Through the Decades
A look back at Phoenix Home & Garden’s illustrious legacy of celebrating the singular Southwestern lifestyle.
By Rebecca Rhoades, John Roark and Carly Scholl
Phoenix Home & Garden’s very first issue debuted at the dawn of the decade of indulgence. At the time, interior design was dominated by soft pastels, the Memphis movement and preppy influences—and the Southwest’s newest shelter magazine arrived on the scene to dive into every decadent detail.
A Legacy of Southwest Design
A conversation with Phoenix Home & Garden’s former editor, Linda Barkman
For nearly two decades, Linda Barkman was the guiding vision and voice of this publication. She joined the staff in 1997 as executive editor and was promoted to editor with the January 1999 issue. She took her bow in December 2014 but has continued as a contributing writer ever since. Over the course of more than 200 monthly issues and numerous specialty publications, her tenure was marked by her passion for architecture and interior design, her love of the Southwest and her commitment to bringing readers timely content that was beautiful, compelling and relevant. We welcomed the opportunity to visit with one of our favorite members of the PHG family.
Phoenix Home & Garden: What brought you to Phoenix Home & Garden?
Linda Barkman: I was living in San Diego working as the editor of a design/style publication there. I had also done some writing for
San Diego Metropolitan and other periodicals.
Out of nowhere I got a call from Lila Harnett, who had founded Phoenix Home & Garden with her husband, Joel. They were looking for an executive editor. I have no idea how she found me. They flew me out to interview and offered me the position shortly afterward. I had grown up in Arizona and my parents were here. Suddenly, I was going to helm this amazing magazine that had an incredible reputation. I was thrilled. I used to say I was the luckiest girl alive.
PHG: What are your memories of when you came on board?
Barkman: Phoenix Home & Garden was very respected and established when I came in; it was doing very well. I think the glory days began when the magazine was purchased by Cities West Publishing in 1998, and the late Bill Phalen became its president, CEO and publisher. Bill made a lot of changes. He wanted everything to be top quality. He always said you’re only as good as your latest issue, which was my outlook as well.
Our offices were in the Scottsdale Quarter, and we had our own on-staff chef who would create gourmet lunches for visitors. The clients loved it; I loved it. I got to spend time with a lot of advertisers and creative people face-to-face. It helped cement relationships and was a continual source of ideas and inspiration.
PHG: As editor, what was your vision for the magazine?
Barkman: Phoenix Home & Garden was known as “The Magazine of Southwest Living,” which put it in a place that had little, if any, competition. I wanted to keep that focus and create a monthly publication that was regionally relevant, visually stimulating and informative. Fortunately, I had an amazing staff to help.
PHG: Do any particular issues that you produced stand out as your favorites?
Barkman: We published our first Tuscan design issue in January 2001. Our entire team made the trip to Italy the year before. We saw a home there that was so beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. I have chills thinking of it now. It was the experience of a lifetime, and that issue truly put us on the map as a super-regional publication. It gained us a lot of respect. People loved it because the content was authentic and real and they could relate to it here.
PHG: How did you present design for homes here in the Southwest?
Barkman: I think the best way to make a house work is to have it be true to its region. But regionally relevant does not have to mean pueblo or territorial style. I tried to show the broader picture, which is why we started doing design issues, tracing the roots of the influences we’d find here, such as Spanish colonial, Santa Fe and Santa Barbara styles. All of those aesthetics fit here, but in order to work, the design must be pure.
PHG: You’ve seen a lot of great houses and design during your career. If you could build your dream home, what style would it be?
Barkman: I love Mexican modern. We did three design issues in Mexico—San Miguel Allende; Puebla, which is the heart of colonial Mexico; and La Manzanillo, which is on the coast. I fell in love with the country and the homes we visited.
PHG: You retired at the end of 2014. What have you been up to since then?
Barkman: I have made the most of my time by relaxing, traveling and enjoying my family and grandkids. My husband and I remodeled our house a couple of times. I’ve become friends with some of the designers I met through my work. I also enjoy taking on the occasional freelance assignment, which enables me to get my design fix. I miss it every single day but I never regretted stepping down when I did. My time at Phoenix Home & Garden was such a wonderful journey, and that’s how I’ll always remember it.
By mid-decade, Arizona was experiencing record population growth, as people flocked to secure their slice of the Sonoran lifestyle. Ornate drapery, blonde cabinetry and stenciled-and-sponged wall finishes swept the state, and PHG was there to usher in the look of the ‘90s.
