Taliesin West Visit (with kids!)

This has been the longest, weirdest summer ever and our our trip to AZ in June feels like years ago. But I realized I never wrapped up our Arizona architourism adventures (previous posts include CosantiArcosanti, and the Chapel of the Holy Cross). Only a few months late, I’m here with the granddaddy: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. We have stopped by before but were never able to tour until now and it was so worth the time, money, and sweat. If you ever are in the Phoenix area you must take a tour!

I highly, highly recommend that you bribe children into coming along with you so you can get in on the Junior Architect Tour (which may only be available in summer?). Whether the kids enjoy it or not, it’s tons-o-fun for adults and you cover a lot of ground, more so than I think you do on most other tours, the most important thing for this childish architecture-obsessed adult. I think we saw almost every building/room except the dining room, the cabaret theater, and a close look at the student residences.

The day we visited was in the 120’s, enough to make me seriously consider skipping our visit, so you can imagine my surprise when my kids toughed it out made it through the tour. But they did! And sort of enjoyed it. At least more than the quick, unguided Eames House visit that my children claim was the worst day of their lives. My son had a terrible rocky start but our tour guide, Don M., was wonderful, patient, interesting, and engaging with even the crankiest kid (A little history. FLW was in his SEVENTIES when he began building Taliesin West in 1937, and the campus remained a work in progress until his death in 1959. Imagine! He had opened an architecture school, Taliesin, in Wisconsin in response to dwindling architecture business during the great depression. His (much younger third) wife, a calculating behind the scenes string-puller from what I can gather, saw out of work tradespeople using the lull to take on apprentices and recognized it as a business opportunity for her husband as well. Taliesin West served as the school’s winter home.

The campus was built tucked into the foothills on the outskirts of Phoenix. The actual forms, the walls, are strikingly beautiful, built with rocks found on site and concrete, making the building truly one with its land, as all organic desert modern structures should be. The most exciting thing about the design to me, maybe obviously if you know me, is the abundance of crazy angles. (And abundance of fireplaces…) Unexpected and wacky angles jut out all over the place. Even in doorways. And the doors are all short. FLW was a short guy and didn’t consider the height/comfort of those taller than him…or maybe it’s all just part of his compression/release masterplan.

Tours start in the bookstore. Our first stop was FLW’s office. Best door. (And if you notice blue tape all over the buildings it’s because summer is repair/repaint time at TW.) Next up was the iconic reflection pool. Then we looped around the front yard, passing beautiful angle after beautiful angle… Then we reached the living room, AKA the Garden Room, used for Sunday social gatherings with the students, basically a lesson in manners and socializing and dancing (all the reasons I would drop out….). The furniture is futuristic, all Frank Lloyd Wright designs. I loved that it was a touchy tour and we could give the furniture a spin. What a lovable space!Next we saw the bedrooms and a meditative little courtyard. Olga’s first, then FLW’s. Hers: small, no bathroom. His: large, private bathroom. It was in his bedroom that a “highlight” occurred. We are all hanging out in FLW’s bedroom. Kids are laying on his beds. (Beds: The one on the left side of the partition is for uninterrupted sleep and one on the right is for okay-to-wake-me-if-you-need-me naps.) The adults are casually snooping around every corner, checking out the weird bed, the cool desk, the rock fireplace, the spacey aluminum bathroom. We walk out. A TW employee passes us on her way in and asks if we saw the rattler. That was apparently coiled in the corner of the fireplace the entire hang out. NBD. This may be an everyday occurrence to desert city dwellers, but I was so fascinated that the fire department was called in for the snake removal and relocation via snake grabber pole thing and bucket. Here is my kiddo contemplating life mere feet from a rattlesnake:Next stop was this amazing courtyard/fountain, the Kiva pool, and then the Kiva, basically a filming room (FLW’s usuals: westerns) with dramatic lighting that was years ahead of its time. Well lights are built into the floors and hidden uplights create mountain-like shadows on the walls. The room itself isn’t below ground, as a traditional Kiva would be, but it gives off that vibe. It was dark so I didn’t get great photos, but it was a beautiful room. Next up was the bell tower and a peek into the drafting studio, where actual students work and photographs aren’t allowed.Then we checked out the citrus grove and walked through these beautiful red doors into the music pavilion, the impressive interior of which I apparently didn’t photograph. TW is sprinkled with this signature orangish red and I can’t get enough. We got to walk by some of the student residences on our way back to the bookstore. Students live on site in a tent for the first years of their studies. As they progress, they are given an option to design and build their own small shelter on the property.Our tour concluded inside one of the student reading libraries, also not photographed, but thanks stranger for the family pic proving we survived.Even the parking lot is gorgeous. And the gutters…I’ll say it again, don’t miss this place if you have the opportunity to tour! It is a masterpiece.

