I visited Brian and Susan for the first time in 2005, when I lived in Oregon and they hosted a family gathering. I fell in love with their house then and couldn't wait to come back this time with my camera. These two creatives are so inspiring. I guess that’s what happens when an architect and an artist come together. But also, this landscape. Can you imagine waking up to these mountains every day?
It starts with the handmade purple cactus screen door. And then the gardens. They’re all around the house, and each one is its own beautiful vignette. Everywhere you look, there’s something amazing to discover—both inside and out. Brian designed and constructed must of the structures, including the fence and gate above.
Two standout favorites in the back yard: the old truck above, which Brian took from Susan’s brother Charlie’s ranch and repurposed as a giant funky grill cover, and the striking bright pink wall with the purple cactus cut-out gate below.
I remember Susan telling me years ago about how her mother had arranged groups of plants in pots every year on their patio. She’s carrying on the tradition, and man, is she doing it well.
I learned a lot about the family on this trip. Susan’s mother Mary Jo moved to Tucson in her early twenties because she was told it was good for asthma. Mary Jo’s Aunt Emmy (my Dad’s great-aunt) also relocated from New England to Tucson and opened a gift shop downtown. Both Mary Jo and Aunt Emmy had artistic taste and a good eye—I still have beautiful bits of silk and lace that Emmy gave my mom years ago. It’s very comforting to know that all these strong, artistic, adventurous women are in my genes.
And what better place to move than one filled with natural beauty and amazing art? We happened upon these beautiful Mexican painted animals when we visited Tohono Chul, a botanical garden and gallery where Susan had a painting on display.
And I went crazy over the cacti. Naturally.
We took a short jaunt downtown to historic Fourth Avenue on our last day there. I found this amazing courtyard of repurposed shipping containers selling food and drink. It’s called The Boxyard and appears to be a sort of semi-permanent food truck situation. Doesn’t this seem like something we should recreate here in West Virginia?!?
Public art is clearly a priority in Tucson. They’ve even worked it into their bus stops. That sort of dedication really sets a tone.
On our last night, we got to have dinner with Dad’s cousin Charlie and his partner Connie on their ranch.
The skies are big and wide there, and both the stars and the company were fantastic.
I told Dad he and Charlie look like east and west coast twinsies. Not only were they both wearing tucked-in plaid shirts and work boots, but also identical Carhart jeans. Whoa.
I get it now, why people go to the desert seeking clarity. I came back from this trip having found some, and some artistic inspiration to boot.