Designer for Hire

Say hello to lolochic

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With fabrics that float and shapes for the everywoman, Tucson fashion designer Loreto Echevarria is not only making a name for herself, she’s creating her very own style: ‘lolochic’. By Gillian Drummond.

Photo by Jackie Sterna

Loreto Echevarria’s debut at Tucson Fashion Week. Photo by Jackie Sterna

Loreto Echevarria wears her jewelry like armor. It’s a strategy she started some years ago, whenever she was feeling nervous or insecure. She incorporated big, statement pieces of jewelry into her daily look, often cuff bracelets – one on each wrist Coco Chanel style.

“The accessories ended up being a shield. Whenever I was feeling insecure or nervous I had my jewelry. It was like Wonderwoman. The cuffs helped, as if I was going to deflect some negativity or criticism,” says Loreto.

Photo by Jackie Sterna

Cuffs are part of the ‘lolochic’ look. Photo by Jackie Sterna

So it came as no surprise to her followers when cuffs were included in the designs she presented at Tucson Fashion Week last October. Her models strutted down the catwalk at the Fox Theatre with fabric cuffs on their arms, floaty silk tops and dresses, bright colors, leather shorts and pants, even a cape. It was ancient Greece and comic superheroes and rock chick and a little bit of Star Wars all rolled into one. It was Lolochic – the name she has coined for her fashion design and styling company.

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Loreto ‘Lolo’ Echevarria. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Lolo, as Loreto is known to her family and friends, wowed at Tucson Fashion Week with a set of designs that were risk-taking. Lolo had taken a risk herself just by applying. A full-time nurse, she has dabbled in fashion since she was a child. She had long been offering styling and wardrobe consultancy to people, and making garments for a select few. Then she attended 2013 Tucson Fashion Week, a showcase of local and national talent. Inspired, Lolo decided to apply for TFW 2014.

Most fashion designers begin with an idea and a sketchbook. Lolo starts with a fabric. “I fall in love with my fabric. The fabric tells me what it wants to be,” she says. And then, draping it over a dressmaker’s dummy, she begins the process of design.

Her fabric has to not only speak to her, it has to be top-notch in terms of quality. She’s usually to be found at a branch of JoAnn’s or at SAS Fabrics, or ordering online from the likes of Mood Fabrics. She favors something “unique”, usually silks.

Her floaty fabrics and wide, often square, shapes, are designed for all body shapes and types. Says Lolo: “I think  it’s flattering on any size. I want to make something a size 2 as well as a 14, 16 or 18 could wear. It’s about being comfortable.” The leather pants that were part of her collection at Tucson Fashion Week were only leather in the leg; the rest was fabric, not unlike the style of maternity pants. “You can go up 10 or 20 pounds and still fit into them,” she says.

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Another piece of Lolo’s collection for Tucson Fashion Week. Photo by Jackie Sterna

“Lolo is transcending the traditional size market and providing real fashionable garments for all shapes. It’s exciting,” says Paula Taylor, owner of Tucson Fashion Week and a fashion consultant and author. So there was an element of irony in the fact that, backstage at Tucson Fashion Week, where models had 24″ waists, the smallest sizes of Lolo’s garments were too big.  That’s something Lolo would like to rectify if she does TFW again this year. She would love to get “regular women” to model her clothes.

When Jennie Grabel, a non-profit executive and former radio host in Tucson, found herself “in a fashion rut” several years ago, she enlisted the help of Lolo. Not only did Jennie gain styling tips, some new wardrobe staples and a more professional look, she started to enjoy dressing herself again. “Ultimately it took the anxiety and stress out of my daily life. It became fun to put my outfits together,” says Jennie, who at the time was making regular public appearances as part of her radio job.

Jennie was a spectator at Tucson Fashion Week on the night Lolo and some other local designers shared the stage with personalities from the TV show Project Runway. “I was beyond proud. Watching people live out their dream is just so inspiring. I hope TFW is just a jumping off point for her,” says Jennie, who is encouraging her friend to apply to Project Runway herself.

Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

A photo from one of Lolo’s personal styling shoots. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Photo by

Jennie Grabel, one of Lolo’s styling clients. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

A client after being styled by Lolo. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Lolo was set on being a fashion designer even as a small child growing up in the border town of Douglas, Arizona. Her parents discouraged it. “My parents are very supportive of everything [I do] but I think they were discouraging because it was something they didn’t understand.” She took their advice and got a nursing degree. After graduating, Lolo began taking short contracts as a traveling nurse. The jobs took her to Southern California, New York City and London. The Big Apple bit her hard. She would spend her days off at stores like Prada. She remembers spending one whole day at Tiffany’s.

Tragedy struck when her older brother was hit and killed by a car whilst riding his bicycle. She returned to Southern Arizona in 2005 to be with her family, settling in Tucson, marrying (husband Kane Flint plays in several local bands) and having a son. For a long while she was so homesick for New York and London “I couldn’t watch Sex and the City because I got depressed.” Attending the fashion design program at Tucson Design College (now the Art Institute of Tucson) went a long way to curing her, she says. And “Tucson got a hold of me.”

Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Lolo’s shapes are designed to fit all sizes. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

She is still a full-time nurse but feels the fashion world calling and plans big things for 2015: a bigger fashion collection, hopefully a return to Tucson Fashion Week, and an Etsy shop. Her next collection will feature her signature flowing fabrics, and shapes that are adaptable for all sizes. But the added twist will be sci-fi. Lolo is a huge Star Wars fan – in inspired her collection for TFW – and says that galaxy far, far away will be influencing her looks even more this year.

We may have to wait until December for the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, already one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year. Lolochic, you can be sure, will be unleashing its force a lot sooner.

The 3 rules for ‘lolochic’:

1. “Splurge on the basics and you can be frugal when it comes to buying accessories.”

2. “If the [size on the] label bothers you, cut it out.”

3. “You’ll never know until you try it on.”

* Find Loreto Echevarria at

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Can fat guys be sexy? (Hell yeah)

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Men and body image will be just one of the topics discussed at the second annual Body Love Conference this weekend in Tucson, Arizona.  We asked Jesse Arenstein, self-professed “fat guy”, about his own journey to body confidence – and what happened when he found himself being a model for a day. By Jesse ArensteinPhotos by Rachel Miller and Liora K.

Photo by Rachel

Jesse Arenstein says fat guys are more culturally acceptable than fat women. But men get body shamed too, he argues. Photo by Rachel Miller

When body positive activist Jes Baker, a.k.a. The Militant Baker, asked me to participate in the second Lustworthy photo shoot – a shoot that was based on the premise that money/gold digging isn’t the only thing that can attract sexy women to fat guys – it stirred up a wealth of self-reflection.

I thought about my own tastes and ability to find beauty in, and sexual desire for,  women of all races, sizes, and cultural persuasions.  I felt like a part of a movement that emboldened and validated the part of me that loved both fat thighs and thigh gaps, that cherished, maybe even worshipped, the diversity of the female form.

I was flattered as fuck that this young woman – whom I watched grow from a snarky, savvy, sexy “bookworm” into an international cultural powerhouse changing the way the world perceives beauty –  thought of me first when she wanted to highlight a sexy fat guy in her latest Internet propaganda party. (Jes and photographer Liora K launched the Lustworthy photo series – a rip-off of perfume ads, but one that uses unconventional body pairings – in 2013.)


Jesse poses in the Lustworthy campaign. Photo by Liora K. Other model: Bella Romeo.

Jes, also the founder of this week’s Body Love Conference, has a charisma and a raw energy which I encourage all of you to encounter in person, and I was determined to honor our friendship by participating in this movement.

