Eye candy

graffiti art by Brooke Grucella

'You should be happy' by Brooke Grucella is inspired by the Bee Gees song 'You should be dancing'.

Tucson artist Brooke Grucella combines graffiti, comic books and surf culture into eye-popping art you could almost eat.

Somebody once said to Brooke Grucella: "Your colors are like taffy. You could almost eat it."

The Tucson artist says it was the best compliment she ever got. "That's how I feel about work that you like and admire. You just want to eat it. You want to ingest every detail of it. You're enveloped."

Enveloping people is what Brooke does, with art painted directly onto massive pieces of MDF, or sometimes onto walls, in a style that is somewhere along a continuum of graffiti, murals and comic books.

She picks up what she calls the "oops" house paint that people return to DIY stores, "because why let it go to waste, and sometimes those colors are really unusual". She adds acrylic paint, and sometimes ink and Sharpie pen, and she draws on the influences of her southern California upbringing - surf culture, graffiti and comics - to produce pop-arty images, statements on community, sexuality and "breaking from the system".

Brooke, a graduate of Arizona State University, didn't entirely break from the system herself. She says her brother summed her up exactly when he once said: "In a family of rock stars you are a roadie."

"I'm a nerd. I gravitate towards people on the fringes of the system, who do their own thing. But I don't think I'm quite on the outside that I aspire to," she says. Which is where the art comes in.

Brooke Grucella's 'don swallowed'

'Choking on reproach' by Brooke Grucella

Photo courtesy of Brooke Grucellaa






She grew up in Simi Valley, 45 minutes from Los Angeles, a place that prides itself on is clean air, good schools and low crime rates, famous for not much more than the fact it hosted the Rodney King trials.

On school field trips to L.A., she was drawn to the graffiti art around the canals and Venice Beach. "I was captivated by the fact that they were accessible to everybody," says Brooke.

"My family were not a family to go to LACMA or MOCA or any of the other places that are so accessible." So Brooke found art on walls, on the bottom of surfboards, and in comics. "We had a comic bookshop right up the way from our house. I read Image and the Marvel comics. I was enamored by Wolverine."

The store had a section that displayed customers' drawings, and it would always be a thrill for her when, aged 12 or 13, her copied drawings from the comics she was reading made it to that wall.

Now 33, her work is hitting walls all over, including galleries in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Tucson's Obsidian Gallery.

It's also at the new Session Yoga in Tucson's BroadwayVillage, owned by Brooke's friend Chelsea Lucas.

Chelsea and co-owner Kristin Horton commissioned Brooke to paint one of the walls in the studio. What emerged was a vivid show of some of the words that inspire the whole staff there: 'happiness', 'music', 'vinyasa', 'connect'.

Graffiti wall by Brooke GrucellaBrooke moved to Tucson in 2006 for a job as professor of practice and curator of the School of Art at the University of Arizona. She makes time in the evenings and the Friday afternoons she gets off early from work to paint almost every day, in the half of her garage that she has turned into a studio. She prefers painting huge pieces; the space frees her up to have more fun, she says. And she favors painting directly onto MDF than onto canvas. "Sometimes I leave the wood exposed and sometimes there are scratch marks. That creates texture."

In a show she takes part in next week at Legend City Studios in Phoenix, she has deliberately torn parts of the MDF and folded it into the work itself.

There is a "dark humor" to her pieces, she says. When commissioned by the Art Whino Gallery in Washington D.C. to do the 8ft by 20ft piece shown on our home page, she was asked to come up with something happy and lively. Sponsors of the show were SoBe and Vitamin Water. She says she had trouble, not just with the happiness element of it, but being told what to do. "To be forced into a kind of theme was the biggest challenge."

The result was a painting inspired by the song 'You Should be Dancing' by the Bee Gees. "Yeah well, my taste in music is eclectic," she laughs.

Evol Enrique

Photo courtesy of Brooke Grucella

graffiti art by Brooke Grucella

Photo courtesy of Brooke Grucella










Brooke Grucella in studio

Brooke at work on some more eye candy. Photo courtesy of Brooke Grucella


Pleased to Meet You

Florencia Turco DeRoussel, principal of Within Studio, on etiquette, old-fashioned phones, and why she might say no to Oprah.

Florencia Turco deRoussel

Photo courtesy of Within Studio

Are you an early bird or night owl? "Neither. I like to think of myself as a midday hummingbird. I'm at my most productive between 9am and 3pm. I'm flapping my wings, getting things done. I never get to bed before 10pm; I'm involved with a lot of non-profits so I always have events I have to attend. And I have to be up by 7am. But mornings are really bad for me. The earlier I get up, the worse I feel. It's like I've been pregnant my entire life."

