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For The Home

A Designer’s Renovated Home

Author: Judy Harper
Issue: November, 2012, Page 118
Photos by Karen Shell

Global treasures—including silver boxes from Peru, Indian pottery from New Mexico, and santo crowns from Prague—share space with books on shelves in the living room. Two pairs of matching floor lamps flank facing twin sofas. The painting over the fireplace is by Santa Fe artist Mateo Romero. The circular coffee table was designed by the homeowner.

Artworks and Other Treasures Punctuate a Revamped Residence

Home is where the art is for John Flittie and Jo Taulbee-Flittie. The couple loves to travel and has a seemingly unquenchable desire to bring home artworks from around the world that have captured their hearts. Walls, shelves, tables and niches display their treasure-trove of pieces—from bold paintings and stunning photographs, to sparkling silver, richly hued glass works and magnificent Navajo rugs. “We are surrounded by all of our favorite things,” the homeowner remarks.

The couple purchased the Paradise Valley, Arizona, home last November, and Taulbee-Flittie, a retired interior designer, immediately embarked upon a major renovation. “You have to look at the possibilities,” she explains. “The landscape was barren, and we wanted a lush look. The walls were chicken-yellow, the drapes were brown, and there was brown shag carpet. But it had wonderful spaces and wonderful lighting, and we loved the laid-back feel and pride of ownership of the neighborhood.

“My husband was reluctant to move, but thrilled when I told him that I would take care of everything. I told him that he could only come in when everything was finished and the drapes were hung—and if he made one disparaging remark, he would spend the rest of his life in the garage,” she deadpans. “He walked in when it was done and said he had no idea it could be this beautiful.”

A neutral palette and an abundance of natural light become the canvas for comfy furnishings and colorful accessories in the family room. Designed with materials that are able to withstand daily wear and tear, the space is enlivened with a Navajo rug from the 1920s, art photography (below left and top right) by Jo Taulbee-Flittie, and an oil painting by Mateo Romero. The hammered-tin table lamp boasts a punched black leather shade.
The home is devoted to informal living, with a spacious living room, dining room, kitchen and family room that flow into each other. Adding to the at-ease elegance are hardwood floors and walls painted a soothing and sophisticated neutral shade. Carpeting is commercial grade, and sofas are dressed in fabrics that take kindly to the couple’s cat and bichon dogs. “My goal was to make every room comfortable and livable,” says Taulbee-Flittie. “I like not worrying, and I don’t want to have any restrictions. It’s a very easy home to live in.”

The design balances clean, fluid lines with pops of color, texture and eye-catching furnishings. Everywhere the eye rests is an art collection, including several pieces by Taulbee-Flittie. Simple collections of crystals, silver, pottery, rugs and other treasures—thoughtfully displayed—become art installations and focal points throughout the home. A wide angled hallway also functions as a gallery. The art inspires affectionate stories either about the artists themselves, or of where, when and how the couple found each piece.

“Buy art that you like because those pieces all have certain colors and elements that make you feel good,” suggests Taulbee-Flittie. “I never match anything, and somehow it all works and becomes a harmonious whole.”

Outdoor spaces are equally appealing. Shaded by day and lighted by night, the expansive backyard features a gazebo, kiva fireplace, lush landscaping and a boulder waterfall that spills into the pool.

“This was absolutely a labor of love,” remarks the homeowner. “I knew it needed a lot of work, but I didn’t care because the house had a wonderful feel to it. It’s a happy house, and we feel we are the luckiest people in the world to live here.”

Homeowner Jo Taulbee-Flittie turned her attention to photography after retiring from a career as an interior designer. Native American dancers are a common subject of her pieces, as seen here in her studio. Her works are embellished with oil paints by a professional artist, who adds color and texture. Tall black pedestals display old Colombian pots, another interest of the homeowners.

Oil paintings showcased in the gallery hallway are by Mateo Romero (left wall), and Nocona Burgess of Cochiti, New Mexico. The hall opens to the foyer, where an oil painting by Jim Wilson of New York (rear center) commands attention above a low wooden chest from the early 1800s.
A parade of colorful glass and ceramic “Fence Posts” lines a pony wall that separates the dining room from the foyer. The pieces are a collaboration between Tony Jojola, who studied with Dale Chihuly, and Rosemary Lonewolf, who added the ceramic elements.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: The visual feast continues in the dining room with Aboriginal artwork purchased in Australia. The oil painting (center) is by Paddy Fordham. • With its quiet color scheme and soft lighting, the master bedroom is a peaceful retreat. Accent pillows on the chairs were fashioned from a damaged Navajo rug. • A kiva fireplace warms a sitting area in the backyard. “Our Lady,” the carved cantera stone piece on the hearth, has had a prominent place in other homes Jo Taulbee-Flittie has lived in over the years. The candelabras on either side of the fireplace are tin. •  The master bath features a curved glass-block wall behind a free-standing bathtub, and a centerpiece walk-in shower enclosure of glass and stone. Countertops are Juparana granite.

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