I had doubts that this idea I was to be the figurehead for in this particular shoot wasn’t anything special.  That fat guys get hot girls all the time.  That there really is a vicious double standard in the way that heavier women are perceived sexually as opposed to heavier guys.  I wrestled with all of the accepted cultural norms like being the “teddy bear”or the “funny fat guy”, the generations of comical fat guys in cartoons that wind up with skinny attractive wives – from Fred Flintstone to Family Guy‘s Peter Griffin. All this seemed to be working against me, in that the point we were making with the second Lustworthy was something the communal consciousness of the world already had accepted.

And, tellingly, these doubts seemed to be reflected pretty consistently in the comments left on Jes’s blog post after the photo shoot was published. Comments like this:



Photo by Liora K.

And when I got nervous about all of this and considered not doing the shoot, my wife Rebecca told me to suck it up, that this is important on a large cultural level, that I was sexy, and that participating would make a difference.  (She was also kind enough to give me the same pep talk when I whined about writing this article).  After the shoot, when one of Rebecca’s male co-workers came up to her and expressed that self-esteem issues based on weight were something he had struggled with for years, and that seeing me in The Huffington Post’s coverage of the shoot made him feel better about himself and his ability to attract women, we both knew she was right. She normally is.

Really though, when considering doing the Lustworthy shoot, I wound up facing my own personal binary relationship with self-esteem.  The heights of testosterone-fueled confidence and the lows of bullying-fueled self-hatred.  The incomparable effect that the confidence part can have on the outside world’s perception of me, and the fact that the source of that confidence also involved not caring about what that perception was.

I thought about the seemingly endless years of being made fun of for being fat throughout school.  And I thought about how beautiful that little kid was and how destructive to his ability to perceive his own beauty all of those taunts and insults were.  The main premise for this article and why I was asked to write it comes from this same source: conveying the idea to the followers, and those who oppose the body love movement,  that guys have body issues too.  No matter how subconsciously culturally acceptable the fat guy, and even the fat guy dating a conventionally hot woman is, the reality of it is this: men get body shamed too, and it hurts across gender lines just as bad.


I remember watching Revenge of the Nerds at a 6th grade birthday party in Breezy Point, NY and it occurring  to me that the war of jocks veresus nerds had been raging for a long time. I felt like the casualty of a conflict near its end but still lingering on enough to keep people wounded and damaged.  Later that year I wrote my first poem, went to my first middle school dance, played my first Dungeons and Dragons game, and my parents and I moved to Tucson.

At maybe the third or fourth middle school dance I had attended, I’d find myself finally fed up.  There had been years of bullying, name calling, belittling – constant reminders that I was not good enough, not skinny enough, to deserve the attention of girls, pretty or otherwise.  I was standing in the gym of my middle school, experiencing a puberty-fueled internal nuclear event.  Something just snapped inside.  I can’t remember if it was a particular insult, watching someone else get shamed, or if it was just all of the pretty girls and the Sinead O’Connor ballads.  But I was no longer capable of giving a fuck about what all these petty assholes thought of me or said to me.  I had been beaten up, publicly shamed, endlessly belittled both by classmates and family members about my size, but now the fat shaming was getting in the way of the one thing I could not, would not, be separated from: Girls.

Photo by Rachel Miller

For Jesse, fat shaming was getting in the way of one thing: girls. Photo by Rachel Miller

That moment wound up being pretty critical for me, and not just because I got to dance with a lot of pretty girls that night.  It had always occurred to me that the shaming and the insults people had thrown at me were their own problem, not mine, but I never had the ability to keep that from impacting my opinion of myself.  Now it occurs to me that the 12-year-old kid that I was in the pre-Internet era had the realization at that moment that the self that I would continue to be depended on me following a rule many bloggers, and especially Jes and Liora, follow rigidly. I honestly was not giving a fuck about “the comments”.

* Jes Baker will be a keynote speaker at The Body Love Conference, which takes place Saturday June 6th in Tucson. Tickets and more info here.

* Speakers on men and body issues at this year’s Body Love Conference include Steven Yanez Romo of Romo Tonight Live and Noel Trapp, owner of Noel’s Restoratives. You can read more about Noel in this 3 Story feature.


More than skin deep

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In a profession that’s been all about men, we meet a female tattoo artist who’s turning the tide – and boosting women’s body confidence while she’s at it. By Gillian Drummond. Photos by Danni Valdez. Makeup by Rich Makeup Artistry by Taylor Laurie

Photo by Danni Valdez

Veronica Stice. Photo by Danni Valdez. Makeup by Rich Makeup Artistry by Taylor Laurie

It’s a fine thing to find your calling in life, and even better when you discover it young. Veronica Stice was 18 when she found hers.

She was living in the tiny town of Grinnell, Iowa (population 9,200) and had a love of art and a fascination for tattoos. After getting her first tattoo – a burst of sunflowers across her shoulders – she fell headfirst for tattoos and the tattoo life.

Veronica is an all or nothing person. And so it was with tattoos. “I jumped in 100%,” says Veronica, whose petite frame is now mostly covered in ink. She graduated from high school and got a job at a tattoo shop as a receptionist (and cleaner, and errand runner) but really what she wanted was to be a tattooist. That, and live the life she saw the tattoo artists there living. “I just saw how much money these guys were making and nobody told these dudes what to do. They got to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. As an 18-year-old it was like ‘All these dudes do is have fun’.”

Photo courtesy of Veronica Slice.

Some of Veronica’s tatooo work. Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Crucially, though, they were “dudes”. She paid her dues as a receptionist, even putting up with their military-camp-like pranks: her shoes being hidden, her car being ‘stolen’, her body being sprayed with rubbing alcohol. And all the time she was drawing tattoo ideas at the front desk and bugging the owner to teach her the trade. He refused. “It came down to him saying girls can’t be tattooers. I lost my job over it,” says Veronica.

On the drive home she called her dad in Tucson. She moved out here a month later, the rejection making her all the more determined. “I knew I could do it and I’m kind of stubborn. Success is the best revenge,” she says.

Within two weeks of moving she had a job at what was then Inkaholics Anonymous, now The Painted Lady tattoo shop on East Speedway. Even then she had to bide her time until she got to tattoo. Her first was an anchor she created herself and inked onto the side of her boss’s knee. And it was bad. “It was awful but I had got to the point where I was so frustrated by how the apprenticeship was going. I walked in one day and said ‘I’m doing this today. I’m tired of this. I need to make money’.”

Seven years later things have changed immeasurably, both for Veronica and the whole tattoo industry. Tats are big, cool, in vogue. They’re no longer associated with bikers and jailbirds but also the hipster, the sorority girl, the middle-aged mother, the otherwise average Joe. Tattoo shops take in more than $2.3 billion in revenue a year in the USA. A survey last year found that 40% of households have someone with a tattoo. The number of female tattoo artists has risen sharply, with some of them creating their own brand. (Witness the reality TV star Kat Von D, now owner of a line of beauty products at Sephora.)

Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Black Rose Tattooers on 6th Avenue has mostly women on its staff. Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Veronica, now 25, is manager of Black Rose Tattooers on 6th Avenue in downtown Tucson. She works with an almost exclusively female staff (five other women plus the male owner, Mac McKay).  She has more than 1500 followers on Instagram and people come from as far away as Australia just to be tattooed by her. She charges $120 an hour and is making enough money to be able to travel for six months of the year, when she couch-surfs through Canada and the U.S. to visit friends and to freelance at other tattoo stores.

She is carving out a niche for creating elaborate and feminine lace-like tattoos the likes of which she doesn’t see elsewhere. She‘s also deliberately making her shop female-friendly. “I think it gives us the opportunity to offer women a whole other level of comfort. Some people think [tattooing] is kind of skeezy, kind of back alley.”

