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For The Home

Eclectic Remodel

Author: Roberta Landman
Issue: June, 2015, Page 87
Photography by Terrence Moore

Interior designer Linda Criswell’s home is a reflection of her life and loves. Moroccan influences in the main living area of the renovated 1970s ranch include arabesque-shaped, hand-blazed tiles on the fireplace facade and floor tiling with bits of seashells. Brick arches, which originally housed bookcases, were opened, adding light and access to other spaces.

A Down-To-The-Studs Remodel Allows a Designer’s Much-Loved Collections to Shine

Ask Linda Criswell if she would agree with a “less-is-more” design mantra, and she might chuckle and say, “Probably not.”

That’s because the interior designer’s own style is anything but whittled down. Her Paradise Valley, Arizona, house is chock-full of out of the ordinary finds. Items large and small, discovered here and there, are displayed with a deft hand reflective of her trade and talent, and her love for the unique and unusual is obvious at every turn.

Collectibles atop an old Chinese chest in the hallway create an intriguing vignette. The lamp is a converted mid-century Mexican jar.
A desk composed of a glass top on a base made of curving faux elephant tusks acts as a sofa-back table. It was used years back on the set of TV’s original “Dallas” series. “Maybe J.R. or Sue Ellen sat there, ” Linda muses with a smile.

A wall in the kitchen serves as a gallery for a cluster of ex-voto paintings — personal stories rendered on tin. Created by artists who gather outside of Mexican churches, these small paintings reflect, for example, petitioners’ prayers for someone who is ill or their thankfulness to God for a miracle of healing, Linda says. These humble folk art pieces are then brought into the church where they remain until there is no more room for others to be brought in. The ones in Linda’s kitchen once hung in a church in San Juan, Mexico, and date as far back as the 1920s. “I bought them as a collection,” she says with admiration.

Set upon concrete tile flooring with a hexagonal pattern, a deep free-standing bathtub provides both beauty and comfort. The tall glass-doored cabinet is from India, the paintings are part of a collection of found vintage art, and the spherical chandelier has the look of jewelry, says Linda.

A passion for design and collecting is evident in her professional life as well as on the home front. Linda is co-owner with Alicia Flatin of Bungalow. At this Scotts-dale furniture and accessories emporium, she notes, “we say, ‘buy what you love.’ If you surround yourself with things you love, then your home will make you happy.” And she is very happy in her own home with beloved items she picked up during her travels through many exotic lands, from China to India to the Caribbean.

These culturally diverse treasures and trinkets blend together like a subtly spiced stew at the 1970s-era home. She bought the once-dated ranch-style house in the spring of 2013 with the ambition of remodeling it for herself and her two children. In an eight-month project with architect C.P. Drewett, builder Chris Milner and landscape designer Jeff Franklin, “the house went down to the studs,” she says, and overgrown outdoor areas became manageable and lovely garden areas.

The relocated dining room, adjacent to the foyer, faces the front of the house and has access to a patio. Surrounded by leather chairs and topped with large vintage glass water jars and a globe (Linda is a world traveler), the elm-wood Chinese dining table is a one-of-a-kind piece that is close to 100 years old, she says. The foyer’s shelves are from India.
“C.P. and I were very committed to keeping the quirkiness of the original design of the house—to embrace the different ceiling levels,” Linda notes. The art of a remodel, she offers, “is capturing the essence of the old while bringing it forward to current time and trend.” For example, old interior arches that had contained enclosed book shelves were opened up to create walk-through spaces and join the newly formed main living and dining areas. What originally had been a streetside living room was converted to a front of the house dining room with access to a well-furnished patio. It was an arrange-ment similar to one she had enjoyed at a former home.

When she is cooking and entertaining, “Everyone ends up in the kitchen,” Linda says. It is just as she planned for the all-new room. Marble-topped, like the counters, the large center island was created for food prep and casual dining for six, with chairs slipcovered in a cotton primitive stripe. Keeping the room light and bright, custom cabinetry is painted in a pale dove-gray tone, and stove area backsplash tiles are in creamy hues. Large glass-and-metal globe pendants over the island provide ambient and task lighting. Nearby, an old wooden sliding door from India hides a pantry, and a far wall contains a collection of Mexican ex-voto paintings.
A back patio and refurbished pool area are reached by way of the main living area; with its focal-point lavishly tiled fireplace and cushy white sectional sofa, the attractive room lies beyond a greatly enlarged kitchen. Now, about that slip-covered sofa: Don’t be afraid of white, Linda advises. She’s not. Washable and able to take a good bleaching, the slipcovers stand up well to typical wear-and-tear from kids and dogs.

Interestingly, most of the furnishings—including vintage pieces—are new to this revamped dwelling, because Linda sold her previous home furnished (it appeared in the May 2013 issue of Phoenix Home & Garden). She explains: “I do like change. I like the challenge of moving and changing my environment. I wanted this house to have a different vibe than where I was before. I wanted this house to feel like a cool getaway. Island chic. Castaway chic. A little Moroccan/desert. Light and bright with a little edge.”
Linda Criswell is co-owner of a home-furnishings shop, so interior design melds her personal and professional lives.

Materials such as sand-colored stone tile flooring imported from Morocco, creamy marble used in the kitchen and baths, and beg-to-be-touched decorative tile in muted natural tones bring that sense of coolness and lightness to the forefront. Add to that mix Linda’s preferred look: “warm and comfortable,” which she achieves with a neutral palette and pops of color and pattern, those many vintage finds, and an artful blending of art, textiles and plentiful accessories.

“It is a collected, layered look. Lots of collections, old art and books,” she comments.

Given new life inside and out, the modern-ized and beautified home kept its signature 1970s front arches and brick-work and still looks as if it fits in with the tidy, well established neighborhood that first attracted Linda and enticed her to enter into such a comprehensive renewal project. “Pretty much everything is new except the brick,” she remarks. “This was the largest remodel I have taken on.”
To others considering such an extensive undertaking, Linda notes that it’s easy to go over-budget on a remodel. For example, she suggests that if one does not stick to an original expenditure plan for such items as tile, flooring and fixtures—but somewhere along the way chooses upgraded versions—it “can really push the costs up.”

Nonetheless, she adds: “Remodeling is challenging but rewarding if you are happy with the finished product. A lot of great older houses sit in mature and beautiful neighborhoods. That is a huge motivator to remodel. Location, location, location!”

Color her happy.

A whitewashed carved chest on wheels from India is the focal point of a hallway still life. The silk-screened skull art is by Patrick McCarthy. An old Chinese pot was recyled and wired for lighting. Adding a mirror behind the collection adds visual space to the narrow area.

Even the family pets are drawn to the master bedroom. A chrome four-poster features a headboard upholstered in a metallic linen textile. A cowhide rug, stamped with a zebra pattern, lies atop sisal carpeting. Framed drawings of seaweed are a nod to Linda’s “castaway chic” theme.

The back patio has multiple covered areas for relaxation and entertaining, and as indoors, the homeowner’s passion for finding treasures extends to these areas. Suspended by ropes from an overhang’s rafters, fanciful vintage wire candle lanterns from China hang over a faux stone table paired with wicker chairs. .
Before new landscaping was added, vegetation was overgrown, Linda says. Here, in the front yard, desert-friendly plantings of sculptural Agave salmiana x colorata and wispy deer and pink muhly grasses add interest and a sense of order. Overhanging mesquite branches frame the renovated house. Its brick exterior painted a pale desert khaki hue, the residence blends with the natural environment. Linda points out: “The house looks like it is sunken into the ground.”

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