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For The Home

Where Modern Meets Boho

Author: Rebecca L. Rhoades
Issue: May, 2017, Page 80
Photos by Gerardine and Jude Vargas
Southwest Style Is Given a Colorful Makeover When a Parisian Couple Renovates Their Midcentury Tucson Home

With a seemingly inborn ability to blend old-world sensibility with sophisticated elegance, the French are known worldwide for their impeccable design skills. But even the most stylish Parisian needs a little help when she’s set in unfamiliar surroundings. Such was the case for one French interior designer whose husband’s job took her first to an upscale urban community just outside of Washington, D.C., and then landed her amid the mountainous landscape of Tucson.

Landscape designer Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery walled off the front yard, creating a spacious entry courtyard where there was once only gravel and concrete. Modern-style house numbers offer visitors a sneak peak of the home’s character.
“When my husband told me three years ago that we were moving to Arizona, I wanted to cry,” she says. “I thought ‘Tucson? Really?’ I had no idea what it was like here.”

A 1967 Modern abode with good bones and sweeping mountain vistas helped make the transition easier. “I bought it online. It was crazy, I know, but we loved the views, the high ceilings and the layout. And I loved all the stone work,” she says. The home’s exteriors, though, were a completely different story. The landscape consisted of a gravel and concrete front yard and a large but barren backyard that held only a pool with a stone waterfall.

“Right away, I knew that we needed to add a courtyard in front,” recalls landscape designer Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery, who transformed the stark, unwelcoming spaces into fresh, friendly outdoor rooms. The new enclosure comfortably fills the corner of the L-shaped home. Its white walls offer privacy from neighbors and passers-by, while its spacious footprint provides ample room for a large U-shaped wicker sofa, a steel fire pit designed by Przygoda-Montgomery and a sleek water feature, flanked on both sides by rows of verdant bamboo. “The space is perfect for seasonal living,” notes the designer. “If you have a cocktail party, it’s a great place to greet guests. You can set up the drinks at the entrance.”

Whether entertaining guests or relaxing by the fire on a cool night, the homeowners use their front courtyard year-round. The tall water feature wall shields the space from neighbors’ views, while a shorter entry wall opens the space to the soaring mountain vistas.
For something a little more intimate, a teardrop-shaped all-weather wicker Papasan chair nestled against the home’s stone facade provides a cozy spot to curl up with a good book or watch the changing colors of the evening sky above the towering peaks of the Santa Catalinas Mountains to the northeast. An adjacent bed filled with low-maintenance desert-friendly plants, such as slipper plants, aloes, an Artemisia bush and a tall Yucca thompsoniana, adds an untamed touch to the minimalist yard.

The Zen-like aesthetic continues in the backyard, which previously was covered with a dreary swath of pavers. Przygoda-Montgomery enlivened the large space by creating multiple distinct zones: lounge, fire pit and meditation. The dated waterfall was removed, and a spa was built in its place. The designer also configured a rectangular lounge pool that runs perpendicular to the swimming pool and connects it to the patio. She accessorized the shallow water feature with contoured resin loungers.

Nestled in a corner of the courtyard, a teardrop-shaped Papasan chair is the perfect spot for curling up with a good book. Because the homeowner did not want a high-maintenance garden, Przygoda-Montgomery planted a variety of desert-friendly species, including slipper plants, Aloe ferox and a bushy Artemisia. A Yucca thompsoniana adds height and visual interest to the space.
“I wanted to have an indoor-outdoor experience. That’s what it’s all about for me,” says the wife. “The house is between two great spots where we can hang out, have a party, sip a glass of wine or enjoy the views.”

Originally, a short, ground-level patio separated the yard from the house with metal railings. During the redesign, it was raised up to match the interior floor height and extended along the entire back side of the home. A traditional-style white dining table that seats six and a fun, contemporary arrangement of plastic chairs anchor the ends, but it’s a pair of swinging porch beds suspended by chunky rope ties that take center stage. Piled high with colorful kilim pillows, they bridge the gap between the crisp, Modernist outdoor spaces and the vibrant, Bohemian-inspired interiors.

