Bold and Beautiful

Judy Choate

Judy Choate’s abstract paintings of the desert and mountain regions of the Southwest undulate with striking colors and forms. The self-taught artist was inspired by the vistas she saw while living in Sedona. In 2008, she began painting with acrylics on large canvases. Her favorite subjects were the red rock landscapes, as well as sunsets with their ever-changing colors and shadows. Even today, rocks, skies, mountains and clouds fill her canvases. Her paintings evoke emotion with their brilliant desert hues and strong shapes.

She moved to Tucson in 2011, and her style continues to evolve, showing fresh interpretations of her treasured surroundings.

Garden Calendar: July 2020

Monsoon rains help quench the thirst of summer plants.

Tip of the Month

The common and sun-loving vinca (Catharanthus roseus) is the go-to plant for summer garden beds and borders. Also called Madagascar periwinkle, vinca additionally comes in new trailing varieties that work well in containers and hanging baskets. Colors include shades of red, pink, lavender, lilac, coral, peach, burgundy and white. These plants are admired for their large petals with bright contrasting centers and glossy, dark green foliage. Vincas are usually considered annuals and bloom from March through October. They reseed easily and no deadheading is required. Vincas grow in full sun to part shade and are heat, drought and disease tolerant. Plant 6-10 inches apart. They prefer regular water and a slightly acidic soil with good drainage. Avoid overhead watering and use of mulch to reduce fungal diseases.


Set out heat-tolerant seasonal color blooms such as cosmos, gaillardia, gazania, globe amaranth, lisianthus, periwinkle and zinnia.

Put in warm-season vegetables such as Armenian cucumbers, black-eyed peas, corn, tepary beans, gourds, melon, okra and summer squash.


Harvest basil often and prune at least 1/3 of the growth to ensure an early fall harvest. Use steel tongs to remove the juicy fruit from the prickly pear cacti.


Feed blooming plants often during the wet season with high-phosphorous fertilizer. Fertilize palms during this rainy season.

Frequent irrigation leaches nutrients, so feed with a slow-release fertilizer.


Prune mesquite and palo verde trees during summer. These trees heal more quickly during hot weather.


Water deeply early in the morning, when it’s not raining. Soak the entire root area of trees and shrubs weekly. Adjust your irrigation as needed through the monsoon season. Summer annuals in pots may dry out quickly, so check irrigation systems often.


Protect container plantings from intense reflected heat and sun. Non-native cacti and succulents prefer some shade. Use 50-75 percent shade cloth over peppers and tomatoes.


Heat-loving shrubs such as red bird of paradise, fairy duster, Texas ranger, palms, portulaca and perennial sunflowers can be planted now.


Make use of the summer rains by harvesting the water.

Watch for insect infestation on plants. Heat- and drought-stressed plants are especially vulnerable to disease.

Watch for cochineal scale on prickly pear cacti and wash off any that appears.

Avoid standing water that might harbor mosquitoes.

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Licensed to Thrill

This remodel project took some design cues from a famous fictional character.

By Romi Carrell Wittman / Photography by Jeffrey Volker


When Rob Purvis laid eyes on the Mediterranean-inspired home in Rancho Sin Vacas, he saw a diamond in the rough. At more than 4,000 square feet, the two-story, five-bedroom home would be an ideal place for entertaining, as well as just kicking back.

Rob Purvis

“I’d been looking for a home for three or four years at that point,” says Rob, who had been living a bit farther north in Oro Valley. “I wanted something closer to town.”

The home was move-in ready, but Rob felt some of the living spaces were disconnected. A horseshoe-shaped kitchen island effectively cut the space off from the rest of the great room. Also, the stunning view of the Santa Catalina Mountains was somewhat obstructed by a wall of clerestory windows and two sets of small French doors.

Rob called on the expert team of Brandy Holden, Eva Murzaite and Ana Fernandez, of Interiors In Design, to help him realize his vision.

“When it comes to things like this, I don’t have the gift of being able to envision it. I have to see it,” Rob explains. The designers used SketchUp rendering software to show Rob how the home would look after the changes — and there were a lot of changes.

First up was replacing the windows and French doors in the great room with a wall of sliding glass doors, allowing unimpeded views of the mountains. “The installers said it was the largest project they’d ever done,” Rob remarks.

The design team also reconfigured the kitchen. The horseshoe island was removed and replaced with a rectangular, metal-clad one. New cabinets, high-end appliances and lighting fixtures give the kitchen and great room a sophisticated style that’s also very livable.

“The kitchen is now one space instead of two smaller ones. It’s not overcrowded and it has a ‘wow’ factor that it didn’t have before,” says Murzaite.

The very modern, open kitchen flows into the living area, where impressive views are a highlight.

