Category: Story 2

Goes With the Territorial

Keeping what was good, and updating what was outdated, was the mission of this makeover.

Romi Carrell Wittman

The late 1970s — the era of shag carpet, laminate countertops, and avocado green appliances — saw a boom in territorial revival homes. An architectural style born in the desert Southwest during the 1930s, territorial revival is known for its blend of Anglo- American building design with regional influences like adobe brick construction, low, flat roofs, wooden vigas, and sash windows. You can spot these beautiful and distinctive homes throughout Tucson by their iconic rectangular shape with stucco or adobe brick façades.

Michelle Carnes, ASID, vice president and senior designer with Dorado Designs, a Tucson-based design-build firm, was called upon to bring one of these 1970s gems up to date. The 3,600-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath home, located near the Omni Tucson National Resort, had what designers call “good bones,” but it needed freshening up.

Although the homeowners wanted to modernize, they didn’t want to lose the home’s architectural flavor or character. “We talked in quite a bit of detail,” Carnes says. “They wanted a modern twist and an airy feel. We termed the design ‘modern territorial.’”

Like many homes of that era, the interior was dark and closed off. Though the home boasted several skylights and many expansive windows, the dark saltillo tile flooring and exposed brick seemed to absorb all the light.

Carnes’ design retained the original footprint of the home, but opened up some of the interior spaces to create a great room, giving the home a better flow.

One large room originally was divided into two areas, with one serving as a dining room, which was too far from the kitchen to be truly functional. Carnes had the dividing wall removed, exposing a hidden beamed ceiling, and turning the room into an open living room. It became the perfect location for the homeowners’ piano. “Cubby holes” made an ideal spot for books and items from their art collection.

Carnes revamped the kitchen so it is modern, comfortable and functional. The clients love open shelving, but wanted it to tie in with the overall style of the home. Carnes chose cabinetry in three different finishes to provide visual interest. White textured bead board creates a simple, but dramatic contrast both in the built-in hutch and the open shelving.

As Carnes points out, combining different textures and finishes in the kitchen while utilizing modern and traditional lines instills character in a typical functional space. “Several different focal points, from the island drawer detail, to the built-in custom hutch, to the rustic beam above the sink, help the space to seem comfortable and well thought out.”



The kitchen island presented a fun challenge for Carnes. She designed it so it’s intentionally off-center, thus making room for better traffic flow in the kitchen. “I needed to find a way to make it look centered even though it’s asymmetrical.” The solution presented itself in the form of the starburst light fixture that hangs over the island. “The starburst is centered on the sink, so your eye can ‘find the center,’” she explains.

Carnes tore out the home’s existing flooring, which was a mélange of saltillo tile, carpet and ceramic tile, and replaced it with poured concrete that’s consistent throughout the home.

Next she painted the exposed brick to brighten the interior. New exterior doors and windows were selected to continue the modern upgrades. “We updated everything down to the switch plates and only kept the master tub and door handles,” Carnes says. Last, but not least, she sourced new furnishings and artwork for the home.

That attention to detail extends to the backyard as well. The previous patio was too short and let in too much sun and heat to be functional. Carnes extended the patio, constructed a large fire pit and created comfortable seating and dining areas.


The driveway got a makeover with brick pavers; new garage doors were installed, and the front door was refurbished to maintain a consistent style with the home.

All in all, from the design phase to completion, the project took about seven months. The homeowners had traveled to Colorado during the construction phase and hadn’t seen the home as the project progressed.

“They didn’t come back once to check in,” Carnes notes. “They trusted us.”

The homeowners saw their “new” home for the first time when they stopped by during the final touch-up phase. “We were all there, and it was like an HGTV reveal,” Carnes says. “Every time the homeowner turned the corner, she kept saying, ‘Wow!’ She and her husband couldn’t believe it was the same house.”

Carnes enjoyed the clients and the project from beginning to end. “I do my best work when the clients trust me. I get to hone in on my intuition while staying in tune with their personal integrity, and create something that is thoughtful and original,” she concludes. “On this project, I was allowed that freedom and I put my heart and soul into it.”

Carnes revamped the kitchen so it is modern, comfortable and functional. The clients love open shelving, but wanted it to tie in with the overall style of the home.

Natural light, and the sleek vanity, shower and soaking tub add to this master bath’s luxurious feel.

A bold-tiled barbecue and area rug in slate blue, along with textured furniture, concrete flooring and a fire feature, make this outdoor area a well-thought out extension of the home’s living space.


Michelle Carnes, ASID, Dorado Designs,

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This midtown house took its design cues from its famous neighbor.



This midtown house took its design cues from its famous neighbor.

Large steel-and-glass doors lead to a private entry courtyard at the home of Karol and Bob Gugino.

Tucked away on an elegant, pavered street across from the Arizona Inn is a group of homes that are classic in design, yet thoroughly modern in amenities. The 11 stately residences of Casa Seton do more than provide shelter. With their dramatic Spanish Colonial construction, which intentionally evokes their renowned neighbor, the homes instantly provide a distinct sense of place and history.

