the Winner is…
2018 HGTV Ultimate Outdoor Awards. As the editors’ pick in the Stunning Scriptures category, the project is described as a “backyard turned private paradise,” according to the HGTV website. “This outdoor space…seems like something out of a dream.”
2018 Landscape Design Awards. The project earned a gold award – the highest of three levels of recognition – from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. The international program honors excellence in landscape design.
2017 Gardenista Considered Design Awards. A panel of judges picked the finalists, who then were voted on by the public. As the winner of the best Hardscape Project, the project was described by judge Deborah Needleman this way: “This striking hardscape creates a sense of place.”
TOP A large opening in the wall created a window for additional light and views of the surrounding garden.
RIGHT Cacti and succulents add texture and sculptural forms against the patio’s hardscape.
Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery, APLD,
Boxhill Design, boxhilldesign.com
Pavers: Artistic Pavers Mfg.,
Accessories: Today’s Patio,
Installation: Turf Tek, LLC,
Shade Structure: Made for Shade,
Pool tile: Noble Tile Supply, nobletile.com
Photo Styling Assistant: Hot Cool Vintage,