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A Charming Historic Home in Downtown Phoenix Gets a Refreshing Modern Makeover

Built in three different eras, an urban renovation gives a cohesive new identity to a charming historic home.

By Taylor Transtrum | Photography by David Trujillo

“The challenge of it drew me in,” designer and real estate agent James Judge says about his renovated 1930s abode. Known best for his historic, small-space renovations, which he chronicles on social media, the designer was the perfect man to turn the former rental property into a forever home.

The residence—deemed “the Woodward house” for its location on Woodward Drive in the Ashland Place Historic District in Midtown Phoenix—was purchased by the designer in 2017 and remodeled in 2020. But Judge’s roots in the neighborhood go back several years. In fact, prior to moving into the house, the designer and his husband, Andy, and their six “fur babies” lived in the abode right behind it.

“We would go on walks with our dog, Toby, and I always admired this property and believed it had a lot of potential,” he says.

During this time, Judge was on a mission to not only revitalize his street—on which he renovated several neighboring residences—but to also get the area elusive historic designation status. “My place is kind of like the grand finale for the neighborhood,” he adds. “And even though I worked hard for the historic designation status, it was really important to me to create a new style and identity for this dwelling.”

Designer and homeowner James Judge transformed the dated Midtown Phoenix dwelling’s bland, beige exterior by painting it a bold, black color and adding a courtyard. “I put courtyards in front of all of my projects because I think that they create a sense of community,” he says.

THE EXTERIOR

Originally built in the 1930s, the home had an extension added in the 1950s to make it into a duplex and, in 2020, Judge suited the residence to fit his needs and style with additional renovations and expansions. For the designer’s approach to the Woodward house, it was extremely important to connect each space, inside and out.

“We brought in a lot of elements that we thought could unify the whole design,” Judge says. “For example, a wood-slatted detail on the ceiling above the door to the front porch is the beginning of the theme that runs throughout the entire floor plan. It goes from the front entry into the living room, throughout the bedrooms, into the new addition, all the way out to the pool shelter and into the back of the home. It’s a visual element that unifies the entire property.”

Another connecting detail was the use of the color black, which was used on the exterior and splashed throughout the indoor spaces. “I knew I wanted this color,” Judge explains. “It has become kind of trendy as of late. But when we bought it in 2017, nobody painted their homes black!”

The designer centered the kitchen, dining room and main living space around the original 1930s angled window—his favorite feature of the home. To achieve the illusion of a larger space, Judge knocked down multiple walls to create an open-concept space filled with natural light.

KITCHEN, DINING ROOM AND SITTING ROOM

Even if your dwelling is on the smaller side, you don’t have to give up entertaining space, as shown in the designer’s open-concept approach. “Being that we had this amazing original 1930s angled window in the front, it was important to us that we actually open it up to make the spaces feel bigger than they are and to get that natural light to flow throughout,” Judge says. “In order to do that, we had to make our kitchen even smaller.” Judge made up for this decrease in kitchen space by renovating the adjacent laundry room into a pantry and food-prep area. “We wanted the kitchen to be a place of gathering,” he adds. “So it’s fairly minimalistic. Doing a quartz waterfall countertop and using the same material as a backsplash for the shelf helped to create this overall welcoming feel and sense of continuity.”

Judge says open-concept bathrooms are a go-to trick of his. “I’ve done this wetroom design now for the last six or seven years because it’s a great way to make a space feel really special,” he explains.

THE MASTER BATHROOM

The master bedroom was also lacking space. “It was the tiniest thing I’ve ever seen,” says the designer. “But expanding the bedroom allowed us to use a lot of existing square footage to maximize the size of the bathroom. This is where I explored the idea of an open-concept bathroom.” Thanks to smart design, Judge was able to include a double vanity, waterfall shower, spacious bathtub and a private toilet room.

“Our shower is a really unique design,” he says. “We converted a section to glass and placed the bathtub within that section so that you are surrounded by glass.” The bathtub filler is ceiling- mounted and a wall of bamboo has been planted outside. “We hope in six to 12 months it grows to be tall enough to make you feel like you’re showering in the jungle.”

The master bedroom employs the same soft color palette of warm neutral hues and contrasting black found throughout the home.

THE MASTER BEDROOM

“The bedroom is kind of interesting,” Judge says. “In one of the walls there are glass block inserts, which were there when we moved in. We kept them as an original feature. Half of this bedroom is original, and half is part of our 2020 addition. We added massive glass sliding doors to fully open the corner to the backyard to capitalize on outdoor living. The view of the patio and the pool make it feel so spacious.” As for decor, the designer opted for a collection of furnishings and accessories, old and new. “For example, there is a pouf I got while backpacking in Morocco after college. I carried it in my bag because I had to have it,” Judge recalls. “The cowhide rug is one of the first things that Andy and I bought together after we met.” His favorite piece in the room, however, has to be the custom headboard. “I wanted to tie in the leather finish that you see elsewhere in the space. So we had a custom upholstered headboard made and extended it wall-to-wall. This allows you to increase the size of your bed, should you ever want to. But really, it just created this amazing, dramatic visual impact.”

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