After seeing the upgraded kitchen and the functional flow of the great room, Rob decided on new flooring — a dark brown wood tile laid in a herringbone pattern. The designers stained the vaulted wooden ceiling a chocolate tone to complement the new flooring. They also sandblasted the concrete pillars in the great room to give them a clean, almost industrial look. Next, they clad the base of each pillar in metal, tying them in with the kitchen island and the overall flow of the room.

“The room is a big space,” Holden notes. “The raw steel and exposed concrete are bold, raw elements that tie everything together.”

Holden says one of her favorite parts of the project was the master bath remodel. “We wanted to be mindful of cost and upkeep while at the same time designing a beautiful, functional room,” she says. “It was fun to be creative and figure out ways to generate a specific look with alternative materials.”

For example, the bathroom flooring appears to be marble, but it’s actually porcelain with marble inlays. This clever approach gives the space a very high-end look at a fraction of the cost.

As the remodel was underway, the designers began furnishing the home. They knew Rob wanted a modern look and, after working with him and getting a better sense of his vision, they began calling the project the “007 House,” in honor of the fictional spy James Bond.

To select furniture, the team brought Rob to the famed Las Vegas Furniture Market, a high-end emporium exclusively for interior designers that features the very latest in furniture styles and trends. “We walked through and he would tell us what he liked,” Murzaite says. “It’s important to look, touch, and try a piece before you buy it.”

Although the furniture they saw was gorgeous, it was important that it also be livable. “I told them I needed a football-watching sofa,” Rob says with a laugh. “Some things we saw were pretty, but they weren’t comfortable.”

Ultimately, the group found perfect pieces for the home — not only the great room, but the dining room and each bedroom as well. The end result is an elegant home with a singular design vision that visually connects each room.

After the remodel was complete, a process that took about six months, Rob moved into the home, and he couldn’t be happier with the results.

“When I come home, I’m happy,” he enthuses. “I’ve been talking about having a house like this for many years. I really love this house.”

Garden Calendar: June

Hot and dry … a challenge for our gardens.

Tip of the Month

Euphorbias are known to be the titans of texture, and are both elegant and tough. Heat and drought tolerance are their best attributes. This highly diverse group, often called “spurge,” comprises around five thousand species. They range from hardy, leafy perennials and sculptural succulents to tropical variations. Their blooms are tiny and distinctly un-flowery looking, arranged in distinctive patterns that are surrounded by colorful leaves called “bracts,” such as those in poinsettias. Most euphorbias have a milky sap that runs throughout the plant that is poisonous and a skin irritant. However, this toxic element has an added benefit — it acts as a deterrent, especially to hungry javelinas. Wear gloves when handling euphorbias or quickly wash the sap from your skin. To propagate, take cuttings from the parent plant. Rinse the sap with water to stop the flow. Let it dry several days to allow callus to form before planting.


Sow seeds of cantaloupe, corn, green beans, summer squash, native melons, Armenian cucumber and okra.

Plant warm-season color annuals such as cosmos, hollyhock, marigold, salvia, sunflower, zinnia, gaillardia, gomphrena, coreopsis, vinca and gazania.


Water turf efficiently by soaking 8-10 inches deep to moisten the Bermuda grass root zone. Bedding plants will need water more often this month.


Transplant herbs such as basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme.

Plant desert-adapted plants this month. The roots readily expand in the heated soil.


The first fig crop starts ripening this month. Fruit matures only on the tree, so keep birds away by covering with netting.


Feed cacti and succulents during the warm months. Apply a fertilizer formulated specifically for cacti and succulents every month.

Apply fertilizer twice monthly to vegetables. Do not add to dry soil.

Cut back on fertilizing roses to encourage plants to slow down for the summer.


Apply pre-emergent to avoid weeds when the monsoons arrive.


Prune back mature bougainvillea, lantana and hibiscus to stimulate blooms.

Cut back spring bloomers such as brittle bush, penstemon and salvia. Prune young trees early in the summer to slow growth and correct structure.


Cover vegetables with 50-70 percent shade cloth to reduce temperatures, prevent sunscald and increase blossom set for better fruit production.

Cover citrus trunks to prevent sunburn damage.

Drape plants with netting or shade cloth to protect from birds and insects.

Custom & Colorful

The renovation of this foothills home turned it into the perfect showplace for the owners’ collections of objets d’art.

Suzanne Wright

Standing in the kitchen of the home of Carolyn and Mike Friedl, designer Luz Marina Mendivil says, “Look closely,” pointing to the beautifully hand-carved wood that surrounds and conceals the range hood overhead.

“Those are the initials of Sonoran woodworker Daniel Cruz,” Mendivil explains. Sure enough, there’s a “D” on one end and a “C” on the other, elegantly concealed amid scrollwork that features conchas (shells).