Favorite accessory? "My red phone. It's an old classic telephone piece that hooks up to your iPhone. I got it from nativeunion.com. I love it because modern phones heat up really fast and with this I can coil the red cord around my fingers like I did as a kid with my grandmother's phone."

Pop phone

Photo: Native Union

Favorite faux pas? "I had an intern and she was Muslim and one day my colleague and I said we were going out for lunch and to have some wine. She looked at us and she said 'I can't' and she went quiet. Etiquette says you should not offer a women liquor, and also it was Ramadan so she was fasting anyway. I felt I should know better."

Dream client? "Who wouldn't like to have Trump or Oprah because there's nothing they couldn't do. But anyone could put $1m into a home and it would look fabulous. For me it's more creative to take something from Target and make it look trendy. My dream client would be a woman leaving a women's shelter for the first time. How wonderful would it be for me to work with people who couldn't afford me? If I could dedicate time to helping women create a home for themselves for the first time, that would be awesome. I would love to look at adding a non-profit entity to my company for something like that."

If I wasn't an interior designer I would be... "A food and wine critic. I know nothing about food but I love to eat. I know nothing about wine but I love to drink. I would eat and drink my way around the world and have them all be scared when I went into their restaurant."

If I could change one thing I would... "Make HGTV come with a disclaimer that said 'All designers are not like this!' It's a false reality. The shows are fun but it's not real. Coming in and spray painting a laminate countertop and expecting things to last, it's giving our clients a false sense of what's really doable."

Florencia is the owner of interior design firm Within Studio, part of 88 Cushing, a collection of multiple design disciplines in downtown Tucson.

My Space


Andie Zelnio My Space

Photo courtesy of Andie Zelnio

Architect-designer Andie Zelnio on the inspiration and memories she gets from a particular corner of her home.

“ I love to sit in this Eames chair and read or look at art books.  It's an inspiration, and it reminds me of my childhood home. There was a lot of south-facing glass, as there is in this house, and I would sit there in the winter with the warm sun streaming in the windows. There was a walnut coffee table my brother made in high school. That's now in my living room.

“This house was built in 1954 and as soon as I saw it it felt like home to me. I grew up in a contemporary home with contemporary furniture, in a house in Illinois my father built in 1954. In the rest of the house, I still have original 1950s tile in the bathroom, and in the den the cork floors are exactly the same as in my childhood bedroom.

The original cork floor in Andie's den is exactly the same as in her childhood bedroom. Photo: Andie Zelnio

"When I was house-hunting I only looked at houses that were built in the 1950s and 60s but so many people had come in and done the Home Depot remodel or enclosed the patio or somehow destroyed the character of the house in order to add square footage just so they could ask for more money. My real estate agent and I wrote an offer for this one on the spot. ”

Contact Andie Zelnio Design LLC at [email protected]. Tel: 520-979-6962

Square Feet


Michelle Hotchkiss real estate agent

Photo: Ellie Leacock

Michelle Hotchkiss, real estate agent and mid century fiend, has square feet and a nose for great property. Each issue she brings us her pick of the week.






Square Feet 10/1/12

Photo by David Olsen


Where it is:  In the Samos neighborhood of Tucson, near Salpointe High School

Listed by: Long Realty Company

The damage: $225,000
You’ll love it because: This classic 50's brick home is near the Mountain Avenue bike path with direct access to the UA. It's been stylishly remodeled with an addition added by Brooks Clifford Design.  Now there's an open floor plan and huge picture windows that capture the morning sun, also spa-like bathrooms (done in small spearmint-green tile) and, in the addition, lofty ceilings. Add to that the industrial steel-siding clad exterior and you have a contemporary gem in a historic neighborhood.

Here comes the but: It's only two bedrooms and two baths, but included are architect's plans for an additional guest room.

Find more of Michelle’s property picks at Atomic Tucson.

Square Feet 10/1/12

Photo by David Olsen

bathroom shoot Square Feet 10/1/12

Photo by David Olsen

Plywood is cool - yes, really


The plywood ceiling and landing of Bob Lanning's house. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Sick of cherry, pine and maple? Then allow us to make the case for plywood.

As an architect and builder of his own home in Tucson's Barrio Viejo, Bob Lanning knows a thing or two about great materials. So if he chooses plywood to make a design statement, then it's something for all of us to consider.