Photo by Danni Valdez.

Veronica tracing a tattoo design. Photo by Danni Valdez. Makeup by Rich Makeup Artistry by Taylor Laurie

Tattooing women is way different from tattooing men, she says. “It’s something I don’t think a lot of male tattooers consider. Women are soft and round and very curvy and tattoos should flatter that. It should look like it belongs on you.” And they can be a body image boost, she says. You don’t like a part of your body? “Slap a tattoo over it and you fall in love with it.”

She has also used them to hide physical scars – covering up scar tissue and, in one case, helping to conceal third degree burns. “It makes them fall in love with their body and that’s huge. If I can give that to somebody it really really makes me happy,” she says.

Tattoo regrets? She’s had a few of her own. Her least favorite tat is a washed-out-looking portrait of Twiggy on her inner right arm. But mostly she is in love with her work, both on her own skin (and before you ask, yes, she has tattooed herself) and her clients’. Right now she’s working on a piece for a client who wants a revolutionary war theme with a sinking ship, naval officers, the lot. “It’s like a classic oil painting. I don’t like the more abstract stuff. I feel like tattoos should look like tattoos,” she says.

Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Veronica used a tattoo to cover up this woman’s burn scars. Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Black Rose on 6th relaunches this week after a refurbishment, having added bright paint, laminate floors and an extended tattooing area (see below for details of the open house event taking place this weekend.) Veronica’s station consists of a heavy-duty tool chest full of sterile one-time-use needles, ink, dentist bibs for laying out her gear, a pillow and chair for the client, and of course the little machine that does all the work. Hand-held and consisting of electromagnetic coils, her tattoo gun turns its needles (there are several on the end, not just one) at 87 cycles a second. She could have opted for a quieter rotary machine but “I like the noise this makes”.

She talks of the Black Rose crew as her family. They’re also each other’s guinea pigs for body art. Tattooers like to practice on fleshy fruit like grapefruit and bananas, sometimes pig ears if they can get them. But many times it’s friends, family members and colleagues. There’s nothing like drawing on human skin, says Veronica, and her loved ones are not bothered if she messes up. “And you put the word free in front of the word tattoo and people don’t care.”

Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Veronica with her signature bright lipstick, and showing off a neck tattoo. Photo courtesy of Veronica Stice.

Veronica Stice Photo by Danni Valdez_1957

Photo by Danni Valdez. Makeup by Rich Makeup Artistry by Taylor Laurie

At 25 she seems too young to be complaining about aches and pains, but tattooing can be tough labor. She works up to 12 hours a day, sometimes on one client, and it involves gripping a constantly vibrating machine. “My hands hurt almost all the time. My neck hurts. My feet hurt,” she says, adding: “I’m an all or nothing kind of person. I have given myself to tattooing and it’s given me nothing but amazing things.”

With the extreme rise in the popularity of tattoos, does she fear that being inked is losing its edge? “I don’t really care about that,” she shrugs. “I think everybody should have a tattoo. It looks cool and it makes you feel good about yourself.”

She does have some rules though:

1. Don’t go too small. Her shop gets many requests for small tats – especially from female college students. “I think they’re maybe afraid to commit to a full-size tattoo.” Veronica says bigger tattoos will age better and are just way more fun. “What’s the point in having one if people can’t see it?”

2. She won’t do tattoos on the hand or neck, unless it’s a regular customer and they’re heavily inked already. “Why does an 18-year-old kid need a neck tattoo? I don’t want to be the cause of someone hating themselves.”

3. She won’t tattoo someone who’s been drinking or displays bad behavior. “If you’re just walking off the street and you’re being a drunk asshole, I will refuse you. It really is about how you carry yourself.”

4. Good hydration and sunscreen are the golden rules when living in the desert. The same goes for tattoos. Drink plenty of water and keep the area moisturized and your tats will love you for it.

* Find Black Rose Tattooers at 47 S. 6th Avenue and 421 N. 4th Avenue in Tucson, also 699 E. Fry Blvd, Sierra Vista. More at Black Rose on S. 6th will have an open house this Saturday evening, March 21st, to celebrate its refurbishment.

Home is where the balance is

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We take a peek inside the home of interior and landscape designer Kathryn Prideaux, whose house balances family life and a modern/mid-century aesthetic. Plus, tips on how to get the look. Story and photos by Rachel Miller


The carrara marble table was a steal at $275

They adorn the pages of décor magazines, those beautiful houses with sleek sophisticated lines and nary a hint of clutter, the young children or even the family that supposedly lives in them.

Dwell and the like might be the fantasy décor porn for the parents of small children whose reality is tripping over school backpacks and LEGOs, but is the simple beauty from these magazine pages realistic for most of us with children? Or maintainable?

Before admitting defeat and sacrificing the Noguchi coffee table to the rampages of toddlers or teens, consider the home of interior and landscape designer Kathryn Prideaux, husband Ryan and daughters Minda and Eva. It is not the austere, almost stark beauty of a magazine home; rather, Kathryn and Ryan have created something simple, beautiful and functional. This home is a reflection of the owners’ bustling life: bean bags for kids to lounge on, deep sofas for snuggling, sleek cabinets for storage that grace, rather than dominate, a room, and subtle earth tones in the paint and accessories bringing it all together.


An Eames surfboard table and IKEA storage in the living room

Kathryn, owner of Prideaux Design in Tucson, has a love for those looks in magazine pages. But she has found balance. She highlights the family’s passions in a mixture of new, vintage and found materials, from the quilts sewn by youngest daughter Minda to a Japanese doll from Kathryn’s childhood.

About the home: The 2200 square foot home in northwest Tucson was built in 2014. Kathryn and her family are the second owners, moving in in the Fall of 2014.

squeeze, splash, pop of color to living room

A pop of color in the living room

Describe your style: Says Kathryn: “I would say my style is a blend of mid-century modern, modern and rustic modern. I am definitely minimal in my aesthetic, but I like a home to be warm and inviting. Several of my friends have described our home as ‘comfy’. I think that is a compliment, especially when I decorate in such a modern way. I love clean lines and simple décor, but I don’t think a home should be sterile or institutional. A home should highlight the things you love, the places you have been, and the memories that mean something to you.”

Your fave thing about your home: “My favorite part of the house is the location! After living so far north west of town we are so happy to be in such a convenient location [near Oracle and Magee]. We can even walk to stores and restaurants. I love the lighting in this home. I really appreciated what the previous owners put into it. We were so lucky to find a home with amazing fixtures by Tech Lighting and lots of wonderful 4” can lights on dimmers, accent lights and sconces. People just don’t pay enough attention to lighting in a home. It is so important. The previous owners also upgraded all the switches to [motion sensor and dimmer switches from] Legrand and I am a complete convert. So spoiled by these  switches. Who knew what an awesome luxury a beautiful switch plate could be?”

Biggest splurge: “A nine-foot sofa by Restoration Hardware. I love the size of it. It has deep and comfy cushions with down overfill. This is where my two daughters and I curl up to watch movies. It is completely slip-covered and washable, so it is family-friendly.”

Can you make out what the painting says?

Best bargain: “That is hard to choose. I love a good bargain! I would say our marble dining room table is the best bargain though. I found it at Homestyle Galleries consignment shop for $275 and it’s carrara marble. It has a bit of an 80’s form and style, but I am just fine with that. I think the 80’s are finding their way back in home decor. Oh boy!”

My DIY moment: “We installed all of the wall units in the main living room – the wall hanging buffet and TV media cabinets. They are all from the IKEA Besta system. I LOVE their new door color, Creme, which is a very warm grey color.