A bright new millennium saw an influx of faux-Tuscan architecture and interiors, beige color palettes and McMansions popping up in subdivisions across the country. The local design community put a regional spin on these trends, with Mediterranean-style homes and neutral hues still reigning today as signature aesthetics of the Southwest.
We bid adieu to the last decade with fond memories of white-and-gray color schemes, midcentury modern revivalism and hygge-inspired minimalism. Over the past few years, smart technology—a trend that’s likely here to stay—exploded into homes from coast to coast and Phoenix maintained its reputation as an evolving metropolis where talented architects and designers are shaping the landscape of the state.
Where Are They Now?
Catching up with the original Masters of the Southwest award winners
In October 1990, after 10 years of publication, Phoenix Home & Garden’s founding editor Manya Winsted decided that it was time to recognize the hard-working creatives who were responsible for bringing the look and flavor of Arizona to the world. Current contributing writer Nora Burba Trulsson was PHG’s managing editor. “Our goal was to promote Southwest style,” she recalls. They awarded 30 professionals and businesses with the title “Master of the Southwest.”
Today, the honorific program continues to thrive. Each March, we celebrate the crème de la crème of the Valley with a highly anticipated issue and awards ceremony. But it was the inaugural group of superstars who set the standards. Here, nine of those winners share what they’ve been up to in past three decades.
Interior designer Nancy Kitchell, who once worked for fellow honoree Est Est Inc., started her now-prestigious firm Kitchell Brusnighan with Christopher Brusnighan 19 years ago. In 1990, Kitchell was noted for her hallmark use of work by local and regional artisans, an approach she continues to this day.
Kitchell remains busy working on residential jobs that take her from Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and Carefree to the beaches of California and the mountains of Wyoming. “Over the last 30 years, I’ve had the great fortune of working with amazing partners, architects, builders and clients,” she remarks. “I’m forever expanding my horizons and knowledge.”
One of six chefs honored in 1990, Vincent Guerithault is renowned for his unique Southwestern take on classical French cuisine. “When I decided to open Vincent’s on Camelback in 1985, I had an idea of combining French and Mexican cooking in such a way that dishes would have a little flair,” he explains. “For example, we offered lobster chimichangas or duck tamales.”
Three years after being named a Master of the Southwest, Guerithault became Arizona’s first chef to win the prestigious Best Chef: Southwest award from the James Beard Foundation; he has been nominated an additional seven times since then. He was also inducted into the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame twice—once a chef in 1992 and, again, in 2011 for his restaurant.
When the COVID-19 outbreak forced Guerithault to shutter his establishment, the chef decided to take the time to renovate and make changes to his menus. He has recently reopened with limited hours. “This is a small family business that my wife and I have had for 35 years,” Guerithault says. “I hope we can continue serving customers for a little bit longer.”
David Michael Miller
“Phoenix Home & Garden was really instrumental in affording me some visibility,” says interior designer David Michael Miller, who, just one year after opening his eponymous design firm, was dubbed the “rising new star.”
Today, Miller’s business has grown from a one-man operation into a tight-knit team of five. “I didn’t want a big business. I wanted a better business,” he explains. “We decided to stay small and be selective with what jobs we accept.”
With projects that take him around the country, Miller doesn’t have much time to relax these days. But when he does, he likes to escape with his partner to his home state of Wisconsin, where he recently purchased a 1941 Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Usonian house. “It’s just a little summer getaway place, but it’s been a dream of mine for some time to occupy a Wright home,” he says.
Est Est Inc.
In 1959, William Benner and Patrick Maas founded what is now the oldest interior design firm in Scottsdale, Est Est Inc. The pair’s unique aesthetic blended European and Mexican antiques, “making the interiors fit our lifestyle and Southwestern architecture,” Maas noted at the time. Their approach caught on, attracting such celebrated clients as Robert Maytag (who had adopted so many exotic animals that the designers suggested he start the Phoenix Zoo, which he eventually did), the Wrigley family and Robert Goldwater, brother of Senator Barry Goldwater.
By 1990, the duo had handed over the reins of the business to Tony Sutton, who received his own Masters of the Southwest award in 2000. “My goal has always been to honor Bill and Pat and the difference they made in design in Arizona,” he says. “These were the guys who set the bar for everyone else.”