Mendivil gave Cruz the freedom to create his own one-of-a-kind designs, including the hood surround and the fireplace mantel with its elaborate leaf and scrollwork patterns. It’s common for carvers to “sign” their work in this way.

Until now, the Friedls didn’t know the artist’s flourish was there, but the discovery delights them. And so it is throughout the renovated home. It’s full of embellishments that don’t loudly announce themselves, but are quietly revealed to observant eyes.

At a time in life when many are downsizing, the couple chose to upsize. After living in another home in the foothills community for eight years, the Friedls purchased their four-bedroom, 5000-plus-square-foot Spanish Colonial in 2018. What started as a modest remodel of the bathrooms and replacement of bedroom flooring, grew to encompass the entire house. It’s Mendivil’s largest project to date, spanning more than 18 months.

“It was our Realtor Deidre Larrabee who told us to call Luz,” says Carolyn. “We liked Luz and her work, especially with all the custom cabinetry. We gave her free rein for the most part,” Carolyn adds.

Mendivil has owned La Casa Mexicana (LCM Interiors), a custom furniture store in the Lost Barrio, since 1993. She designs and makes custom furniture, as well as travels throughout Mexico to acquire home accessories, such as tiles from Dolores Hidalgo, and special furniture and lighting from San Miguel de Allende, for her clients. Her vision draws from many influences, including Spanish, Mexican, Mediterranean and Moroccan, resulting in a simultaneously simple, sophisticated and distinctive effect.

In the Friedls’ home, every room glows with beauty, luxury and warmth without being ostentatious. The residence features calming Southwestern hues. A palette of terra cotta, salmon, aloe vera, bright blue and brick red, along with a unifying sand color, are a reflection of the desert landscape and provide continuity between the indoors and outdoors.

Hand-carved cabinet and pantry doors and mesquite wood island were designed by Luz Marina Mendivil of LCM Interiors. The Mexican Talvera tile backsplash and quartzite counter complete the kitchen’s new look.

The kitchen, with its cobalt blue range and matching, carved custom-painted refrigerator doors, is a highlight for both the couple and their guests. Buttery yellow walls and blue and white hand-painted Talavera tiles — sourced directly from Mexico — enliven the room.

Built-ins such as cookie sheet, spice and tray racks, plus a cutting board, add functionality, while soothing views of the saguaro-studded backyard enhance the cooks’ enjoyment. The generous mesquitetopped island and cream-colored stone counter expanses provide the necessary room for food preparation.

Mendivil opened a wall between the formal dining room and kitchen, creating shelving for decorative objects and allowing in natural light. Hand-hewn vigas bring visual interest to the dining room. The walls are punctuated by framed molas from San Blas, Panama, along with brightly colored traditional textiles from Guatemala and masks from Guerrero, Mexico.

Folkloric touches in the eat-in kitchen include custom chairs upholstered in Guatemalan fabric and decorated with Guatemalan belts, with “worry dolls” hanging from the chair backs.

The couple’s art collection is center stage throughout. “One of the first things I told Luz was to find places to display my artwork,” Carolyn comments. Mendivil opened up niches and added carved shelves and built-in cabinets to showcase the collection. Among the many items are cherished Blue Willow ceramics, silver family heirlooms and paintings, and Navajo and Seri Indian baskets.

Beyond the artwork, it’s in every way a beautifully personalized home. Each of the en-suite bedrooms enjoys its own unique paint and tile treatment. A peek-a-boo window in one walk-in shower gives the sense of bathing alfresco with saguaros. Upstairs, the couple’s master bedroom is a sanctuarylike retreat, with dramatic retablos (religious icons) filling the wall behind the bed.

The master bedroom — an upstairs en-suite retreat — is decorated with custom furniture and drapery, hand-carved cornices, and collections of Mexican art.

Fixtures of all sorts — cabinetry, cornices, curtain rods, furniture and lamps — were custom crafted. In fact, at one point, there were a dozen artists onsite, including carpenters, painters, metalworkers and lighting specialists.

In the “Cantina,” which doubles as Mike’s man cave, there’s an appealing media room and bar, with a library off to one side. The space is decorated with blown glass and copper enameled pieces inside lighted niches. Sliding glass doors lead to a shaded patio and an infinity pool that’s flanked with native plants. It’s softly illuminated at night, evoking Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater residence in Pennsylvania. As it happens, Carolyn’s stepfather worked with the famed architect at Taliesin in Wisconsin and Arizona.

The connection for the Friedls to this one-of-a-kind showplace may even be as strong as that Wright felt for his iconic residence. “This is our dream home,” concludes Mike. “We’ll have to be taken out feet first!” La Casa Mexicana,

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