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For The Home

An Updated Adobe

Author: Nancy Erdmann
Issue: June, 2013, Page 60
Photos by Art Holeman

The most dramatic room in this Phoenix home is the living room, according to homeowner Kristin Austin-Jacob. “The only thing we changed was the plaster on the walls, which originally was yellow,” she notes. “We kept the beautiful wood beam ceilings, old steel encased windows and the original concrete floors.” The painting over the fireplace, titled The Sorcerer, is by Ray Donley.



Natural Materials and a Quiet Color Palette Revive an Aging Adobe

Located off a well-traveled street and tucked behind a wall of densely planted oleanders, is a place so enchanting that one might not realize it is just minutes away from a busy financial center in east Phoenix. With its 2½-acre lot, towering aleppo pine trees and 1935 adobe home, it feels like a throwback to the past. Such is the charm of old estates that have endured encroachment, modernization and time.

In 2006, Kristin Austin-Jacob and her husband, Andy Jacob, had just acquired a property to renovate, when they found this one. Purchasing a second house was not in the plan, but the pair fell in love with the estate and bought it anyway. “We loved that it was adobe and we appreciated the history and all the spectacular trees,” Austin-Jacob recalls. Although it, too, needed work, they say they “couldn’t resist.” In 2010, renovation began on the house and garden.

“The original architect was Robert T. Evans, and he had the perfect vision for the home, as is evident today in its character. Many of its original finishes are even more beautiful now,” notes the lady of the house. Throughout the years, however, changes had been made to his initial design and vision. Not having been updated since it was a Phoenix Home & Garden Designer Showcase Home in the late 80s, it lacked cohesion and consistency. “Every room was completely different, as a different designer created their own vision of each room. I like to say the house had a serious identity crisis!” she recalls. “I believe it lost itself in the process, and I wanted to find the heart of the home again.”

With its formal design, brick walkway and lush vegetation, the home’s romantic front entry is reminiscent of a European country estate.
The goal was to create a simple, serene, yet elegant space that flowed. The couple didn’t want the house to be too showy or pretentious, and they didn’t want to completely change it. Instead, they desired a timeless look that respected the original architecture.

Although she has no formal training as a designer, Austin-Jacob was the talent behind the renovation. “I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to many countries in my 20s, and it was through this that I developed a passion for architecture, art and design,” she relates. Having since renovated three homes, she says she is addicted to the process. “I love taking an older home and finding the soul of the property and bringing it back to life.”

To create an “understated and humble” feel for the residence, Austin-Jacob focused on using natural materials, soft linen fabrics and soothing hues. “A neutral, calm space required me to use much restraint and constant editing during the design process. It was very challenging to avoid prints and colors,” she remarks. “I love fabrics with bright hues and ornate designs, but at the end of the day, I like to come home to a simple, clutter-free space.”

With its original finishes intact, the formal dining room offers a glimpse into how the house looked when it was first built in 1935. During the renovation, the homeowners discovered wires in the middle of the room that had once been connected to a bell. “I found out there was a button on the floor that you could push with your foot under the table to ring the butler,” says Kristin Austin-Jacob. “I knew we had to get it working again.” The 19th-century walnut table is from Spain; accenting it is a sculpture by artist Christina Bothwell depicting a dog riding a skateboard.

A pair of horse paintings by artist Joseph Piccillo are a dramatic addition to the foyer. Dark ceiling beams and arched doorways are characteristic of the home’s architecture.
Warm and inviting, the informal dining room was designed to flow with the adjoining Country-style kitchen, which is visible through the cutout in the wall. The woman of the house says she loves champagne, so when she saw a sign in France listing types of sparkling wine, she knew it would be fitting for this space. Above the pine farm table is an iron and carved-wood chandelier from Italy. An antique wine press rests against a wall at left.


The homeowners wanted a Farmhouse-style kitchen with concrete countertops, open shelving and antique pottery and jars. “I intentionally decided to leave traditional kitchen cabinets out of the design,” explains Kristin Austin-Jacob. “I love the look of open shelving, and it’s very functional.” The sink is a 200-year-old stone trough from France.
A breezeway with built-in banco seating was added to expand the size of the outdoor dining patio. Hand-painted tiles embellish the curved wall niche. In the background is an old stone trough from France that serves as a fountain. A tiered fountain can be seen in the garden beyond.


“This is my favorite bedroom,” says Kristin Austin-Jacob of this guest room. Simple and serene, it was designed around an early 17th-century French door that now serves as a headboard. “I picked pieces that would complement its rustic, beautiful old patina and antique iron hardware.” The room is visible through the arched entry of an adjacent sitting room that originally was a sleeping porch.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: Through another arched doorway is the guest bath’s powder room. The homeowner purchased the French console table locally and turned it into a vanity. A stone trough serves as a sink; antique sconces add ambient light. • In the library, a daybed was incorporated into a built-in bookcase. “I wanted to create a cozy spot by the window to read or watch a movie,” says Kristin Austin-Jacob. • A sitting area anchors one end of the master bath, which features a freestanding tub, concrete countertops, an old trough sink and a rustic wood vanity. “I believe a neutral color palette allows the objects, art and antiques to really take center stage, says Austin-Jacob. And with such an incredible amount of windows throughout the home, I did not want to compete with the beautiful colors, which reflect inside the house from the gardens outside.” • After spending time in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Austin-Jacob says she was inspired by the use of arched alcoves and the way built-in furniture was used. “I knew this was what I wanted for the master bedroom,” she remarks. The room was originally a nondescript, dark guest room with two small windows that looked out to a circular drive. After the renovation, the light-filled space now has French doors opening to a patio and rose garden. The painting is by artist Per Fronth.

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