From the little red schoolhouse in Scottsdale that Benner and Maas helped preserve to their involvement in the creation of the Phoenix Zoo, the innovative pair of designers made a lasting mark on the Valley. “It’s not just design, and it’s not just about being designers,” says Sutton. “It’s about what they did to change the community and help put Phoenix and Scottsdale on the map.”
Holler & Saunders Ltd.
Edward Holler and Samuel Saunders turned a little corner of Nogales into the go-to source for Spanish colonial antiques, furnishings, pottery and art from Mexico, South American and Asia. The pair opened their business in 1979, and it soon became a top source for designers across the country.
“Nothing has changed in the last 30 years,” Saunders says. “I think I still have the biggest inventory of Spanish colonial pieces in the industry.” And while design trends come and go, the market for high-quality antiques remains. “Designers are combining styles; that’s definitely a trend right now. They’ll mix two or three Spanish colonial pieces in with some contemporary designs.”
Sadly, Holler passed away in 2015, but Saunders still reflects on being included in the inaugural group of Masters of the Southwest winners. “We were thrilled to be honored,” he says. “Clients continue to mention it, even as recently as this year.”
“When I first came to Arizona in 1977, I didn’t understand the Southwest at all,” recalls interior designer Paula Berg. “So, to me, being named a Master of the Southwest meant that all my years of hard work and research had paid off.” Her work was so well-respected that the editors of PHG even asked her to conduct design classes and presentations for their readers.
In 1995, Berg relocated to Park City, Utah. While her portfolio may have expanded from traditional Southwest style, one thing that hasn’t changed is her use of locally made products. According to our October 1990 issue, the key to her success came from mining the work of the region’s artisans.
Berg remains headquartered in Utah, but she still retains a small one-person office in Scottsdale.
When he first started providing potted plants for indoor and patio display, interior plantscape designer Craig Pearson was working out of his home. “The award really helped my business,” he says. “The following year, I opened my Scottsdale store, so it gave me that lift to go to the next level. It solidified that I was someone to talk to about plants.” He quickly became known for his out-of-the-box approach, utilizing unconventional items, such as antique ceramics, wicker baskets and metal urns, to house everything from rhapis palms to pansies.
Today, Pearson employs five family members—two sisters, a brother and a niece—as well as 12 additional staffers to help keep up with his bustling business. He gets much of his inspiration from his travels. “It’s always great to see different design ideas and learn how people live in other parts of the world,” he explains.
When landscape architect Steve Martino began working in the Valley’s gardens in the 1970s, the Sonoran Desert’s native flora was looked upon as weeds that were to be removed. “Destroying cacti was common,” he recalls. “Nobody, from landscape designers to nurseries, wanted to grow indigenous plants.”
As more and more residents flocked from northern climates, interest in sustainable xeriscaping grew. Martino’s pioneering approach to design garnered him an international following. “I went from being a heretic to a hero,” he says with a laugh.
In addition to his residential work, Martino has added his green touch to the Soleri Plaza in Scottsdale, Desert Botanical Garden and the canal bank along Indian School Road from 48th to 56th streets. In 2018, a book about his work, “Desert Gardens of Steve Martino” (Monacelli), was lauded by the New York Times as one of the top summer reads.
Although you can still find Martino beautifying the yards of homes throughout the state, he’s made the decision to slow down, choosing projects that interest him or that are for previous clients.
One of the most cheeky images ever to grace the pages of PHG shows ceramist and environmental artist Joan Baron, wearing only a red towel and sunglasses, showing off one of her tile creations in a client’s shower. “I was designing a lot of showers at the time, so it just seemed like a natural setting,” she recalls. Baron’s custom handmade tiles stood out among a sea of Talavera, and throughout the ’90s, her work was so in demand that she had a team of five craftspeople who worked for her.
Baron’s residential work led to something even more fulfilling—public art. In 1999, she was commissioned by the City of Scottsdale to create “Earth Wall, Living Wall,” a colorful rammed earth, concrete, glass and ceramic installation that lines Thompson Peak Parkway near 100th Street. Twenty years later, she is now restoring it to its original splendor.
Much of her art explores social justice, environmental and health issues. She’s particularly excited about a recent art and performance piece, a collaboration with Gloria Martinez-Granado titled “Good Trouble Bucket,” that was inspired in part by the late civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis (seen below).
“I love being able to move things forward in a positive way,” Baron says. “The nice thing about sharing art is that we can get people to look at the issues and think about things in ways they may not have considered.”