A Modern Adobe in Tucson

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Name: Krysta Jabczenski and Joel Leshefka
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Size: 600 square feet
Years lived in: Owned for 2 years (We remodeled this property earlier this year.)

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For Krysta and Joel, Tucson is more than just home. The two artists and shop owners relocated to Krysta’s native Arizona from the Pacific Northwest, and planted roots in the blossoming creative community in the area. Inspired by the region’s breathtaking desert landscape and the original architecture from the city’s earliest settlements, the couple have purchased three historic adobe homes (dating back to the turn of the century!) on the same block and furnished them with their own colorful, modern sensibilities. Today’s tour is the first of three, so stay tuned to see the other two spaces in the coming weeks…

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

The affectionately named “Sunset Adobe” was used as a moccasin workshop by the previous owner for nearly a decade. When Krysta and Joel purchased the property and began the renovation process, they were overwhelmed by the options that came up regarding the space’s layout. In the end, they chose to honor the natural airiness of the adobe with an open concept floorpan that turned the once cluttered workspace into a breezy and bright guest suite.

Furnished with pieces from independent designers and makers from all over the world, a good portion of it all comes from the couple’s two shops, Prism, based in Seattle, and the newly launched Palo, found online (and soon with a shop front in Tucson).

Get the look! → Minimal & Airy Adobe Home

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Open floor plans, light in all the right places (important for desert homes), airy and minimal yet efficient fixtures and housewares.

Inspiration: Our neighborhood is full of incredible old adobe buildings. Getting to know our neighbors and friends that live in the neighborhood, we’ve found that each has its unique elements, with most opening up in surprising ways once you’ve stepped through the front door. We were inspired to maintain the unique features of this 1900 adobe building while playing with the light and design, which have more in common with minimalist sculptures and light artists of the 1960s than adobe structures of the 1900s, or the kitschy Southwest interiors found in many short-term rentals in Tucson.

Favorite Element: Adobe walls

Biggest Challenge: Making a comfortable one-bedroom apartment out of what was fundamentally a 600 square foot work studio.

What Friends Say: We’ve had a few people use this space for photo and video shoots. The quality of light, shadows, and warmth achieved near sunset is exactly the reason one chooses to live in the desert. We are really happy with the feedback we’ve received specifically on this element of the space!

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Biggest Embarrassment: We haven’t had time to flesh out the back patio, which feels un-finished on a lot of levels. Can we use the excuse of having full-time jobs and a 2 year old??

Proudest DIY: When we bought the place in late 2014, it was an utter shell of a space. It’d been used as a moccasin workshop for almost a decade, and was in no way suitable for living in. Over the years the space had been outfitted with things functional for a work space (exposed electrical boxes, handmade shelves in the strangest places, and makeshift false walls and closets to name a few). Our proudest moment was being able to look through all of that stuff and envision its future. Mentally juggling all of the different options for layouts, what was to be torn out, and what would remain, was exhausting. I think we chose properly though in maintaining the historic nature of the unit, while choosing extraneous elements to remove entirely. What is left constitutes a history that’s intact, but with modern amenities and style.

Biggest Indulgence: We worked with our friends here in town, Midtown Artisans on all the cabinet work. They hand built the kitchen entirely, and used floors from an old bowling alley here in town, Cactus Lanes, to make our new gorgeous counter tops. When you’re remodeling you begin to understand what costs a “little”, and what costs “a lot”. EVEN with the more than generous buddy discount they gave us, using materials this rare, and difficult to finish, really starts to add up! The finished product was so worth it though, and way beyond the cookie cutter stuff you get at most big box stores in town! We are so happy with the work they did for us and the end product!

Best Advice: Keep it simple, let the materials, the light, and space tell the story

Dream Sources: Currently obsessed with weathered wood from the Oregon and Washington coast.

Get the look! → Minimal & Airy Adobe Home

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)
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A view from the entry of the bright white space, affectionately named the “Sunset Adobe”. (Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Thanks, Krysta and Joel!

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