This Scottsdale Home Has the Dreamiest ‘Secret Garden’ Courtyard
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Name: GG LeMere, husband, son, daughter when she’s home from college, and two long-haired dachshunds
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Type of home: House
Size: 2110 square feet
Years lived in: 20 years, owned
GG LeMere tells the story of the house she’s lived in for 20 years, which she shares with a husband, son, daughter (when she’s home from college), and two long-haired dachshunds: The footprint of our house is basically a square with a courtyard in the center of it. And the first time we walked through the gate, up the walkway to the front door, in the courtyard, growing above the house was a 30-foot ficus with a blanket of vines below that made the house feel like a treehouse with a secret garden entrance. We looked at each other and in that moment, we knew we had to live in this house. Sadly, not long after we moved in, we discovered the tree was damaging the foundation, so we had to remove it, but we managed to redo the courtyard to have a similar vibe and turn it into additional outdoor “room.”
My husband and I are both creatives/graphic designers with an appreciation for art of all kinds and modern design. We are parents to two kids (21 and 18) and two doxies (Otto and Agnes). We love to travel when we can, but we’re also homebodies who love to relax in our home.
We’re both very sentimental. I would describe our home as “collected,” but not in a way that’s knickknack-y — rather, in a way that’s cozy and nostalgic. There’s a story attached to most things on our shelves and walls.
When we moved into this home, we were young with a new baby and just starting our careers. We knew we didn’t have enough furniture to fill the house. But rather than just purchase items to fill the space, we made a pact to save up for what we love and collect items we could keep long-term. We were OK with a blank spot in a room or on the walls waiting to be filled with just the right thing … so someday we could end up with a home that fit our style and told a story about our life together.
Today, I would say our home has simple and timeless pieces, with decor that’s been inspired by places we’ve traveled or have memories attached to them — all styled with an artist’s eye.
If you wandered through the house you’d find water in a glass bottle from the first snowman my husband and I built together. Sand in a jar from one of our first trips to the beach with our kids. A miniature (broken and glued back together) statue of the David that we picked up from a street vendor on our honeymoon in Italy. A jar of discarded buttons that my mother-in-law collected over the years. My dad’s leather dopp kit that he used when he traveled around Asia for work in the ’70s. My mom’s suitcase from when she went off to boarding school in China. Beer bottles with cool labels from a quick and crazy trip my husband and I took to Costa Rica.
Decorating with items collected from our life makes me feel like our home gives me a big hug every time I walk into it. My home is my happy place. I get to be creative and design it however I want and it has all the people and stories that we love most as the thread that ties it together.
Our identity is very much reflected in our home. My job as business owner and brand consultant/graphic designer and my husband’s job as creative director/packaging designer means that we design all day for clients and other people with business goals and rationale built into the design. By contrast, our home is a place for us to visually express ourselves. I like to think of it as one big canvas on which to design, taking inspiration from our lives together and telling little stories in different corners of our home.
As an artist, my mood is very affected by color. Work is deadline-driven and often fast-paced, so I love walking through our home and feeling a sense of calm. A neutral, tone-on-tone organic palette is soothing to me. We have a lot of non-colors (gray, white, black, tan) combined with mixed woods and plants. “Shades of gray” is my favorite color. For me, it anchors a space in a way that’s not aggressive or overbearing. It also adds a sense of sophistication to any mix of colors, creating a great foundation for being able to switch out colorful accessories when the mood strikes us. Our mixed woods and plants warm up all the gray that otherwise could be considered cold, sterile or boring. Whenever we remodel or do something new for the house, my kids always say, “Lemme guess … it’s gray, right?” Most often the answer is YEP.
My mom is first-generation Chinese, so there are touches of my modern version of her Asian style throughout our home including some Feng Shui practices that influence my home office. Even our dogs are a reflection of us. My husband’s mom was German and his family has always been a dachshund family. (At one point with over 20 doxies in their family at once!) So we’ve always had dachshunds with German names.
Describe your home’s style in 5 words or fewer: Comfortable, collected gallery of memories.
What is your favorite room and why? If I had to pick one, it would probably be our courtyard. We added metal L beams across the original wood beams to create a mid-century style shade structure that casts some fabulous shadows throughout the day. And over the years the vines have grown in and hang down from the beams, making it feel like the secret garden that we loved so much when we first moved in. It’s also a place where, when we’re out there, everyone is disconnected from technology and enjoying each other.
What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The most recent piece of furniture we purchased was a sofa table for our living room. Our living room sofa is giant and my husband got sick of having to climb off of it to get to the coffee table. He wanted a table he could set his drink on … and I love the shadows that the cutouts in the legs cast when the light is right. Simple pleasures.
Any advice for creating a home you love? Enjoy the process. Be OK with your home taking time to tell its story. And don’t feel like you have to be tied to a style that you can define. If you design with what you love and things that make you smile, your own personal style eventually emerges and your home becomes an ever-evolving reflection of the people who live there.
This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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