Inside is where the wife’s design flair was able to shine. “I think a house speaks to you. It will tell you what it needs,” she says. “In Arizona, you have this sun that is absolutely amazing, and when you have that outside, it needs to be sunny inside.” Bringing that brightness indoors required a to-the-studs remodel that knocked down walls, replaced light-blocking bookshelves with glass room dividers, opened up the narrow galley kitchen to the family room and added oversized windows and walls of glass to take advantage of the awe-inspiring views.

The wife was attracted to the home’s stone walls, which she enhanced by painting the adjacent walls dark gray. To open up the space, she replaced a light-blocking bookcase with glass panels. New, large windows look out to the backyard.
And while many homeowners might be tempted to remove the thick stone wall facings, the wife added another wall of stone in the family room for visual balance and complemented it with a dark gray paint throughout the living spaces. “I love the stones. It’s one of the reasons I bought the house,” she says, adding, “I wanted a color that would enhance them and give them more life.” The inky hue picks up on the stones’ dark tones while also allowing the colorful furnishings and accessories to pop.

“It’s a little Southwest, a little midcentury,” the wife says of her fun and funky decor. Other than the sofas and beds, which the couple brought with them from their Maryland home, “everything was bought for this house. I really believe that a home must have its own things,” she notes. “I wanted the theme to embrace the Southwestern style.

When the homeowners bought the house, the pool was surrounded by nothing but pavers, which Przygoda-Montgomery promptly had removed. A new, shallow lounge pool breaks up the large expanse of crushed rock. To its left is a meditation zone; large boulders provide the perfect spot to sit and reflect.
“Everyone has a different idea of what Southwestern is. For me, it is about the textures and the patterns,” she adds. “I’m fascinated by the crosses and the lines that you find in indigenous designs around the world.” Mountains of kilim pillows, patterned blankets, fluffy lambswool cushion covers and cowhide rugs offer an organic contrast to playful acrylic accent tables and streamlined  seating. In a far corner of the living room sits a hair-on-hide chair that the couple found in a local secondhand store. Its frame is made of animal horns. “It is so unique,” recalls the wife. “Again, for me it’s very Southwestern. Some people will see Africa, but I see the Southwest.” Even the deep pedestal basins in the master bath conjure images of the Old West. “They remind me of those big bowls from which horses can drink,” she adds.

A pair of swing beds adds whimsy and comfort to the back porch. The homeowner decorates them with the same type of kilim pillows and patterned blankets that she uses inside. A pair of brightly colored butterfly chairs are a fun twist on a Modern favorite.
Diverse, creative and 100 percent representative of its owners’ worldly panache, this former model home in the desert has won the heart of the sophisticated French designer who once was ambivalent about its rural locale. “We fell in love with Tucson. It puts a spell on you. And we also love this house,” she says with unabashed enthusiasm. “We are in the swing beds all the time. We enjoy sitting by the fire pits, both front and back, and we use everything. My husband travels a lot, so when he comes back home, it feels to him like being on vacation.” No matter how you say it, “c’est une belle vie.” A beautiful life, indeed.

A stone wall was added in the small family room adjacent to the kitchen to balance those in the living room, and the concrete floors throughout were painted battleship gray. Bohemian touches, including an assortment of kilim pillows, a colorful area rug and a pair of black damask cube ottomans, complement the clean lines and light colors of the contemporary furnishings.

The former galley kitchen was enlarged and the upper cabinets were removed. “I’m against upper cabinets,” says the wife. The addition of a new, large window and a collection of Southwest-themed black-and-white photography elevate the space from bland to beautiful.
A vibrant painting pops against the soft gray-and-white color scheme in the master bedroom. A faux fur throw picks up the rich brown tones of the stone wall.

Low-cost contemporary furnishings combine for a chic seating area just beyond the master bedroom. The stone facing seen on the home’s exterior continues inside, softening the Modernist angles and bringing an earthy feel to the interiors.
Zen meets Southwest meets boho in a corner of the master bedroom. A wood carving of an Indian goddess hangs above a midcentury-style console. The lambswool foot stool adds textural whimsey.

“I really wanted to make a statement,” says the wife of the oversized pedestal basins in the sleek master bath.

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