The ceiling of Bob's home is made of 12" wide plywood panels. For added interest, he left half-inch gaps between the panels to show off black building paper that was underneath. Plywood covers the steps of the stairs, and the floors in the second story. And in a rental he and wife Kate Hiller own downtown, there are plywood stairs and floorboards, as well as plywood on a kitchen island counter.

"Plywood gives the feel of wood but at a fraction of the cost," says Bob. "With such a tall space [in my house] a sheet rock ceiling would have been a missed opportunity."

Cody Lanning shows off a plywood floor. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Installing plywood meant he could have drama without the high cost,  he explains. "We did our house on a very tight budget and so we were looking at every possible way to save on construction costs."  A good grade of plywood comes in at $1 a sq ft, he says, compared to $3 or $4 for other types of wood.

The plywood cabinets in Jason Isenberg's loft-style home were not exactly pleasing to his eye at first. But that perhaps had something to do with the bright paint the former homeowners had used on them: gold, red, orange, green. "It was carnivalesque, like cabinets by Fisher Price," says the Tucson landscape designer. A couple of days of sanding later, he had returned them to their original state.

plywood in Jason Isenberg's house

Plywood cabinets in Jason Isenberg's kitchen. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Like the kitchen, the upstairs floors of Jason's home are constructed of  Baltic Birch plywood, by nature a soft wood and thicker than the average plywood. And with two large dogs in the house, they got beat up pretty fast.

Jason says he had a choice: replace them, or embrace the lived-in look, which is not so much shabby chic as active pooch. Now he displays a sign in his guest room explaining to visitors that the previous homeowners, who installed the plywood floors, were planning on being shoe-less and dog-less. "My life is neither shoe-less nor dog-less... dogs romp, shoes clomp, and the floor remains... in its imperfect grandeur," says the sign.

Tucson architect John Messina'slove of plywood is evident in just about every room of his historic Sam Hughes home. There's a circular plywood dining room table, a plywood headboard in the master bedroom, plywood in the countertops of the master bathroom and - the proof that plywood is indeed a material to celebrate - a whole home office made of plywood, from floors to ceilings to built-in cabinets.

Baltic Birch is his choice too. In the office, he made things more interesting by staggering the joints of the ceiling. In the master bathroom, he glued fiber cement board - usually used for exterior siding or trim - to plywood to make a counter you're not likely to see anywhere else.

plywood in John Messina's house

The office space in John Messina's house has plywood walls, ceiling and desk. Photo by Gillian Drummond

plywood in John Messina's house

Plywood with a fiber cement board overlay in John Messina's master bathroom. Photo by Gillian Drummond

It's not the first time plywood has enjoyed a cool factor. Charles and Ray Eames, the husband-and-wife furniture design team, used it for their Herman Miller molded plywood chairs in the late 1940s and beyond.

"There is a history of architects using plywood, especially mid century architects.  It was one of the new 'modern' materials they were experimenting with It was readily available and conveyed the warmth of wood at an inexpensive price," says 3 Story's own Patty Warren of Warren Architecture.

With today's homeowners no only looking to save money, but also to stand out with their design choices plywood may be making a well-deserved comeback.

Other plywood tips:

* Not just any old plywood will do. Go for Grades A or B rather than Grades C or D if you want to do something visual with it. A and B are higher quality, with fewer voids or gaps. Patty suggests having a Grade A or B on at least one side, the side that will be visible.

* You might have to venture further than a DIY store for higher-quality grades. John Messina's favorite supplier is Hood Distribution on S. Toole Avenue.

* Should you varnish or stain it? It depends. Bob Lanning's ceiling wood - far away and hardly likely to get damaged - is raw and unvarnished. But when it came to laying the floor - also 12" wide planks - "we sanded the heck out of them and put on four or five coats of polyurethane sealant," says Bob. John Messina says he always prefers to finish his with varnish.

* What is plywood anyway? It's an engineered wood made from thin sheets of wood veneer stacked together and glued together.

* What is Baltic Birch plywood? It's produced from the birch trees in the Baltics and commonly has more plies or layers of wood for a given thickness than North American plywood.

Plywood ceiling with stainless steel rivets
Photo by Madeleine Boos



Et Cetera

A Pumpkin Fiesta: Glass Pumpkins and Sensible Shoes

Sonoran Glass School fundraiser
October 5, 6 and 7 10am-5pm
633 West 18th Street, Tucson, AZ 85701
FREE and open to the public

No Cinderellas with glass slippers need apply.

