One couple’s regular trip from Mexico to Tucson led them to take up residence in a new (old) community.
BY DEBBY LARSEN
PHOTOS BY AMY HASKELL
Over the years, Dhana and Gene Waken have owned houses in scenic places, including Napa, California, and Maui, Hawaii. But four years ago, while traveling between their Alamos and Tucson homes, they stopped in Tubac and discovered another place to put down roots. The drive from Alamos to Tucson sometimes seemed very long for the Wakens, and on one trip Gene joked, as they were approaching Tubac, “If we lived here, we’d be home by now!” They pulled off the interstate and took a quick drive through the newer Barrio de Tubac neighborhood, falling in love with — and eventually purchasing — a Spanish Colonial home on a quiet cul de sac. The village, known for its arts community, provides a tremendously convenient location for the couple — just 60 miles to Tucson and 17 miles to the border. Although they sold their Tucson property, they periodically visit the Old Pueblo to see their physicians, friends and acquaintances. The couple kept their Alamos home, too, and Dhana still has an antique shop in that area. When asked how she selects items for her shop, she notes, “I buy things I would love in my home and hope someone else is inspired by my finds.”
The couple’s dogs, Blue and Kikkoman, love to romp from the main house through the courtyard to visit Gene in his office.
The Frenchstyle graveled courtyard is a terrific space for outdoor entertaining.
It was Tubac’s scenery that drew them to the city, but they really fell for the house, which was featured on a recent home tour. Dhana has decorated their three-bedroom casa with treasures in a mix of styles from many cultures. “I love unusual pieces, such as a 15th century Bishop’s robe closet,” she says. She has found interesting and beautiful items in local shops, including Pancho’s Resource & Design, Angeles y Diablitos and Jane’s Attic. One of the appeals of the home is how interior and exterior spaces blend. “I love the inner courtyard and open floor plan,” says Dhana. “It has lots of windows and doors that lead to the center garden.” There’s even a casita for Gene’s office off the center space. He owned an engineering firm for more than four decades, and still consults. The couple’s dogs, Blue and Kikkoman, love to romp from the main house through the courtyard to visit him in his office. The backyard slants down toward the wooded Anza Trail on the Santa Cruz River. “We would like to build a bocce court in the backyard someday,” observes Dhana. The area is visited by local wildlife, and the Wakens have sighted deer, javelinas, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and coatimundi. In addition to being a Master Gardener and floral designer, Dhana also is a dedicated and enthusiastic hostess. Gene is of Lebanese heritage, and Dhana enjoys utilizing his family recipes in her entertaining (see Entertaining at Home on page 26 for some of her favorite recipes).