This is what drew Karol Gugino, owner of Elements Home Décor and Gifts, and her husband Bob to the neighborhood. “The homes were designed to complement the Arizona Inn,” she says. “We wanted to honor the Inn’s historic importance.”

Karol and her husband not only purchased a place at Casa Seton, they were a part of the development team with local builder Miramonte Homes. Karol’s store, Elements, provided interior design services at the floorplan stage and also worked with individual homeowners in the neighborhood. Ivan Escobell, Karol’s business partner, also was involved in the design process.

From the graceful courtyard that’s dotted with native plants, to the modern steel and- glass front door, there are numerous design cues to both the past and the 21st century.

The long hallway — leading from the front door through the center of the home — is utilized as an art gallery.

Upon entering the home’s zaguan — a long hallway leading from the front door through the center of the house — one immediately notices the sweeping 18-foot-high beamed ceilings punctuated with clerestory windows. Linen-colored limestone floors are part of the light and airy palette. The bright space is perfect for showcasing art, and Karol has hung a beautiful Día de los Muertos-inspired calavera by Jan Barboglio at the end of the hallway to greet visitors.

The home’s heart and soul lie within the kitchen and living room, which Karol modified to suit her family’s lifestyle. A two-way fireplace separates the kitchen from the living room while also maintaining a seamless flow that prevents either room from appearing isolated. The natural gas fireplace is equipped with LED lights so that it may be used for colorful ambience even in the hottest months.

The huge island is the hub of the kitchen, which works well when the homeowners are entertaining guests.

The kitchen features a huge island with leather-finish quartzite countertops, a six-burner stove and expansive cabinets for storage. A butler’s pantry holds a coffee maker, second refrigerator, dishwasher, sink and shelves for easy appliance storage and access. “It’s great when we have a big gathering because we can keep much of the food preparation in that kitchen, leaving the main one for gathering and serving,” she says. “It’s also valuable for staging.”


Retractable glass doors line the rear of the home and effectively transform the backyard and wraparound patio into another living space. With an outdoor heater and a natural gas fire pit, the area is perfect for entertaining or simply hanging out and having a glass of wine in the evening. Using the patio, kitchen and living room, Karol reveals she’s hosted as many as 50 people at her home.

The walled backyard needed a touch of color and interest. The garden designs were the work of landscaper Tom Black of Plants of Distinction. He brought in many mature plants, such as oleander, yucca and queen palms. Unusual varieties of columnar cacti add height and texture to the narrow, raised beds. Several walls are covered with colorful bougainvillea.

With his-and-hers closets, a spa-quality rain shower, sumptuous vanity, as well as a large laundry room that leads to the den, the master suite serves as an elegant oasis away from daily life. When asked if noises from the nearby laundry room or den ever interrupt their sleep, Karol explains, “This house is very well constructed and insulated. I don’t hear anything and, even better, I barely even turn the heater on in the winter.”

The master suite also features a second fireplace, this one more classic in design than the one in the living room, but with a decidedly modern twist: a timer. “I can turn it on and set it for 15 minutes so I can go to sleep with the fireplace on,” she says with a smile. “It’s so cozy.”

Karol furnished the home with Escobell’s design assistance. Nearly all the pieces — furniture to artwork — came from Elements. The net is playful sophistication and simple beauty.

“This house is a wonderful living space,” Karol concludes. “It’s very comfortable and a pleasure to be in.”


Interior Design: Elements Home Décor and Gifts, 733-3399

Landscape: Plants of Distinction, 721-4577

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A Thrilla of a Villa

It took tearing this house apart and starting over to make it the showpiece it is today.

Homeowners Ron and Patsy Sable enjoy the newly created office space on the upper level of their home.

Ron and Patsy Sable already felt like they were part of the neighborhood when they made the decision to purchase a golf villa in La Paloma.

Patsy, who works as a Realtor, says, “I’d sold homes in the neighborhood, and we knew people here both socially and through business.”

In fact, Patsy herself was the listing agent for the house. As she showed it to potential buyers, she became more and more enamored of it. With nearly 180-degree views of the Catalina Mountains, a spacious backyard with wraparound patio, and a prime location on the golf course, Patsy recognized the home’s almost limitless potential. But she also knew that it would entail quite a bit of work.

The master bedroom suite has access to the garden patio and spa tub nearby.

Built in the 1980s, the 2,785-square-foot, three-bedroom, three bath home had been owned by a retired couple since the 1990s. They decided to downsize and list the home at roughly the same time the Sables decided to “rightsize.”

“We don’t like to call it downsizing,” Ron says with a chuckle. “We were looking for something that was a little easier to maintain.”

The dining room now opens into the kitchen.

The Sables’ former residence, a 3,600-square-foot house on a full acre of land, had simply become too time consuming. “It was a lot to take care of,” Patsy explains. “We wanted a house that could accommodate guests, but we didn’t want it to sit unused the rest of the time.”

The La Paloma home fit the bill, but it needed a bit of TLC, not only in terms of updating, but also functionality. Ultimately, the Sables took the home down to studs and rebuilt it, with Ron overseeing the project.

