Home is Where the Art Is

By Romi Carrell Wittman / Photography by Alexandra Yarborough

This modern home is the perfect fit for the Eltze family of five, and also serves as a showroom/studio for the homeowner’s art.

On the northwest side, one residence also functions as a showroom for the homeowners.

Artist Tanja Eltze’s stunning modern home can be found surrounded by nature on the northern edge of Oro Valley. She and her husband Jens chose this 1.25-acre lot for its beautiful rock outcroppings, and easy access to hiking and biking trails that the family uses frequently.

Originally from Germany, the couple and their three daughters lived in the Dallas area for many years before relocating to Tucson in 2012. Tanja saw this as an opportunity to create a home that better reflected the family’s personal tastes and lifestyle.

Those tastes were first shaped in the southwest area of Stuttgart. As a result of being quite a bit younger than her siblings, Tanja was taken by her parents to art museums early and frequently. “They were done with the kid stuff,” she jokes. But she credits their frequent visits to the Staatsgallery or the Design Center Stuttgart with her lifelong appreciation of art, architecture and design.

It later turned out that Stuttgart also would be the place of her first exhibition, a photography show in collaboration with her former employer Hugo Boss.

Moving to Tucson and into the Sonoran Desert that they already knew and loved from prior trips, Tanja and her husband sought a home that featured clean modern lines and was full of light, with sweeping views that blurred the distinction between indoor and outdoor spaces. At the same time, it was imperative the home be multifunctional, accommodating not only their family of five, but also Tanja’s art practice. The couple turned to local architect Kevin B. Howard to help them realize their vision.

Desert living requires a certain mindset. Not only does one have to contend with the intense heat of the summer months, but a respect for native vegetation and wildlife is essential. This is something Howard, an Arizona native, has demonstrated in his work, which can be found in several Arizona communities, as well as Park City, Utah, and San Diego, California, among other places.

The end result is a gorgeous, 3,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home with large windows just about everywhere. Thanks to the orientation of the windows, they allow a lot of light into the home, while limiting summer heat gain.

“We wanted a house large enough for our family as well as occasional guests, but we didn’t want something that required too much land or energy usage,” Eltze notes. This is in keeping with her past work educating elementary schoolchildren in the Frisco, Texas, school district about the environment, and the importance of living in more eco-friendly ways.

Polished concrete floors with exposed aggregate, a Venetian plaster wall, and stark white spaces accentuate pieces of abstract art, all by Eltze, creating a dramatic, yet accessible space.

Her dining room doubles as a showroom for her many clients. “I meet here with art collectors and interior designers to show them my work in a living environment,” she says. She adds that it gives people an opportunity to see how large-scale art can look in a home. There is another benefit, as well. “I love the fact that I get to live in a home where art changes over time,” she says. “As pieces leave for exhibition or are sold, new pieces are created.”

Her work is focused mainly on large-scale abstract paintings on canvas, but she also works on paper or wood, specifically for a series that incorporates natural elements of the Sonoran Desert. She says she finds inspiration not only in modern architecture and design, but also in the many patterns of nature. She admits, though, that she wondered how she would ever get work done in her studio. “The view is so beautiful,” Eltze enthuses. “I worried that I wouldn’t be able to focus on my work!”

That didn’t prove to be the case, and her business is thriving. Her process is a little different than other artists because she involves the client at every stage. “I talk with them to learn about their need, interior design style and other preferences,” she says. “Next is ‘art speed-dating.’”

This phase, she says, involves showing the client several of her 100-plus technique samples to get a sense of what strikes a chord with them, and to find middle ground when partners who live together have different views on art. “With so many samples to look at, there are always some that both of the partners are drawn to,” Eltze adds. Next comes a proposal for the commissioned piece, or pieces, which takes not only the technique into account, but also the ideal dimensions and colors for the space. “I try to get a feel for the space and also determine what I think the space needs,” Eltze explains. This could be a splash of color to enliven a space, sophisticated neutrals or real gold leaf when an upscale, elegant room is the goal. Once the goal is agreed upon the piece is created. Finally, the client meets with Eltze in her showroom for feedback. “This step is essential,” she says, “because the artistic process of creating, evaluating and adjusting doesn’t allow you to predict 100 percent how the piece will look in the end.” To mitigate that risk for her clients, she offers to work with them until they love the piece without reservation.

Eltze works with interior designers and design professionals, business owners, and private art collectors or homeowners. Her creations — and a look inside her extraordinary studio/home — can be found at www.moca23.com.

Source: Kevin B. Howard Architects, KBHArchitect.com

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