Favorite resources: “Estate sales are the best. I have found so many beautiful and unique pieces at amazing estate sales, like the large art piece in our entryway. Jerry Schuster, of AZ Modern in Tucson [where Kathryn bought her Eames surfboard table] is an excellent resource. I also love to go up to Phoenix and hit the MCM shops like Modern Manor (end tables in living room). I do a lot of online shopping. Etsy is incredible for handmade pieces (the wood and cable shelving system in entry, the walnut floating shelves on the TV wall). I shop Craigslist and eBay too (tulip side tables, brass urchin poms on TV wall). I just got back from [home show] Las Vegas Market and found so many great trade resources for furniture and accessories.”

Tucson treasures: “I absolutely loved the market at Mercado San Agustin over the holidays. There were so many great local vendors and artists. I also love the Metal Arts Village where I had my studio for so many years. There are some really talented artists there. Tucson is a very exciting place to be these days. There are so many designers and artists and architects that are doing incredible work.”

*Take-away lesson: Our take away from Kathryn’s home is to rethink your storage spaces. Practical but beautiful storage options can be subtle rather than dominating a room, while storing all that stuff that many of us tend to accumulate. We particularly loved the use of the IKEA Besta system in the living room. We also loved the lighting choices in this home and the hint of 80’s retro in the lighting fixtures. Some reminded us of the entryway light fixture in Paula and Clif Taylor’s home. Smoky lamps are apparently on their way back!

* Find Prideaux Design at


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Are you digging these digs? Get the look locally

  • You can peruse Jerry Schuster’s AZ Modern Tucson site for pieces like Kathryn’s Eames surfboard coffee table.
  • Tucson has a whole host of talented artists. Catherine Eyde, one of Eva’s favorites, has prints and originals available across town.
  • Kathryn and her daughters like to thrift shop for mid-century modern accessories and ornaments. Take your children with you to Tucson’s thrift stores to choose items you all will love.

And try these lookalikes we found (contains Amazon Affiliates):


From left to right: Ikea Besta system, cabinets start at $50 at Ikea; Alina Pendant lights $453.60 from Tech Lighting at Amazon ; Legrand light switches $49.98 on AmazonBelgian Track Arm Sofa from $1995 from Restoration Hardware 



Vintage shopping: the experts spill

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You love vintage, and your wardrobe and living room are crying out for it. But how do you get started? We asked three experts for their tips on vintage shopping in Tucson. By Joan Calcagno. Cover photo courtesy of Francine Vacca Smith/Hot Cool Vintage

The three vintage mavens we spoke to have lots in common: they are hunter-gatherers; they love the thrill of the find; they shop at many types of places – thrift stores, second-hand stores, vintage specialty shops, Craigslist, rummage and yard sales. And they all consciously developed their eye for vintage.


The fashion stylist

syd leopard

Syd Ballesteros in a 1960’s satin jumpsuit from Desert Vintage. Photo by Puspa Lohmeyer

Sydney Ballesteros is a vintage stylist, creative director, buyer, and consultant extraordinaire. This Tucson Modernism Week, you’ll see her styling an exhibit of 1950’s and ’60’s fashions at the opening reception at Chase Bank.

Syd has had “an appreciation for old things” since she was a girl; her stylish grandma and mother took her to yard sales foraging for clothes and other treasures. When she started shopping for herself in high school, she went for the cuts and styles that appealed to her from many eras. That was the start of building a wardrobe, jewelry and handbags included, which is now 90% vintage.

Mix it up. Wearing or displaying all vintage can be a bit much. Syd blends in contemporary, buying various “filler” pieces, like jeans or a good black turtleneck. And since it’s hard to find vintage shoes that fit, she likes to use modern shoes to add that “mix it up” element. She also mixes “high”  – expensive, designer, mint condition (finding a piece like that is “a really good day,” she says) – with “low” – inexpensive things she likes.

Syd in a brocade suit from Black Cat Vintage. Photo by Puspa Lohmeyer

Syd in a brocade suit from Black Cat Vintage. Photo by Puspa Lohmeyer

Invest in staple pieces. Buy a good vintage dress, possibly a little black dress (expect to pay $50 to $75) and a coat in good condition ($50 to $200, unless you come across a killer deal at a thrift store for $15), some jewelry and a handbag.

Go for what you love. Look through vintage magazines, read books, watch old movies and see what you like. “Everyone’s eye favors a certain aesthetic. Vintage just gives you the opportunity to be original with styling it. Wear what you love. Wear it with confidence. Express your individuality!”

Where she shops in Tucson: : Buffalo Exchange, How Sweet It Was, Desert Vintage, Razzle Dazzle, Black Cat Vintage, OZMA Atelier.

For more on Syd, read our feature, Golden Girl of the West. 

The blogger


Francine displays some of her spoils. Photo by Joan Calcagno

Francine Vacca Smith writes the blog Hot Cool Vintage in tandem with running her Etsy shop, which focuses on home accessories – “smalls”, as they are called in the biz. She grew up in a family of antique jewelry sellers and in a home with stylish pieces that sparked her aesthetic senses. Over time, her taste moved to Scandinavian/Danish-modern, partly because she grew up with it.

She is particularly fond of Catherineholm enamelware – those lovely pieces with the leaf-like design you see in the photo. Moving from New York to Tucson three years ago with “virtually nothing” and a spacious home to furnish, she looked to the second-hand market. Then it occurred to her, “Hey, I could be selling this stuff”, and her Etsy shop was born.


One of Francine’s finds: a like-new vintage snack set and Blenko bottle. Photo courtesy of Francine Vacca Smith/Hot Cool Vintage

Research it. See a particular piece you like? Root around on the web so you get to know designers’ styles and price ranges. If your research says an item might be worth its price,  but it’s outside your budget and you love it, you might ask if there is “any room” on the price. Sometimes a seller can do better and sometimes not. Sometimes a knock-off can be touted, and priced, as the real thing. So if you’re not sure, do research on the spot. Look for the telltale details, and use your smartphone to help.

Mix it up. Like Syd, Francine likes to add modern to her vintage collection. Her dining room chairs, for example, are from Target.

francine glassware

Some of Francine’s Scandinavian glassware. Photo by Joan Calcagno

It’s OK to make mistakes. Francine loves mid-mod Scandinavian glass, but it can be hard to find authentic pieces because they aren’t marked. Over time, she developed an eye for the subtle differences. For example, maybe you can see that the tall piece on the left in the photo is a bit thicker on the rim. It’s just less refined throughout, even though it is the same pattern. So it’s possibly not an Oiva Toikka Flora piece like the one on the right. If you are decorating for yourself, it doesn’t really matter, unless you are set on having designer pieces, says Francine. What does matter is that you don’t want to pay designer prices for a knock-off. Although “it happens. You just have to get out there, have fun and make mistakes, that’s how you learn”.

Where she shops in Tucson: She’s not telling! This lady is in business, after all, and doesn’t want to reveal her sources. But she did tell us she likes the Tanque Verde Antique Fair, at 11100 E. Tanque Verde Road, first Sunday of every month.

The B&B owner


Charlotte in the ‘Atomic Room’. Photo by Joan Calcagno

Charlotte Lowe-Bailey is the proprietor of Bailey House, an artist B&B/retreat near the Tucson Mountains. A year ago, when she moved from Patagonia back to a family home, planning to open the B&B, she was faced with furnishing five guest bedrooms, as well as common and outdoor spaces. The house was built in 1966 and has good mid-century bones: floor-to-ceiling windows, angular styling, floor tiling indicative of the era. So Charlotte chose mid-century décor as the focus. While she enjoys houses where people have absolutely everything of an era, she used a more pragmatic, practical approach – starting with some pieces she had and some which reflect the sentimentality of blending in family heirlooms.