The couple wisely held off on listing their current home during the project. Instead, they lived there while Ron spent countless hours driving back and forth to supervise the remodel.

“We went in blind,” Patsy says of the extreme makeover. “But we also had general contractor friends who helped guide us.”

The couple quickly realized that there is a preferred way to organize a renovation. As Ron says, “It’s a full-time job scheduling everything in the right order!”

He saw that pricing could vary wildly, too. “That was a surprise,” he reveals. “I discovered there were significant differences for the same product of the same quality.” He credits the Internet as well as his sweat equity in helping him through that process, and observes that, wherever possible, they sourced materials locally.

Three-dimensional glass tiles, a farm sink, and cherry cabinets are highlights of the new kitchen.

The kitchen, with its stark white cabinets and Formica counters, desperately needed a facelift, but the renovation was more than cosmetic. The Sables reconfigured the space for better functionality.

That meant moving gas, electric and water lines — a process that was both messy and time consuming.

“I was surprised at how much you destroy a house before you put it back together,” Patsy says. “There were holes everywhere!”

A wall between the dining room and kitchen was removed to create an open plan that’s perfect for entertaining.

The remodel also entailed removing a wall between the dining room and the kitchen, opening the space to create a small dining area. Cherry cabinets, a granite countertop from Bedrosian, and a 3-D glass tile backsplash from Floor & Décor are features of the new kitchen. The couple installed a Viking range as well as a top of- the-line coffee maker that produces results rivaling those of the best coffee shops.

Previously the home featured two master suites, one upstairs and another downstairs. The Sables decided to reconfigure the upper level one, turning it into a study. In the process of opening up that space, they exposed lovely wooden beams. Another guest room and bathroom made the home more functional.

The focal point of the family room is the fireplace and TV wall. The unique dark porcelain contains metal accents to add visual interest.

The Sables extensively remodeled the family room, including nano doors to the back patio, making a seamless indoor/outdoor transition when they entertain. The standout feature of the family room is a dark-tiled wall that includes a fireplace as a focal point. The unique porcelain tile has metal pieces running through it to catch the light and add dimension. Even the grout features tiny pieces of glass for more visual interest.

In all, the renovation took several months, but the couple says it was worth it.

“I worried about the flow in this house, Patsy concludes, “but this is so much more functional than our old one. I just love to sit in the kitchen and enjoy the view.”



Retro-Politan Style

In a 60-year-old Tucson neighborhood sits a vintage home that displays so many reasons to love the ’50s.



Steve Hannley’s home in a quiet Casas Adobes neighborhood beautifully embodies mid-century materials and lines, the Tiki trend, as well as elements of Americana unique to Arizona in the 1950s. The result is a whimsical riot of color and nostalgia that practically begs visitors to toss back a fruity drink (with paper umbrella, of course), kick back on the Mad Men-era seating and listen to some LPs.

Walking toward the front door is a bit like stepping into a “Wayback Machine.” Along the path lies classic 1960s landscaping — two-toned rock, large Italian cypress trees and oleander. The bright turquoise front door, which Hannley had custom made, pops against the natural elements.

The retro vibe continues after you step inside the 2,400-square-foot ranch home. The living room presents visitors with a large beamed ceiling and expansive glass windows providing views both east and west. Vintage furniture, art and other décor abound.

“I love to collect,” says Hannley of his mid-century, “atomic”-era collection. “I think it started with my love of The Jetsons when I was a kid.”

Hannley, who runs a small publishing company out of his home office, had lived in central Tucson, but desired something bigger, with a little more land. He extensively researched homes all over the city and found he was drawn to the Northwest side, especially a neighborhood full of funky, 1950s- and 1960s-era homes.

Constructed in 1959, Hannley’s home features classic mid-century lines and materials — wood, flagstone, glass — with a hint of Spanish Colonial influence.

Hannley was a stickler for detail when it came to remodeling and furnishing the home. The pieces, all of them vintage, were sourced from all over the country. As Hannley put it, he “loved the thrill of the hunt.” Though he tried to source some pieces locally, frequent visits to eBay as well as vintage stores all over the country were necessary to complete the collection.

But before he could focus on the furnishings, he wanted to restore the home to its original glory. He started by getting the home’s systems — the HVAC, plumbing and electrical — up to standard. He then restored the interior to its original design. This included replacing all the doors, doorknobs, light fixtures and cabinets.

The dining room, which was added to the home some years after its construction, offers great views of the Santa Catalinas. An original wooden door leads to patio and pool area where visitors can relax on vintage outdoor furniture made of Italian wrought iron and fiberglass.

Seven original paintings from a defunct American restaurant chain line the hallway, while a bedroom displays radios from 1949 through 1965.

What was once the garage is now a home theater, and Hannley lovingly refers to it as his Tiki room. Two imposing chairs, identical to a pair that sat in Elvis’s throne room, sit alongside classic video games like Donkey Kong, Hannley’s extensive record collection and a Llama bar. Custom made neon signs, created to resemble those of Tucson’s past, complete the look.

When asked what’s next on Hannley’s home “to-do” list, he smiles and says, “There’s nothing really left to do, but enjoy it.”

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