The husband and wife team of Baker + Hesseldenz has been building up business on the down low. Here’s why we think 2013 will be their year in the spotlight.
Take pop surrealist art, American antiques, vintage, mid-century mod, and art nouveau. Then take a fashion designer and a furniture maker. Add some entrepreneurial flair, good looks, a stunning 1960s home, and a Mercedes van. Put them all together and you have the marriage – both personal and professional – of Baker + Hesseldenz.
Baker is furniture maker Scott Baker. Hesseldenz is fashion designer turned interior designer Mary Ann Hesseldenz. They describe their style as “classic modern”. Whatever it is, it and its founders are ones to keep an eye on.
Their reputation is spreading quietly but solidly through word of mouth and with little marketing or fanfare. They’re about to launch their own furniture line. And their latest project? None other than the new abode of Tucson-based king of alternative medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil.
The two met at a Tucson furniture expo Mary Ann had helped organize (at the time she was dabbling in furniture design.) One look at Scott Baker’s furniture and she knew she had spotted talent. She strategically placed her own furniture next to his, thinking she might piggy-back on his success, and the people he clearly knew.
That was back in 2003. Last April they got married, and celebrated in the backyard of the 1960s home they share in Tucson’s Foothills. Their own home sums up their style, one that straddles mid-century modernism and a classic European look, with a few eccentricities thrown in.
“We love skulls – bird skulls, javalina skulls,” announces Mary Ann, hinting to what the new furniture line may include. Scott’s crafted dining table mixes with ’60s chairs and a vintage chandelier. A bathroom is still true to the 1960s, with original kitschy fittings. The backyard is an exercise in Hollywood regency luxe; the cabana they got married under, constructed by Scott, features a cantilevered platform that extends over the pool, floaty white drapes, and low-slung lounge furniture.
Mary Ann is the extrovert, the entrepreneur, a woman who had fire in her belly at an early age. At 19 she owned a vintage clothing store in her native Indianapolis. She was designing clothing pieces for it, re-imagining classic items into her own style. New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology came next, then a stint in fashion design for two companies in New York City. Before long she branched out into her own studio. As well as fashion, graphic and textile design, she did celebrity branding, helping the likes of Richard Simmons and Kathie Lee Gifford launch their own collections.
If she was gutsy and ambitious to begin with, New York City simply added another layer to that skin. “It’s a jungle,” she says. “If I didn’t know how to do something I’d say ‘Sure, I can do that’.” And she’d teach herself.
Twenty years, a son and a faltering marriage later, she found herself visiting her sister in Tucson and making plans to join her. She bought her home “by Fed Ex”, making an offer and closing the deal without having been inside it. “I knew it was 1960s and knew it had not been remodeled,” which was exactly what she wanted.
Mary Ann moved to Tucson the day before 9/11. She woke up the next day and filed for divorce. The fresh start spilled over into her work. Knowing she could not make a living here in fashion design, she tried her hand at furniture and interiors. “Interior design was always my second passion,” she says.
Along came that furniture expo she helped curate, and Scott Baker, who has built his reputation designing furniture and fittings. Scott was Philadelphia-born, moving here when he was two months old. When his parents divorced and his mom settled in New Jersey, he would visit his physician father here in Tucson for vacations. Then after a stint at Rutgers University, he finished off his degree at the University of Arizona. His subject was history, but by then he was curious about architecture and interiors.
Quieter than Mary Ann, and modest in the extreme, Scott doesn’t spill much about his furniture work, which has appeared in the bar at North, as well as Sauce. As well as designing furniture, he ran Metroform Limited, a fine arts photography gallery, for a time. Since Mary Ann lost all of her art in her divorce, much of the art in their home is Scott’s.
Terry Etherton, owner of Etherton Gallery, has worked closely with Scott both at the gallery and privately. The gallery exhibited Scott’s furniture, and Terry hired him to make shelves for his downtown historic home in Tucson. Terry calls Scott’s work “exquisite. He’s a master designer and woodworker.”
Scott and Mary Ann have acquired several pieces from Etherton Gallery for their home, and for Andrew Weil’s. “Given the quality of everything in their house, we are really pleased that work by our artists is on display there,” says Terry.
The Baker + Hesseldenz magic has also worked for Tucson architect Clayton R. Joyce, who introduced Scott and Mary Ann to Chicago clients building a home in Pima Canyon. The clients saw Scott’s furniture at Etherton Gallery, and one thing led to another. “We brought them in to do the closets originally and their work extended into other areas of the project,” says Clayton.
Scott and Mary Ann’s tastes are varied, from pop surrealist art and vintage (“anything that has a past,” says Mary Ann) to, in Scott’s case, American antiques, the 18th century, and art nouveau. On living and working together, Mary Ann says: “We don’t know any different. We met and started working together. We don’t know any other relationship.”
It helps, of course, that Mary Ann is “a huge fan of his work”. As for Scott, he says he “doesn’t want to take the reins all the time”, consulting Mary Ann each step of the way.
This is a couple not only interested in bringing their design to the desert, but in harnessing other design talent too. “People in Tucson have layered lives,” says Scott.
The couple would love to celebrate that talent with a warehouse showcase, one in which 10′ x 10′ spaces are given over to designers to put their stamp on.