For three days, the Sonoran Glass School fills its studios with handmade glass pumpkins, gourds, acorns, and other fall-themed glass art of all styles and prices. Watch pumpkins being made or place your custom pumpkin order in advance by calling (520) 884-7814. Better yet, blow your own pumpkin during the fiesta for $85 per person (it takes 30 minutes). It's first come, first served - and it's kid-friendly too!

Photo: Sonoran Glass School

Photo: Sonoran Glass School


The Sonoran Glass School is a 501(c)(3), non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting the appreciation and awareness of glass as a visual arts medium. For information on classes, community events or workshops call (520) 884-7814 or visit Sonoran Glass School.


AIA Lecture Series Celebrates Tucson Architecture Throughout the Century

Saturday, October 6. Lectures run throughout the day in 30-40 minute intervals, starting at 10am
Tucson Museum of Art /140 N Main Avenue, downtown Tucson
FREE and open to the public!
The series offers a diverse group of presenters, perspectives and images capturing the rich architectural history of Tucson. It includes:

Downtown Tucson circa 1912 Photo: Tucson Flyer

An architectural postcard from Tucson in 1912, a time of walkable streets, downtown grocery stores and climate-responsive buildings; the history of the Mexican house; the re-purposing of Tucson' old building for new use; and, for all you Mad Men and women, a talk on Tucson’s rich collection of Mid-Century Modern architecture.  Drop in or spend the day. More information from AIA Southern Arizona.


Southern Arizona AIA Home Tour

Sunday October 7, 9am – 4pm

Photo: Bil Taylor

We know we piqued your interest in our first issue, so now it's time to put the date in your diary. Take a self-guided home tour featuring six private residences designed by Tucson architects. The tour features “modern desert” digs to multistory urban dwellings, new construction and total renovations.  Whatever your preference, prepare to be inspired.

Tickets are $22.50 A portion of the ticket price benefits Habitat for Humanity. Tickets and more info at (520) 323-2191 or AIA Southern Arizona.

Home Improvement Starts Here: SAHBA Home Show

Photo: SAHBA

SAHBA Southern Arizona Home Builders Association Home and Garden Show
October 5, 6 and 7 at Tucson Convention Center, 260 South Church Avenue downtown Tucson
Friday and Saturday 10 am to 7 pm
Sunday 10 am to 5 pm

Design begins with an idea and sometimes a faucet. You'll find the very latest in kitchen and bath trends, energy- saving windows, outdoor living spaces and any other topic relating to home improvement (and also your dog's well being...) Admission is $8; half price for ages 50 and over on Friday. Military discounts are available all days. Children 12 and under are free. More information at (520) 795-5114.

Note to self: Find great products, meet great contractors, but first, call my favorite architect or designer.

2012 Tucson Culinary Festival

If you're a foodie or a wine lover, hoof it on over to Casino del Sol Resort for wine, cocktails and signature dishes from over 40 Tucson Originals restaurants.

Photo: Tucson Originals

Saturday October 6 5pm - 9pm
Camino del Sol Resort
5655 West Valencia Road Tucson
(855) 765-7829
The Reserve Tasting
5 - 8pm
Sample boutique wines perfectly paired with specialty dishes poolside. Tickets are $100 per person in advance ($125 at the door ) and include entry to:
The Grand Tasting
  6-9 pm
in the Grand Ballroom  (but of course.) See and be seen amidst the  delicious assortment of wines, micro-brews and beers, cocktails and delectables. $65 per person in advance ($80 at the door)

A portion of the proceeds benefit Tucson Values Teachers and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber Foundation Scholarship Fund. For more info and tickets visit Tucson Originals. (Pssst.....as if that's not enough, the festival culminates with The World Margarita Championship™, Friday, October 26, 6-9pm at the Tucson Museum of Art.)

How Do You Do Tucson

It's the 39th annual Tucson Meet Yourself Folklife - a three-day festival with six stages, 250 performances, 100 + folk artists, 65 food vendors, artists, crafts, music, dance, workshops, lectures, hands-on activities and delicious food.

Photo: Tucson Meet Yourself

Friday October 12, 11am – 10pm
Saturday October 13, 11am – 10pm
Sunday October 14, 11am – 6pm
(520) 370-0588

Tucson Meet Yourself is a non-profit, 501c3 organization dedicated to researching, documenting, interpreting and presenting the living traditional arts and expressions of everyday life of the folk and ethnic communities of the multi-national Arizona-Sonora region.

