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Historic Home Makeover: A Perfect Blend of Past and Present in the Willo District

The front garden is planted with cactus and agave to achieve what landscape designer Keith Oetjen calls “a Santa Fe vibe.”

This charming Spanish Revival is harboring some interior secrets.

By Robrt L. Pela | Photography by Mark Lipczynski

The dark-beamed ceilings of Trent Hancock’s Southwestern-styled living room accent a coved fireplace with ceramic-tile hearth and an arched, built-in bookcase.

From the street, Trent Hancock’s historic home appears to be another striking, well-cared-for Spanish Revival tucked behind a beautifully designed front garden. But beyond the front door, the owner has created a cozy, era-defying blend of then-and-now that he calls home.

Built in 1920, the 1,600-square-foot home is nestled onto a quiet street in the Willo historic neighborhood. Trent purchased the property in April 2020 and set about contemporizing much of it. He wanted modern-day comfort that worked well with the better details of the home’s original design.

“The interior was originally choppier and more closed off,” Trent says of the home’s original floor plan. “My vision was to open everything up and modernize the back while keeping the original aesthetic in the front of the home.”

The front room blends Southwestern details—a coved fireplace with ceramic-tile hearth; an arched, built-in bookcase; dark beamed ceilings—with midcentury furnishings and newly designed brushed metal window casings.

Blending old and new became easier as the project commenced. For instance, Trent liked the dining room’s vintage hand-painted ceiling, so he retained that while adding a modern wet bar and opening up a doorway to better connect the living and kitchen areas.

The original kitchen, which featured a breakfast nook and laundry room, felt cramped and old-timey. To enlarge the space, Hancock tore out walls and combined all three rooms into a larger, eat-in kitchen that wraps around a wide, marble-topped island where he can entertain while he’s cooking. Both the floor-to-ceiling steel bucket windows and a backsplash window behind the cooktop bring in lots of light and views of the backyard. Large-format gray ceramic floor tiles complement the warm wood kitchen cabinets. From the kitchen, glimpses of the great room ceiling, painted a dark chocolate brown, provide contrast to the room’s white plaster walls.

1. The eat-in kitchen is wrapped around a marble-topped island. Steel bucket windows bring in an abundance of natural light. 2. More agaves and a putting green bring a casual feel to the backyard, which Oetjen planted “with anything that looked like it would grow in New Mexico.” Steel box planters make the space more contemporary. 3. The backyard pool is visible from the master bedroom, formerly an Arizona room, and is accessible via a floor-to-ceiling steel-pivot door.

“I focused on Trent’s contemporary furnishings and let them complement the home’s historic elements,” interior designer Roseli Kim says. “Instead of trying to merge old and new styles, our thinking was, let’s let the house be the antique and go for comfort everywhere else.”

Kim went with white walls, warm browns and beiges and chose camel-colored throw pillows and furniture in black and natural oak tones to balance color with light and dark.
“The dark surfaces and trims draw in the dark ceiling beams,” she says. “I let the little bits of color come from Trent’s framed artwork throughout the house.”

“Instead of trying to merge old and new styles, our thinking was, let’s let the house be the antique and go for comfort everywhere else.”

—Roseli Kim, interior designer

Formerly an Arizona room, the master bedroom sat lower than the other rooms in the house. Trent had the floor raised and added a sizable floor-to-ceiling steel pivot door that opens into the backyard.

“The closet and bathroom in the master bedroom were really small,” he says, “so we stole some space from the next-door guest room to create a proper master bath and walk-in closet.”
The new bath features a floating marble-topped vanity fronted by mirrors and sinks framed by a backsplash of stacked ivory tiles. This newly re-imagined master features a metal-framed picture window that frames the large palm tree growing in the side yard.

“It’s a house with a Santa Fe vibe,” says landscape designer Keith Oetjen of the Hancock home. “I incorporated a lot of Southwestern plants into the front and backyard areas. I went with cactus and agave and anything that looked like it would grow in New Mexico. But I also wanted a more contemporary feel, so I added steel boxes and fountains and planted things in rows. These are details that they wouldn’t have done in the 1920s.”

The homeowner was very specific about the kind of plants he wanted, Oetjen says. “Trent wanted textures that were different from one another, in shades of green that were planted so that they offset one another.”

1. The dining room blends old and new details, including the original hand-painted ceiling and a modern wet bar. A wider doorway opened up the space between this room and the kitchen. 2. Adjacent to the backyard putting green, a bright yellow pergola encloses a fire pit. 3. A recently added backyard guest house offers additional lodging, which Hancock took advantage of during the main house remodel.

Oetjen chose plants with different seasonal bloom cycles to ensure that the gardens flower year-round, and installed raised steel planters to define the back and side yard spaces.

Trent’s favorite landscape detail is one he can see both inside and out. “We added three big planters under the kitchen backsplash window,” he says, “and planted them with giant prickly pears that I can see when I’m cooking or sitting at the kitchen island.”

1. The metal-framed picture window in the master bath was positioned to frame the large palm tree growing in the side yard. 2. Wood-tone furniture calms the master bedroom, where the only bright colors come from Hancock’s framed art—and an original stained-glass window. 3. Floating sconces provide bedside lighting. 4. The master bath features a floating marble-topped vanity and sinks framed by a backsplash of ivory tiles. 

During renovations, he noticed what an unusually friendly neighborhood Willo is. “I see most of my neighbors daily, walking their dogs or with their kids,” he says. “I wanted to have a place in the front yard where I could relax and socialize, so we installed a fire pit with pea gravel and a seating area where I can entertain or just enjoy the sights.”

The front yard’s final touch adds an unexpected note of color: A fountain fashioned from a large, turquoise ceramic planter makes for a dramatic yet calming water feature.
As with any major renovation, there were challenges. Trent envisioned what he calls “an outdoor oasis” featuring a swimming pool, sunken fire pit and a pergola with a wide-screen TV where he could host movie nights with friends. But the entire project ground to a halt when his crew discovered an ancient concrete septic tank where the pool was planned to go. To demolish the septic tank the height of the pool had to be raised.

“It ended up working out well,” Trent reports, “because now the pool and deck match the finished floor height inside the home. I love the effect this sets up because the pool is visible from the bed in the master suite.”

Combining old and new design elements proved to be a wise choice for this 100-year-old home. “I jokingly call this the mullet house,” Hancock says, referring to that infamously oddball ’80s hairstyle. “Business in the front and party in the back.”


Interior designer: Roseli Kim, Finishes: Camelot Homes, Scottsdale,


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