Look for bargains, but don’t haggle Charlotte, like our other experts, usually doesn’t haggle if the price is reasonable. She will make an offer if things are overpriced or have been on display a long time. She also tracks various thrift stores that have percent-off days, like The Girls Estate Sale Shop. “They mark things down on an announced schedule, so you know what the opportunities and risks are,” she says.

Be on constant lookout. Hitting the thrifts and vintage shops is usually part of any travel itinerary for these gals. Charlotte checks bulletin boards whenever she’s in small towns, looking for rummage and estate sales. At home, she – like the others – integrates vintage shopping into her week by stopping at a thrift or secondhand store when running other errands.


The “Atomic Room” at Bailey House. Photo by Joan Calcagno

How she puts a room together. Charlotte’s “Atomic Room” (pictured) started with the blond console piece given to her by a family member. Then she found the atomic-patterned convertible chaise/bed on Then she started doing what she usually does – filling in. An authentic swag lamp (from Tom’s Fine Furniture and Collectables. $95); the marble coffee table (from The Girls Estate Sale shop. $85); the Flokati rug (she loves these wool shag rugs because they are iconic to the 60s, easy to clean and easy to find. This one’s from Craigslist, $75); two black side tables (one from a rummage sale, the other from St Vincent de Paul thrift, about $5 each. “They weren’t great, but I sprayed them black and they work”); a TV (from HabiStore, $3); rummage sale side chairs, and smaller accessories, like the ashtray (Goodwill, $5); and, of course, wall art – an Albert Kogel poster, an abstract painting, and vintage album covers she displays in cases from Target.

Where she shops in Tucson: Charlotte seems to have good luck at what she calls “junk shops” – places that have a lot of inventory scattered outside, like Gersons Used Building Materials or the back yard at St. Vincent DePaul thrift, 820 S. 6th Avenue. Some of her favorite places are thrifts where wealthy, stylish clientele provide the donations, like Assistance League Thrift Shop. “They have killer sales”. Other places include: The Girls Estate Sale Shop; HabiStore; Goodwill;  Savers; Tom’s Fine Furniture and Collectables, 5454 E. Pima Street. When she is reupholstering: SAS Fabrics and Baca Upholstery, 2100 South 4th Avenue.

And lastly…

* Let the experts’ advice inspire you. Watch some old movies. Check out some vintage magazines. Get out there. Before you know it, your foraging instincts will kick in and your reward center will light up when  you find something that is a good fit at a good price. And you’ll know: you are hooked.

* Speaking of movies… We see that Grace of Monaco, with Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, is coming out around Christmas. Judging from the promo pics, it should be full of 1960s eye-candy.

francine egg cups

Photo courtesy of Hot Cool Vintage/Francine Vacca Smith

* Vintage and mid-mod shopping in Tucson is easy when you know where to go. There are mid-mod booths at the  22nd Street Antique Mall and Copper Country Antiques (and don’t miss Fred’s Recycle Bin in the back). You can find mid-mod things at second hand stores like Betty Blue’s Junk Shop (Betty’s a bulldog. Say hi to her!), Kismet and Diamond Lil’s Vintage & Gifts, 2201 E. River Road, and in Trail Dust Town, 6541 E. Tanque Verde Road.

* And there are lots of thrifts where you might find a vintage bargain.  Try Miracle Center Thrift Store (great for glassware), 1st Rate 2nd Hand Thrift Store, Humane Society of Southern Arizona Thrift and Speedway Outlet Thrift, 5421 E. Speedway.

* Retro Renovation and eBay. While our experts were not using eBay much, we note that Pam Kueber, the woman behind the Retro Renovation website, peruses eBay every day and creates curated lists of the mid-century vintage items she finds.

The Mid Century Marketplace and Expo at Tucson Modernism Week is a must. Visit it at the Murphy Building,  2959 East Broadway, Sunday October 6th from 8.30am to 4pm.

* There are always vintage delights to be had at Shop Your Girlfriend’s Closet. This Voices for Education benefit takes place October 25th, 26th and 27th, 3822 N. Oracle Road. We’re told Linda Ronstadt has donated a couple of purses, so make sure you get first dibs.  More here.

Eat, drink & be retro

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In Tucson, there are plenty of food and drink establishments that remain relatively unchanged since the 50’s and 60’s. Let 3 Story and Tucson Foodie be your guides. By Adam Lehrman and Gillian Drummond.

Photo by Kevin Breutzmann

Photo by Kevin Breutzmann

As Tucsonans and many out-of-towners gather for the third annual Tucson Modernism Week, we thought it was high time we directed all of you to mid-century places to eat and imbibe. And we don’t mean ’50s and ’60s style eateries and bars, with their try-too-hard checkerboard patterns and uber accessorizing. We’re talking the real deal: places that have remained relatively unchanged since the middle of last century. The neon signs. The retro fixtures. The kitsch and ephemera. The atmosphere. And, most of all, the reputation for good food and cocktails. All of these things keep people coming back.

The Shelter. Photo courtesy of The Shelter.

The Shelter. Photo courtesy of The Shelter.

Asked what makes a restaurant still popular close to six decades on, Michael Elefante, co-owner of Mama Louisa’s on South Craycroft, says simply: “Consistency.” Mama Louisa’s still gets visits from its original customers, some of whom are turning 90. Having one foot in the past and another in the future is a conundrum, though. Michael’s family has owned the restaurant since 1973, and Michael recently became joint owner along with his brother Joey and friend Michael Press. (Until recently the two Michaels worked together as chefs at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain.) They have plans for a new menu (fresh mozzarella and Margarita pizza are on their way) and they’re gently tweaking the interior. But Michael Elefante knows he can’t change things up too much. “I call her a fisherman,” he says of the restaurant he grew up in, washing dishes at the age of eight. “She reels us in. You start going too far out and she reels us in and reminds us of where we are.” Here, in no particular order, are the ones that reel us customers in:

1. Mama Louisa’s, 2041 S. Craycroft Rd

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

The style: Your baritone-voiced, chain-smoking Italian grandmother’s restaurant (although she quit smoking years ago.) It’s checked tablecloths, hand painted mural walls of Italy’s shore, formica, and vinyl.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Michael Press, left, and Michael Elefante, the new chef-owners of Mama Louisa’s. Photo by Gillian Drummond

The story: Opened in 1956 on south Craycroft when it was still a young dirt road, Mama Louisa’s has been in the Elefante family since 1973. In August it came under the joint ownership of brothers Joey and Michael Elefante and friend Michael Press. All of the murals on the walls are the original paintings from artist Jose de la Flora, save for one added in the 1970s by artist Paul Sheldon. All pasta is made fresh daily. Expect new dishes and decor tweaks soon. Don’t miss: Joe’s Special. Hands down. Whatever you end up with at Mama Louisa’s, make sure it includes Joe’s Special – linguine with hot pepper seeds, garlic and sauce – in some way, shape, or form.

2. The Shelter, 4155 E. Grant Rd

Photo by Kevin Breutzmann

Photo by Kevin Breutzmann

Photo courtesy of The Shelter

Photo courtesy of The Shelter

The style: Cold-war era 1960s retro lounge. Think Austin Powers meets Hanna Barbera. Kitsch-filled from floor to ceiling with expertly curated Elvis and JFK memorabilia, lava lamps, velvet, and lavish lighting. If you’re lucky, the original Flash Gordon will be playing on the tele. The story: Though the rumors abound regarding The Shelter’s history as a 60’s era fallout shelter, the joint was originally built in 1961 by one of Arizona’s first female architects, Ruby Wren. Interesting enough, Wren’s grandson will open a brewery in downtown Tucson named Pueblo Vida. Don’t miss: Martini, White Russian, or Bloody Mary. Ideally, not in a row.