Real Estate Agent Mixer with a Difference

Photo: Make a Wish Foundation

When Bob Zachmeier turned 50, he decided to give something back. His birthday party was a conference for real estate agents in which the Win3 Realty owner shared his secrets for business success, and at the same time raised $50,000 for Make-A-Wish Arizona.

Three years later, Zachmeier's conference has become an annual event and raised more than $150,000 for children’s charities. Last Friday's gathering raised another $32,000 (including a match from the national chapter of Make-A-Wish), enough to grant the wishes of ten local children.



All lit up

Side Down Furniture. Photo courtesy of Smart and Green, www.spacelighting.com

Who needs candles and string lights? Luminous furniture and accessories are where it's at.

When Tucson's designers and architects gathered for 3 Story's launch party recently, there was something other than our new magazine piquing their interest.

On the back patio of the home of 3 Story's Patty Warren sat a knee-high acrylic cube that glowed different colors in the dark, lending a space-age feel to her yard and giving the guests much to chatter about.

It was Patty's son Evan who first spotted the luminous cubes, at an outdoor restaurant while on  vacation in Sint Maarten.

Photo courtesy of Smart & Green.

Measuring 17" by 17" and fitted with 52 LED lamps, they change colors across the full spectrum. The lamps are activated by a charging station. Once fully charged, the Cube can be set to illuminate white light in three brightness levels, or a flickering yellow candle effect, or a steady color of your choice, or a dynamic setting. The last is Patty’s favorite.

"It's a delight to watch and a definite eye-catcher," she says.  "One evening I even had some neighbors come over to my house asking what the 'cool glowing thing' was on my patio."

The French manufacturer of the cubes, Smart and Green, is an eco-friendly company whose products strive to reduce electrical consumption and carbon footprints while offering new and innovative lighting products. They offer a variety of  shapes for the lamps - including Flatball, Tower, Vessel and Zen - with prices ranging from $209 for Flatball to $299 for the Cube.

Flatball. Photo courtesy of ylighting.com

Dewdrop. Photo courtesy of ylighting.com

Tower. Photo courtesy of Smart and Green, spacelighting.com

UP Furniture. Photo courtesy of Smart and Green, www.spacelighting.com

And the fun doesn't stop there. Smart and Green also has illuminated furniture, while Illuminated Planters has pieces - from planters to wine chillers - that stand alone as sculptures, with or without the inclusion of a live plant.

Sculptural Vessel.

Wine Chiller.

Seat Planter.

            Above photos courtesy of  Illuminated Planters

The lamps are waterproof, they can be used inside or outside and they can even be floated in your pool, if so desired.  The down-side? None of these luminous objects are cheap. And since they're sealed, with the wiring inside of them, if the LED lamp breaks, there's no way to repair it. Also, they probably don't want to be left outside under our blaring Arizona sun for days on end.

Cubes. Photo courtesy of Smart and Green.

For the total “green package”, ‘Patio Living Concepts' Garden Glo Planters with solar-powered LED lights get our vote for a perfect glowing solution.

Garden Glo Planter. Photo courtesy of Patio Living Concepts.








Here in Tucson, architect and artist Joe O’ Connell is working with LED lamps on public art pieces, like the Desert O outdoor sculpture he donated to the City of Tucson for downtown's West Alameda.

Detail of 'Desert O'. Photo courtesy of Creative Machines.

During the day, the sculpture gathers energy from the sun and stores it in a battery. At night, the energy stored from the sun is used to activate intensely colored LEDs inside the sculpture. Every night of the week has a distinct pattern of colored lights that move slowly inside the sculpture. Frosted acrylic panels make the entire sculpture glow brightly, and one of the bolt heads is a secret button that allows passers-by to change the colors by touching it.

But in the short few years since he completed the sculpture, LED lamps have become more powerful. O’Connell plans to upgrade the Desert O soon.  Meantime, Joe and business partner Blessing Hancock are working on three new public art pieces that will be installed over the new few years in Tucson. But that's for another, future, 3 Story story.

The Desert O. Photo courtesy of Joe O'Connell and Blessing Hancock Public Art.

What is an LED lamp? It's a solid-state lamp that uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as the source of light. LEDs have many advantages over incandescent light sources including significantly lower energy consumption, much longer lifetime, smaller size and faster switching. LEDs do not contain mercury, unlike fluorescent bulbs.Thanks to the prices dropping, LED lights are now being used across the board, replacing incandescent and compact fluorescent lights in homes and offices, and even holiday lights.