Name: John and Liz Tavarez
Location: Fairview Place; Phoenix, Arizona
Size: 1,004 square feet
Years lived in: 7 years; Owned
Liz and John live in a Sears Craftsman assembled in 1926. Their neighborhood, Fairview Place, was granted Historic Designation in 1994. It's the oldest house in their neighborhood by two years. In Phoenix, this is considered incredibly old.
In fact, generally speaking, a home built before 1960 is considered old. There are historic districts listed on both the Phoenix Historic Property Register and the National Register of Historic Places which contain houses built well into the 1950s. Some of the oldest homes in Phoenix were built around the turn of the 19th century, which to me, as a native Phoenician, seems ancient. I know the ages of these homes won't seem particularly impressive to a lot of people, but in Metro Phoenix their charm is increasingly important to a city whose massive sprawl has grown exponentially since the 1950's.
It was very important to Liz and John that they buy an older home. As Liz says, “One with character and imperfections... I can't handle beige and travertine.” They were aware of, and embraced, the can of worms buying an older home often opens. When they renovated their kitchen and bathroom, they discovered they had to replace the plumbing. There's absolutely no insulation in the house, and due to its historical status they're unable to modify any portion of the exterior visible from the street. The only option was to insulate the rear wall, which helps significantly with the intense summer heat. Storage space is also an issue, but Liz makes use of multipurpose pieces as much as she can; the trunk by the front door houses all of her purses.
The only structural change they made to the interior was opening the wall between the kitchen and the dining room. (At some point, they think in the 1940's, someone enclosed the porch.) They've painted the interior many times in the seven years they've lived in the home. While they're content with the paint as it is, John thinks they'll be repainting again soon. “It's like a spiritual cleansing almost, you just feel like you need a breather or change. Sometimes the walls are screaming at you, 'I don't want that color!'”
John gives Liz free reign and all the credit in the world for designing their beautiful home. In turn, Liz's genuine appreciation for John's mentality is obvious. “It's a representation of us. You know, my best friend is here (John). My pets are here. I have good drinks. I don't need to go out. I can sit on the patio or lay on the couch. So that was important to me. To LOVE where we live and be comfortable with it and have it represent us.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Eclectic gothic-glam, I think. That’s the only way I can think to describe it. It’s a hodge-podge of mostly vintage mixed with some modern, skulls, creepy things and sparkles!
Inspiration: Life and seeing the world! Beautiful old buildings, new modern buildings, things that glimmer, string lights, sun through windows, great food and weather and haunted houses.
Favorite Element: The house itself would have to be favorite element. It is a 1926 Sears Craftsman that arrived on a train in numbered parts. The original owner would have assembled it himself, or had it assembled on site. One of the original beams remains in the attic and has the stamp on it. Thinking of all of the people who have lived here and cared for this home is pretty cool, too.
Biggest Challenge: Space! And the layout. There are areas that I just don’t “get” what they should be for and that seem like wasted space. Meanwhile, I struggle to fit my clothes in my closet because it’s teeny tiny! When we remodeled the kitchen, we chose to take out a utility closet that was by the back door. This was a difficult decision because it would mean we would only have 3 closets total in the house, but it gave us the space to add a separate laundry room. So it’s give and take, for sure.
What Friends Say: ”I love your house!” is what we’ve heard. It’s a huge compliment because the house is so personal. Everything we’ve done is because we love it, so for others to like or be drawn to it is really cool.
Biggest Embarrassment: It would have to be the laundry room. It’s full of projects, tools, paint cans and the cat litter boxes. There is just so much stuff in there, and I haven’t been inspired by how to make it a cool room yet. I know it’ll come to me eventually, but right now, when people come over, we just shut the door.
Proudest DIY: The kitchen, definitely. We put together all of the cabinets, hung the upper ones, did the glass tile backsplash ourselves, painted, put in the oven with the help of our neighbor, and I drew up the plans for the city permit to add the gas line for the range. That renovation was the longest and most frustrating to date, but I’m so glad we did it together, and it definitely taught us a lot about what to do, and what not to do.
Biggest Indulgence: That’s a good question. We really don’t have anything that we’ve spent a lot on. I look online for deals and knock offs, or we buy things from IKEA or Target and paint or change them to fit in with what we want. We also buy pieces from vintage or thrift stores around town, so nothing is really too precious. I guess if I have to pick something that was “indulgent”, it’d be the artwork over the couch, just because it’s not a necessity. I had it shipped from London where our friend has a printing studio, and had it professionally framed for John’s birthday. It wasn’t cheap, but totally worth it because it reminds us of our trips to London, which are definitely some of the best memories we’ve made so far.
Best Advice: There are lots of “rules” for decorating if you don’t know where to start, but I think your home should be about the people who live there, and what makes you happy and comfortable. If you like something or want to try something in your space, don’t be afraid! The less I cared about if a design decision was “right” or not, the more comfortable our space got. I just really think that your home should be your refuge and if you don’t like something there, change it!
We’ve had three different paint colors in the kitchen/dining room since we bought the house. This place is my experiment, and I’ll probably never stop changing things. If it doesn’t work, we change it. There’s nothing wrong with working things out until you like them. Now that we’ve done things exactly how we want, there’s usually no place we’d rather be. It’s a really cool feeling.
Dream Sources: A Paris vintage shop full of oddities, Z Gallerie, Design Within Reach, www.fabulousandbaroque.com, One Kings Lane
Resources of Note:
PAINT & COLORS
• Kitchen/Dining Room - Sherwin Williams Tropical Dream (202-1)
• Living room/Liz’s work area – Behr Dolphin Fin
• Bathroom – Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White
• Bedroom – custom color from Paris Envy, Phoenix
• Sofa - Z Gallerie Soho Sofa in Brussels Charcoal
• Side chair, side tables, coffee table - vintage
• Dining room light - Tom Dixon knockoff from eBay
• Table, yellow chairs, hutch - vintage
• Acrylic chairs - knockoff ghost chairs from eBay
• Cabinets and counters - IKEA (Abstrakt)
• Tufted headboard - vintage
• Side tables and dressers - vintage
• Schoolhouse light fixture over medicine cabinet - Home Depot
• Pendant light - IKEA Ranarp, painted gold on the inside
Thanks, John and Liz!
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(Image credits: Lindsey Kay Averill)