3. Mi Nidito, 1813 S 4th Ave

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

The style: Vivid. Very. There’s no subtlety here. It’s shameless south-of-the-border kitsch with no prizes for sleek MCM-ness. But talk to any of the patrons and they’ll tell you they come not for decor, but great Mexican food. The lines are out the door at peak times, when you can expect a wait of an hour or even two. The story: Ernesto and Alicia Lopez opened the restaurant in 1952 and named it Mi Nidito (“my little nest”) because of its small size. Additions and remodels have increased the number of tables since (it’s hard to think that what serves as a waiting area now was once the kitchen), but the atmosphere remains the same. Ownership has passed on to the Lopezes’ son Ernesto, his wife Yolanda and their son Jimmy Lopez.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Don’t miss: The most popular dishes are the President’s Plate (the spread Bill Clinton had when he came here in ’99), Birria (shredded beef) and Carne Seca. The latter is made with beef that’s hung to dry for four-and-a-half days, then deep fried, boiled and finally mixed with green peppers, crushed tomatoes, cilantro and green onions. We say anything that’s labored over that much is worth it.

4. Lucky Wishbone, 4701 E. Broadway Blvd 85711

Photo by fotovitamina

Photo by fotovitamina

The style: (Was) 1950s drive-in restaurant-meets-diner, sans the drive-in. Sadly, the historic, iconic neon starburst sign is the only remnant of the original location. The sign was almost lost during the recent rebuild.

Photo courtesy of Mark Morris

Lucky Wishbone’s Campbell location in 1956. Photo courtesy of Mark Morris.

The story: Opened in 1953 by Derald Fulton as an “easier-to-run” eatery, the original Lucky Wishbone opened at 4872 South Sixth at Irvington. Immediate success lent itself to opening more locations – including the one on Broadway  in 1954. Clyde Buzzard was made its managing partner. To this day, he still manages the restaurant and is the only surviving partner. Don’t miss: It’s hard to go wrong with anything at this fried-everything utopia. Standouts include Gizzards or Livers, Steak Fingers, Fried Chicken, and the Double Cheeseburger on Garlic Toast.

5. Kon Tiki, 4625 E. Broadway

Photo courtesy of Kon Tiki

Photo courtesy of Kon Tiki

The style: ’60s tiki/exotica. The bamboo, the masks, the flaming torches at the door: it’s all unchanged since this place opened in 1963 and is a tikiphile’s dream.

Photo courtesy of Kon Tiki

Photo courtesy of Kon Tiki

The story: Dean Short opened it in 1963 after being inspired by tiki bars on a visit to California. It changed hands twice more, and current owner Paul Christopher practically cut his teeth on tiki. He started working there as a dishwasher and busboy at 15 and worked his way up. The place has served the likes of Lee Marvin, Robert Wagner and Robert Mitchum.

Don’t miss: There’s an extensive food menu, and the Polynesian BBQ Ribs are a favorite. But let’s be honest: people come for the pack-a-punch cocktails. The Scorpion Bowl for two ($14), is a big, boozy, secret blend of rums, gin, brandy and liqueurs, ingested through long straws.

6. Pat’s Drive-In, 1202 W. Niagara Street


Photo by fotovitamina

The style: Vintage roadside Americana. From the neon sign to the simple functionality to the barber-shop-style  red and white stripes of tile out front, it’s humbly authentic – unlike so many modern places these days that are decked out to look like a ’50s diner. The story: Henry ‘Pat’ Patterson launched his chili-dogs-and-fries concept in the 1950s, expanded, then downsized. This last remaining Pat’s, just south of Speedway Blvd, has been around since 1962. In 1969, long-time employee Charlie Hernandez took over the business but kept Pat’s name. Charlie carried on Pat’s tradition of simple, inexpensive food: burgers, chili dogs, chicken, shrimp and fish. Don’t miss: It’s known for its chili dogs (choose the spicy version for an extra kick). Just before Pat passed away in 1999, he’s said to have turned to his wife and asked for a chili dog from Pat’s.  But even the staff prefer the Big Pat burger. Also try the shoe-string fries, hand-cut. Just remember to bring cash, because they charge extra for debit cards, and don’t accept credit.  

And lastly…

Chaffin’s Diner, 902 E. Broadway Blvd.

Photo by Vargas???

Photo by Gerardine Vargas

There was debate among 3 Story staff and contributors about whether or not to include Chaffin’s in this article. Some refuse to patronize the place because of stories surrounding its owner. Others just don’t think the food in this greasy spoon is even worth a mention. But, politics and iffy dishes aside, the place scores high for its looks. This is a real deal American diner, born in 1964.

* Tucson Modernism Week takes place October 2-10 in venues around Tucson. For tickets and a schedule, visit or pick up this free Tucson Modernism Week Collector’s Guide, at locations in and around Tucson.

Me, My Clothes and I

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Style. It’s all around us – and especially on the streets. Adiba Nelson – fashionista, blogger, and self-confessed Nosey Nelly – goes in search for it. Photos by Adiba Nelson.


Adiba Nelson. Photo by Michelle Rooney Photography.

There is something magical about a person who is unabashedly comfortable in their own skin. When that person is a 6-year-old-girl, spinning and twirling like the world is hers, well, MIND. BLOWN. That is exactly what I happened upon as I scoured Tucson’s Museum of Contemporary Art last month, looking for my next style savior. There she was spinning and twirling and beng hoisted through the air, wearing a zebra print tutu skirt, pink leggings, a black tank top and princess heels. When I approached her to compliment her fashion choice, her boisterous ‘THANK YOU!’ hooked me, and I knew in that instant that I had found THE ONE.

Tucson, your sweet whirling dervish of the month is Miss Ellis Eshelman, Mermaid Princess daughter of Hilary and Andrew Eshelman. She is a sprite and a force du jour. That is the only way to describe her. Equal parts sass, sweet, and self-assuredness wrapped up in rainbow fairy wings, princess dresses, and red cowboy boots. I dictated the interview, she dictated the photo shoot, changing outfits approximately six times, as any young stylista would. I have no doubt that Ellis is going to take the world by storm, but for now, let her rock yours.




Describe your look. I don’t know how I would describe it! I just felt like wearing a dress that night. I was excited to see my Uncle Jim and so I wanted to wear it for him. He likes dresses.

Where do you shop? My mom does most of my shopping at Savers and Target, but it costs more at Target. But it IS my favorite place to shop – they have the coolest toys! I also shop in Omni’s closet. She’s my grandma – and she’s thrifty!

Fave piece of clothing – ever? My Elsa dress, and my mermaid skirt that I swim in. I love my mermaid skirt because I look like a real mermaid when I wear it! You could get a mermaid swimming skirt, but it would take a while to get to you. Mine took forever!

If you could dress anyone, who would it be? You! And Mommy and Daddy and THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD! I could go all around dressing everyone! I don’t know what I would have you all wear, but I would do it!

Ellis - Red Boots 2 What is your staple/go-to item of clothing? My red cowboy boots. They didn’t fit me for a really long time, but they finally do! And I love them!

Who is your style icon? YOU! (Me?) YES! FROM WHEN I SAW YOU AT THE PARTY!! (At this point I all but fell out and crowned Miss Ellis the Interview Queen.)


Can I have your mermaid fin? NO!! It’s too small, you’ll break it! But if it fit you, I’d let you borrow it. If you wanted to keep it, I’d have to keep one of your things. (Miss Ellis got a serious side-eye with this one.)

