Meet Wendy Black Rodgers, the Interior Designer Behind Some of the Valley’s Most Iconic Venues and Chicest Homes
2023 MASTERS of the SOUTHWEST Award Winner - Wendy Black Rodgers
As she cruises into her third decade of interior design projects, Wendy Black Rodgers reflects on influences, travel, lakeside living and rail cars.
By Nora Burba Trulsson | Portrait by Michael Woodall | Interior Photography by Austin Larue Baker
On a sunny late afternoon, interior designer Wendy Black Rodgers is embarking on a boat tour from the dock of her airy lakeside home in Scottsdale. She’s accompanied by her long-time associate, designer Chelsea Parrish, and her husband, Will Rodgers, who pilots the tiki-roofed, pirate-themed “SS Jolly Rodgers” pontoon boat along the banks of nearby homes and a golf course. With the couple’s two dogs, Frankie and Scarlett, acting like canine mastheads on the cruise, Rodgers points out four other homes at the water’s edge—besides her own—for which she has handled the interiors. “Over the years,” she says with a laugh, “I’ve become known as the ‘Queen of the Lake’ for all the houses I’ve done here.”
But in the two-plus decades since she launched her design firm, Rodgers has done much more than just a handful of lakefront homes. With new build and renovation projects throughout Greater Phoenix, she’s also in Flagstaff, Colorado, California and Texas, and has given her touch to iconic local venues such as the Wrigley Mansion, Vincent’s on Camelback restaurant, the Celebrity Theatre and the original bar at the Sanctuary on Camelback. Known for her hands-on approach in creating livable, comfortable spaces, Rodgers has been the go-to designer for eclectic, warmly contemporary homes.
“Wendy brings exciting and new ideas to the table,” says architect Meredith Thomson, a partner with Candelaria Design who collaborated with Rodgers on a recent residence in Paradise Valley. “She is not afraid to mix it up while still being respectful to traditional details. The ways she can balance the two brings a spectacular layer to a house.”
Rodgers’ path to the interior design field had a few zigzags along the way. She’s a second-generation Arizonan, noting that her paternal grandfather came here in 1912 and was the first air-conditioning distributor in the state. Her maternal grandmother owned a floral shop in downtown Scottsdale, Flowers By Phillips, where Rodgers worked after school. “I have 50 family members in Scottsdale alone,” she says about her extensive lineage. “Will and I have always had the party house for the family.”
Though she recalls young dreams of becoming an architect, Rodgers chose a business path at first, obtaining an undergrad at Southern Methodist University and an MBA in international management at the Thunderbird School, during which time she also lived in Cuernavaca, Mexico, for nearly a year to learn Spanish. Travel became part of her career when she served as Best Western International’s director of corporate communications for 13 years. Between work and personal trips, Rodgers crisscrossed the world—Europe, Asia, Africa and beyond—soaking up culture and the local design scene. “All that travel was immensely important and inspirational to what I do now,” she explains. “A trip to Bali, for example, inspired the tropical modern influences I used for our present house.”
“Some designers have a consistent style, but Wendy knows how to reflect the owners, to make each of her projects different.”
—John Schultz, builder
In 1989, Phoenix Home & Garden used the Rodgers’ then-home as one of its first Designers’ Showhouses. Designed by Will, founder of a Scottsdale branding and marketing firm, who studied architecture, the house was taken over by a team of design professionals for three months and open to the public. “I was pregnant with the first of our three sons,” recalls Rodgers, “and we moved into a rental house. It was a fun project, and it definitely had some effect on my later design career.”
After leaving Best Western, Rodgers authored three coffee table books on hotel design and contemplated her interior design passion. She opted to take interiors classes at Scottsdale Community College, mastered AutoCAD and launched her practice in 1999. Her first project was a remodeled home at Scottsdale’s Desert Highlands for an out-of-state couple. “They didn’t know it was my first-ever ‘real’ project,” she remembers, “but I kept saying to myself, ‘I can do this.’”
At first, Rodgers was known for her Spanish Colonial-inspired interiors, matching the scale and soaring volumes of abodes being built at the time. More recently, her approach has become eclectic but still based on client needs. “I hate getting pegged into any one style,” says Rodgers, who names the work of John Saladino, Martyn Lawrence Bullard and Kelly Wearstler as design influences. “But if anything carries through in my designs, it’s comfort and practicality. We raised three sons and always had animals—dogs, cats, even a parrot and a pig—and I learned the hard way to design interiors that can withstand everything.”
Her own house is a chic, comfortable case in point. The renovated, 3,400-square-foot abode has detached guest quarters and the aforementioned boat dock. “We’ve definitely downsized here compared to our previous house,” she says. With window walls overlooking the lake, the house has a roomy patio and a kitchen with a huge center island that serves as command central for the household. Furnishings include family heirlooms, pieces from their previous residences and new acquisitions. Inspired by those Balinese travels and the home’s waterfront setting, Rodgers added a tropical touch with leafy wallpaper in a secondary bedroom and in the guest house.
Another, perhaps more unusual, interior that combines Rodgers’ talent for beauty and durability? A vintage rail car for a client whose home she had done. The client, who owns a regional railroad, collects the cars as a hobby and asked Rodgers to spearhead one rail car’s restoration. The project took about four years to complete. I looked to yachts for inspiration, when it came to fitting things into tight spaces with precision,” she says.
“Wendy’s talent is that she knows how to connect with clients,” says Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award-winning builder John Schultz, who is completing his second project with Rodgers. “Some designers have a consistent style, but Wendy knows how to reflect the owners, to make each of her projects different. She has a knack for putting together a lot of elements and a broad range of styles into one design and making it look great.”
Be it homes, rail cars or landmark local venues, Rodgers can deftly handle design challenges with style and grace. As the boat cruise comes to an end, she reflects on the keys to her success. “Clients often don’t know how to translate what they want into reality,” Rodgers says. “I’m a good listener. You have to use psychology to find what makes someone happy, or that middle ground, if you’re working with a couple. It’s important.”
Interior designer: Wendy Black Rodgers, Wendy Black Rodgers Interiors, Scottsdale, wbrint.com.
PAGES 154-155, kitchen—Landscape designer: Jeff Berghoff, Berghoff Design Group, Scottsdale, berghoffdesign.com.Builder: PHK Contracting, Scottsdale, phkcontracting.com. Cabinetry: TMC Interior Woodworks, Phoenix, (602) 448-4646. Countertops: Cactus Stone and Tile, Scottsdale, cactustile.com. Countertop fabrication: Stockett Tile & Granite Company, Phoenix, stockett.com.Plumbing fixtures: Clyde Hardware, Phoenix, clydehardware.com.
PAGE 156—Builder: phkcontracting.com. Coffee table: phillipscollection.com. Side table: potterybarn.com. Area rug: puntocarpet.com.Art: Ellen Palestrant, ellenpalestrant.com.
PAGE 158, BAR—Glass panels: Kevin Douds, Props Inc., Scottsdale, propsinc.com. Wall covering: mayaromanoff.com.
PAGE 159, Observation Room—Sofa: americanleather.com. Sofa fabric: pindler.com. Headboard wall covering: thomfilicia.com.
PAGE 160—Upholstered dining chairs: globalviews.com. Wingback dining chairs: madegoods.com. Chandelier: rondierdesign.com.
PAGE 161—Cabinetry: TMC Interior Woodworks, Phoenix, (602) 448-4646. Countertops: cactustile.com. Countertop fabrication: stockett.com.
PAGE 162—Chairs: crateandbarrel.com. Barstools: amisco.com. Pendant lighting: visualcomfort.com.