Southern Arizona proved to be the perfect location for a couple from California to build their future.
BY DEBBY LARSEN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMY HASKELL
Russell Palmer and Alec White lived and worked in Santa Barbara for many years, but they dreamed of building a home in Southern Arizona. Their combined creativity is on full display in their Spanish Colonial casa south of Tubac in the Morning Star Ranch development.
Imagine a central courtyard-style hacienda — with modern amenities — sited to take advantage of views of the nearby mountain ranges. Surrounding this fabulous home are 40 acres dotted with native mesquites, Mexican blue oaks and ocotillo. Who wouldn’t want to live there?
Russell, who had worked in the music industry and studio electronics, recently began selling real estate. Alec is a landscaper who managed the grounds of a major historical home when they lived in Santa Barbara. For several years prior to moving to Arizona and starting the building process, the duo made a lengthy list of their must-haves for a desert home, borrowing extensively from favorite features in their previous residences. “We chose what we liked best in each one,” says Russell. “Luckily, we have the same taste so most decisions were easy.” They continued revising the list until the first shovelful of soil was unearthed. The hacienda, built by Dorn Homes and nicknamed “Las Montañas” due to its surroundings, combines everything they love. The couple’s knowledge of architecture, horticulture and art history have been blended together perfectly to create a cohesive whole.
Built of concrete block and color-matched to the desert to mimic adobe, the result is a rustic aesthetic. Many elements of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the Andalusian tradition are evident, such as wrought-iron metalwork, painted ceramic tiles and lavish landscaping.
A wide tiled stairway leads down to the front patio. The entryway features a large iron double doorway with a cantera stone surround.
Most of the home’s rooms can be accessed from the interior courtyard. Casement windows and French doors were carefully aligned to capture views and open to shaded loggias. Greta, the couple’s 17-year-old heeler, enjoys lying on the home’s stained and polished concrete floors.
A Rumford-style corner fireplace with cantera stone mantel is the focal point of the expansive Great Room, with its 22-foot-high ceilings. At its far end is an open-concept kitchen with a large central island topped with honed granite. Travertine backsplashes, a copper farm sink and colorful talavera tile give the room a casual feel. “We love to cook, and this design is perfect for entertaining,” Alec notes.
Off the courtyard, one of the inner vestibules was designed to accommodate a large antique glass bookcase from Myanmar. This and a similar piece were purchased from Colonial Frontiers several years ago, and were chosen specifically for their Arizona home.
Alec’s expertise in landscape design shows in the home’s wraparound patio gardens, displaying native and desert-adapted species for year-round visual appeal.
The duo remains busy since finishing their home. From his home office, Russell is a realtor with eXp Realty in Tubac and Rio Rico. He enjoys assisting clients in finding retirement homes in quaint towns near Tubac, while Alec currently manages some of the grounds at Morning Star Ranch.
Their hacienda provides a restful ambience that both gentlemen adore. Russell concludes, “Even in the summer when everyone else wants to leave, we love watching the monsoons from our covered patios.”