If the house is on fire, and you HAVE to get out – what do you save? Hooper! My cat!



* Read more from Adiba Nelson at her blog, The Full Nelson. You can also read her at The Huffington Post.

Love Ellis’ bold and girly style? Try these looks.

1. Custo Barcelona silk embroidered dress, $34 from OZMA Atelier

2. Rose leggings, $10.80 from Forever 21

3. Eliza J faux fur stole, $98 from Nordstrom

A style called Barrio Modern

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It’s southwestern, it’s mid-century, it’s very very Tucson. Rachel Miller uncovers the homegrown interior style that we’re calling Barrio Modern.

Photo courtesy of hazelbaker rush.

Darci Hazelbaker and Dale Rush’s Tucson home shows all the signs of being Barrio Modern: bright, natural materials, pops of mid-century. Photo courtesy of HA/RU

What do you get when you cross one of the longest continuously inhabited places in the US with a midcentury modern Mecca? Barrio Modern.

The colonial Spanish style, heavy rustic furniture, earth tones, and use of tin and copper, have long been characteristic of homes in the Southwest, a head nod to the Spanish occupation starting in the 1600s. This style stands in sharp contrast to the simple light lines of the mid-century movement in Tucson that has been defined as Sonoran Modern. But just as the Spanish utilized the regional materials, and adapted to the desert climate, so did the mid-century modern movement. Over the past couple of years we’ve noted a number of homes that take these shared themes to create something uniquely Tucson. We’re calling it Barrio Modern.

How can you achieve the Barrio Modern look?


The home of Tucson architect Bob Lanning mixes natural materials with modern chrome. Photo courtesy of Bob Lanning.

Establishing a home that reflects your more modern leanings, but also respects your physical home’s heritage, can be a tricky balancing act, especially when you live in a barrio home where a rustic style is typically de rigeur. If you’re looking to update your adobe abode décor and celebrate this rich culture and land we inhabit, or even your mid-century ranch style home, we’ve got a few pointers for you to create your own Barrio Modern style.

Be bold with color

Blinding white sunlight outside might sear the skin, but inside white provides a cool backdrop to some graphic and bright colors, and if there’s adobe or plaster there’s an earthiness that brings that cool white to the perfect temperature.

Darci Hazelback of architect and design firm Ha|Ru talks of how the renovation of their 1927 Tucson bungalow optimized white pure space mirroring the quality of light found in the desert and how the focus on local materials also reflected the rugged quality of the desert. “It reflects the true history and character of the home, exposing the bones and spirit of the house,” she says.

Whether it’s Oaxaca blue or Sonoran sunset hues, bold color plays a role in the cultural history aesthetic. This is not the place nor time to go with modern gray-brown monotone or close in the space with ceiling to floor deep blue and tin, rather keep the clean light feel with white and use the yellows, pinks, reds and blues for strong accents.

Barrio Modern in the Downtown Clifton. Color is important. Bold, bright against white. Photo courtesy Downtown Clifton

Barrio Modern in Tucson’s Downtown Clifton hotel. Color is important, with bold and bright against white. Photo courtesy of Downtown Clifton

Use natural materials

Bright colors might be the order of the day, but wood and natural fibers play an important role in this look.  Check out the use of plywood on the ceiling in the home of architect Bob Lanning (second photo from top) or the lathe walls in Darci Hazelbaker and Dale Rush’s  home (below). The emphasis on materials of a place is key in Hazelbaker and Rush’s design. “We combine vernacular design, using materials of a place and place specific materials, with a complementing modern design,” says Darci.

Barrio Modern, hacienda modern, tucson, hazelbaker, rush, haru design

Traditional barrio adobe homes use natural materials, Barrio Modern plays upon that using modern interpretations. Above: the home of architect/designers Darci Hazelbaker and Dale Rush. Photo courtesy of HA/RU.

Teak may not be local to Tucson, but we have some sweet local thrift stores and antique stores with mid-century items that are a perfect local source. Have a few pennies to rub together? The heavier rustic furniture might not be quite the modern line you’re looking for, but we have some incredible local woodworkers who use local materials to create something with more modern lines. Peter Baer of Baer Joinery is responsible for the fabulous communal mesquite table at Tap and Bottle.

Mesquite Table, barrio modern, tap and bottle

Barrio Modern uses local materials. This mesquite table at Tap and Bottle is by Peter Baer Photo courtesy of Rebecca Safford.

Bring the inside out and outside in

While haciendas had their courtyards, mid-century modern architecture had their patios, both emphasizing outdoor living. Organize your furniture to take full advantage of the views, which many of us in Tucson are lucky to have, and keep the the window treatments to a light minimum. No fabulous desert vistas to take advantage of? How about bringing the scene inside, either on the patio or use a twist on the cactus/succulent vibe with some air plants? (Check out our piece on how to grow air plants in the desert.)

Barrio Modern - HaRu Airplants

Airplants in the Hazelbaker Rush home

Tin and copper in the copper state

Embossed tin might not be your thing but local artist Rand Carlson’s tin works are a definitely funky twist on tin and Tucson. Or perhaps incorporate some corrugated iron around the bathtub as seen below for the Barrio Modern look. Bob Lanning describes his and wife Kate Hiller’s approach as “historically compatible”. He adds: “But sometimes it is more interesting to pick up ideas of our time.”  He explains that this happy medium of old and new comes in part “from working on a budget, being creative and finding affordable solutions.”

Barrio Modern Bathroom complete with tin backsplash and Rand Carlson tin art in the Lanning - Hiller home

A Barrio Modern bathroom in Bob Lanning’s home, complete with tin backsplash, Rand Carlson tin art and contemporary watercolor landscapes by Lanning. Photo courtesy of Bob Lanning.
















This isn’t Mexican Modernism, it isn’t Spanish Colonial, it’s not even Sonoran Modern. It has a distinctly Tucson twist that reflects the stark beauty of the desert, the warmth of the people and a rich cultural history. It’s Barrio Modern.

Compost without the ick factor

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Yeah, we know it’s good for the planet. But what the glossy mags and blog posts don’t tell you is that composting has its very dirty downside: bugs and vermin. Here, gardening columnist Darbi Davis lifts the lid (ouch) on composting without the icky live audience. You’re welcome.


Photo by Darbi Davis

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Recently, while on a job site discussing solutions to creative clothesline design, I found myself witness to a sci-fi-like battle between two native whiptail lizards over a gnarly, partially deceased cockroach. The fierce battle took place among the carrots and the kale and then abruptly paused. It seemed as though surrender was imminent – until the opponent re-emerged from the nearby compost with its own trophy, another writhing roach.

The business meeting was clearly disrupted by the fight but eagerly cheered on by the homeowner, who casually lauded the lizards with, “You go! You get ‘em!”

Later, mice were discovered in the same compost pile. It was a fine example of a multitude of personalities mastering the art of co-housing.

Photo by Julie Ragland Tucson

Photo by Julie Ragland

The whole episode not only made me think about my new neighbors’ plans to compost within 10 feet from the side door to my kitchen, it also made me ponder traditional composting methods – specifically the toss-in-a-pile or bin, and wait for it to bake.

There’s no doubt about the environmental upsides to composting. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2013 recycling and composting kept prevented 87.2 million tons of material out of landfills, compared to 15 million tons in 1980. The amount of carbon dioxide eliminated was equal to taking over 39 million cars off the road for a year.

