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This Charming 1940s Ranch House is Now a Breezy Indoor-Outdoor Oasis

Homeowner Aimee Josette-Dwyer relaxes in a Nanna Ditzel Egg Chair. During a renovation, the living room’s original brick wall was left exposed.

An updated Coronado Neighborhood home gets a garden to match.

By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Mark Lipczynski

For Aimee Josette-Dwyer and David Dwyer, the house appeared to be a perfect fit. 

The 1940s ranch-style cottage had been expanded and thoroughly modernized but kept its vintage scale and appeal. It had plenty of light and access to the outdoors thanks to new windows and sliding glass walls. The location was idyllic—the historic Coronado Neighborhood—where porch concerts and friendly gatherings are part of the local vibe. Even the barely-there landscape of gravel and a patch of lawn was a plus, in David’s eye. “The garden was a blank slate,” he remembers. “It represented possibilities.”

The newly married couple was smitten. “As we were shopping for a house, we knew we wanted something with character and good design,” says Aimee. “This one was perfect for us.” They bought and furnished the three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot abode with midcentury-influenced pieces, playing off the interior’s white walls, smoke-hued porcelain tile flooring and sleek cabinetry.

Not long after they moved in, they began contemplating what they could do with the modestly scaled front, side and backyard spaces. “David and I wanted to create a sanctuary, with an indoor-outdoor Arizona lifestyle,” explains Aimee, who works in luxury fashion retail. “We wanted the outdoors to be just as inviting as the interior.”

The pair soon found their design guru almost literally around the corner when they wandered into the Dig It garden center, owned by Jessica and Ryan Jerrell, who had done numerous landscape redos in the Coronado Neighborhood. “I admit, I liked the name of their garden business,” laughs David, who is in the commercial flooring industry. “I felt they understood our aesthetic—and we connected right away.”

With Ryan Jerrell overseeing the design and installation of the landscape, work began, front to back. Even though the home’s street-side architecture reflects its 1940s origins, Jerrell was drawn to a contemporary edge for the design. “We were leaning toward modern with a rectilinear hardscape,” says Jerrell, “but with trees and plantings to soften the look.”

1. David Dwyer catches up on reading in the living room. The metal plate in the wall hides a vintage milk box used for dairy product deliveries. During a visit by his stepfather, David serendipitously discovered the box was manufactured by his family’s Los Angeles-based steel business. 2. In the living room, open shelving displays photographs and collections. 3. Ryan Jerrell updated the front yard with breeze block walls, rusted steel planters and native plants. The artificial turf is the same that is used on soccer fields, a nod to David Dwyer’s years as a pro soccer player. 4. A Brazilian cumaru wood boardwalk links the house to a new fireplace at the edge of the backyard. The trees in the planter to the right are Eucalyptus kruseana, known for their small scale and unusual leafy branches. 5. Part of the driveway to the garage was ditched in favor of a shaded outdoor dining area.

Leaving no space untouched, Jerrell detailed the easement between the street and sidewalk with a layer of riprap, a pair of Leslie Roy mesquite trees and a “landing pad” of decomposed granite to step on for visitors who park on the street. “These mesquite hybrids were cultivated by Civano Nursery down in Tucson and named for the patriarch,” says Jerrell. “They’re great because they’re thornless, have a nice form and don’t drop a lot of pods.”

“We knew we wanted something with character and good design. This house checked all the boxes.”

—Aimee Josette-Dwyer, homeowner

1. The updated house is filled with pale colors and natural light. 2. The home’s kitchen, part of an addition to the original house, features smooth cabinetry and an icy white island for hanging out. 3. A Saarinen Tulip table invites lingering in the dining area. 4. A new pool and ramada were among the amenities added to the backyard, where jet-hued block walls add drama. 5. In the hallway outside the office, the original phone niche is now home to sculpture and a USB charging station. 6. The home’s sliding glass walls create a link to the back and side yards. The structure to the right is the garage, now being used as a casita.

In the front yard, Jerrell started with grading work to ease a previous issue of standing rainwater, then added an offset decomposed granite walkway to the front entry. “It’s wide enough for two people to walk side by side, and sunken to handle runoff that comes from the roof.” Low walls of breeze block and cast concrete, as well as patinated steel planters,  further define the front landscape closer to the house, where another mesquite tree provides dappled shade for golden barrel cactus, agaves and grasses. A square of artificial turf, edged in steel, is a nod to David’s history as a professional soccer player in New Mexico. “This turf is used in soccer fields,” Jerrell points out. “Part of our conversation was that David could kick a ball there, into the block wall.” In the backyard, Jerrell carefully plotted every square inch to give the couple amenities that would draw them outdoors. A simple white fireplace wall was placed at the back of the yard, visible from inside the front door, creating an indoor-outdoor axis. Recalling David’s youth on East Coast beaches, a wood boardwalk links the back doorway to the fireplace. A small swimming pool anchors the backyard, flanked on one side by a metal ramada. Referencing that Aimee and David first met at a yoga class, Jerrell created a small deck off the primary suite, meant for warrior poses and meditation. “As I recall, we called the deck the ‘meditation station’ in the drawings,” says Jerrell with a laugh. Between the hardscape, he wove in compact eucalyptus and ficus trees, bougainvillea, grasses and cactus for a lush look. Just off the kitchen, the couple opted to abandon part of the driveway leading to the garage—used now as a casita—to create an outdoor dining area, cooled by a trellis and tensile fabric shades.

After last summer’s blistering heat and this winter’s rains, the landscape survived and thrived, a testament to good design and plant selection. And, the couple has not said “adios” to the Jerrells. The four have become friends, and the homeowners continue to browse the garden shop’s wares. “All of our houseplants come from there,” shrugs David. “That only seemed natural.”

Sources

Renovation architecture: designtank, Phoenix, designtank.co. Landscape design, plant materials, pots and houseplants: Ryan and Jessica Jerrell, Dig It Gardens, Phoenix, digphx.com.
LIVING ROOM—Sofa: joybird.com. Leather chair: crateandbarrel.com. Side table and credenza: cb2.com.
DINING ROOM—Saarinen Tulip table and Eames molded side chairs: dwr.com. Vase: jonathanadler.com.
FRONT YARD—Front yard cast concrete wall fabrication: 180 Degrees/The Guild, Phoenix, 180degreesinc.com. Breeze blocks (“Codex”): Our Block Co., Phoenix, ourblockco.com.
BACKYARD—Furniture: dwr.com.
OUTDOOR DINING AREA—Outdoor dining table: terraoutdoor.com. Outdoor dining chairs: cb2.com.

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