But how do you compost, particularly within a town or city, and avoid urban pests? First, learn how to properly manage traditional compost piles. There’s more to it than dropping the New York Times filled with coffee grounds and apple peels onto the ground or into a bin. There’s a balance that involves temperature, moisture and movement. Regardless of your geographic location, without the equilibrium the result is a stinky, pest-infested, rotten mess that likely won’t be going into a garden nearby.

Here, then, are our tips for composting without the icky urban wildlife that can go with it.

1. Bring on the chickens

chickens edit

Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

Successful compost involves a few key ingredients: heat (of which we in southern Arizona are plentiful), moisture (a bit lacking in the desert), and color theory (gradient materials from green to brown). Omar Ore-Giron, owner of Native Roots, an enterprise specializing in passive water harvesting, permaculture, and native gardens, suggests one more ingredient for a pest-free traditional compost pile: chickens. “Every now and then, spread the compost out across the ground for the chickens to pick through. They eat the roaches, break down the compost, and poop, which accelerates the process,” says Omar. Speeding up the decay offers less time for pests to establish a community within your homesteaded compost program. This solution adds a few more steps to the process and mouths to feed, but it offers job security to retired hens. That sounds good to us!

2. Be a business owner

After less than a year of pilot testing, the City of Tucson’s Environmental Services department started a regular composting service for commercial entities which makes Tucson one of two communities in the state offering food scrap and yard waste removal for businesses. Commercial institutions can arrange to have their compostable items retrieved and taken to a composting site. The compost is then used in government landscaping projects.

How long before the program reaches residents? Programs of this nature are mandated at residential levels in other cities such as San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. Their benefits go beyond reducing waste. In tight urban environments and at the residential level, these programs offer opportunities to educate residents resistant to composting, provide convenience, and reduce infestation by urban pests. Let’s hope this program expands just as quickly to homeowners.

3. Private enterprise

Photo courtesy of scraps on scraps. (pending)

Photo courtesy of Scraps on Scraps.

Private enterprises fill the government void with similar results for those who buy in to the programs.

Scraps on Scraps, a private company in Tucson, provides a five-gallon bucket and bi-monthly pick-up of green waste for $13 a month. The green waste is delivered to Las Milpitas Farm at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, where it heats up and becomes part of the soil network that serves food insecure populations.

Shannon Sartin, co-founder of Scraps on Scraps says: “More and more of our customers are citing this issue [pests] as one of the reasons they want to sign up for our service.”

In spite of the rodents and roaches, composting is likely to become integral to our daily lives much like recycling has over the last several decades. An equilibrium of diligence and maintenance will likely be sufficient, but not for everyone. It’s important to keep up with pests beyond the simple fruit flies and maggots, which I can live with!

Photo by?

Photo by Lynn Davis

It’s likely that those well-fed whiptales digging in and around your compost, darting past your feet as you cross the yard are feasting on the roaches within – and loving every last bite. But you know what they say about roaches and mice – there’s never just one. They do like dark, moist places, and have their place in the environment, and compost is one of them, but not 10 feet from your neighbor’s kitchen door.

These suggestions, along with other composting methods such as vermicomposting (composting with worms) or Bokashi (composting via fermentation), offer quicker results, and reduce the pest population. Tucson resident Lynn Davis swears by her “off the ground” compost bins and outdoor worm tubes. She says: “I’ve never had roaches in my compost. Only the carrion fly larvae, and entomologists say that they’re beneficial. I have two rotating bins, one double, one that’s all the way off the ground, and another that closes pretty well.”

I, on the other hand, will stick to my beloved worms, or sign up for Scraps on Scraps, as well as encourage you to do the same if you live the urban life.

* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.


Natalie Wright goes deep (beneath)

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The planned return of the X-Files has nothing on Tucson’s Natalie Wright, author of H.A.L.F: The Deep Beneath. She gave up law to write adventurous young-adult fantasy and sci-fi fiction. Here she tells why you should never let her near your latte. By Joan Calcagno. All photos courtesy of Natalie Wright.

Early bird or night owl? “Night owl. I can be logical and productive in the morning.  I’m more creative when the sun goes down. There’s something about the dark or moonlight when people are asleep that allows our imagination to be more free. We’re not embroiled in the daytime issues. So in terms of my writing life, I’m much more creative between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. I write longhand in the evening and then the next day, in the morning, I’m typing that in, editing as I go.”

Favorite accessory? “My cat. I enjoy having a furry friend with me at all times. Things are just better when I have my baby near me.”

Photo by Natalie Wright

Tucson author Natalie Wright gave up law to write fiction.

Favorite faux pas? “Oh my gosh, there are so many! Here’s a socially inept thing I did. We’d just moved to Tucson, twenty years ago, and we were at the symphony. We hadn’t been there before. I saw all these coffees on this table and they had labels on them – latte, whatever. I picked one up and started drinking it. I’m walking away and this lady is complaining that she has been waiting for her latte forever and looks at me. And I realize my cup has a name on it. I don’t know what I was thinking – ‘Tucson is great! This is wonderful! There are coffees just sitting out!’ And now I’m drinking this woman’s latte. What do I do? I run with this latte as far as I can. My husband was mortified.”

Who is your dream reader? “I have readers from five years old to 90. But they have to be people who enjoy going along for a ride that’s probably not going to be quite like anything they have done before. Curious readers who enjoy an adventure, wondering ‘What is she going to do next?’ Readers who think young adult [fiction] means Twilight redux, they are not going to like my books.”

If I weren’t a young adult fiction writer I would…  “I would own a taco bar on a beach in Hawaii. That’s one thing I think is necessary and doesn’t exist yet. Every time I’m there I think ‘I could really go for a fish taco and a Corona or something’. They are missing the boat.”

If I could change one thing I would… “I’m in the middle of a very poignant time in my life and the observation I have at this moment, based on caring for my ailing parents, is that kindness is very important – human beings being kind to one another. I mean every day, day-by-day kindness. If I could change one thing, I would be more kind and I would be in a kinder world.”

Las Vegas Comic-Con. Photo by Natalie Wright.

At Las Vegas Comic-Con

What was the biggest surprise in leaving the practice of law for writing? “I disliked law school and I disliked being a lawyer, but I did it for twenty years. So I was more than ready to end my practice and had been moving in that direction anyway. My husband, who is my biggest cheerleader, said: ‘You need to give yourself six months to a year. You’re not going to leave this and turn around and write ten novels in a year.’ So when I moped around the house and couldn’t seem to get anything to happen for about six months, he said ‘I told you’. So that was a big surprise – that I would mourn the loss of something I didn’t even think I wanted.”

How did the idea for the H.A.L.F. story come to you? “I was driving along Sunrise Drive in Tucson. It was a really hot summer day and I had this song playing called Cowboys and Aliens by the band Gram Rabbit from the Joshua Tree area of California. And I’m looking down at the valley out across the mountains toward the south and I had this vision pop in my head. I went home and just wrote out an outline. The basic story line was there of an underground lab in Arizona where they were breeding alien-human hybrids and hybrids escape. I have this girl character and she meets up with one of them in the desert.

“I decided Ajo would be a perfect place for my teen protagonist to live because it’s out there by a missile range – miles upon miles of sort of nothing out there. And I thought that would be a really cool thing – what if there was something going on under the ground as well as above the ground?

“I love all the X-Files stuff. I’m not creating new theories, I’m playing into all the conspiracy theories that are out there  – you know, the 1947 Roswell crash, that there is this big underground facility in New Mexico where the alien-human hybrids are. I’m just saying ‘all this alien mythology already exists, let’s just assume that it is all true’.”

* Natalie’s newest sci-fi book, H.A.L.F: the Deep Beneath is available here. Find out more on her website and follow her on Facebook. 

* The X-Files returns to TV screens in January 2016. For a preview, click here.