In regular life news, I’m sorting out so many house projects to share soon. Legit baseboards. New furniture and rearranging. A semi-landscaped front yard. And (home)school starts next week so the pressure is on! See you soon…


Modern Screen Door

screen tight wood unfinished screen door diyI’ve wanted a screen door on our bedroom/backyard door since we moved in. It’s been one of those little projects that we just never get to. I’m not a screen door fan. They totally scream Southern/country to me and I would usually steer way clear of them. But in this instance it seemed like the best option. Our bedroom is lacking in windows and having the door open, an all day everyday habit, allows natural light, fresh air, backyard views…and bugs in. California bugs aren’t nearly as bad as other areas of the country, but they still bug. So my only requirement out of a screen door was that it kept the bugs out and let the light in while blending with our house in an unobtrusive and minimal way (read: no shabby chic country trash).We always thought we’d have to build one from scratch, the main reason we haven’t gotten to this project sooner, because there aren’t a lot of modern looking wood screen doors out there in our price range. Rejuvenation carries this one, which is decent looking but expensive. Last month, in a semi-desperate search for a cheap, temporary stand in, I saw this Screen Tight wood screen door in-stock at Lowes and decided to give it a try. It is simple, unobtrusive and just might even work as a long term solution. And for $70, way cheaper than anything we could throw together. (FYI Home Depot carries it too for even cheaper, though not in stock for us, and so does Amazon but for quite a lot more – which I almost paid before finding it locally because it’s still cheaper/easier than DIYing. Ours is a 32″ door for reference.) The downsides are what you’d imagine from a cheap, off the shelf screen door: it is sturdy enough, but slightly warped. We had to trim ours because something wasn’t square – totally possibly our house! The actual screen construction is flimsy, barely making it through taking it off/screwing it back on process in order to paint the frame. But now that it’s in we are SO happy with the quality for the price. It feels like it will last us for years and we like that the screen can be easily replaced when the time comes. Do you notice our fun little work around? We had to trim off the top corner of the screen frame to clear a roof beam. We thought it would look WAY worse than it does and be so noticeable that we almost abandoned the project, so we are so happy that it’s only obvious from certain vantage points. screen tight wood unfinished screen door diyThe screen door comes unfinished and painting it the same color as our door seemed like the best way to blend it seamlessly, so I went with Fireglow by Behr again, in their Marquee paint in exterior glossy…it’s NICE paint. Orange paint is notoriously a multi coat color, especially over white primer – which I always end up using because that’s what I have on hand and I’m impulsive. So anyways, this paint is high quality enough (paint and primer in one with excellent coverage) to skip the primer so that’s what I decided to do here. And after doing one thin coat, I stopped because I loved the accidental wood stain look achieved with the grain slightly showing through. It adds some interest in an otherwise flat scene.screen tight wood unfinished screen door diyWe decided to hinge it opposite our door because, as you can see, that configuration was the least awkward for passage. I think what often dumb downs screen doors is ramshackle, country looking screen door pulls. Instead I planned on going with this dummy knob that matches our interior door knobs. Way better right? But I hesitated in order to sit with it for a few days and I’m so glad I did because I actually ended up preferring no hardward for an ultra-clean look. We put a roller latch on the inside so the door easily opens with a light push or pull on the cross bar and, especially since this door doesn’t get a ton of traffic, the no hardware situation is totally doable!behr fireglow exterior paintBefore the screen door (and the chair paint faded) and after:screen tight wood unfinished screen door diyIt’s so lame to call this life changing for us, but it really has improved our day to day so much. We open it the second we open our eyes in the morning and don’t shut it ’til eyes shut at night. We love having a cheerful view to our backyard. Our bedroom used to take on so much heat in the summer and the screen has dramatically changed airflow to where it’s often freezing cold in here by the time we go to bed – the best! And NO MORE FLIES, though oddly the cutest baby lizard did sneak in under the other day. The only downside is that everything is way more dusty than it was before, but that’s a trade I’ll gladly make.

So what do you say to screen doors? Heck yes or hard no?

Master Bedroom Updates

I probably say this about so many rooms, but this room is actually my favorite. I love everything about it. The size, the furniture, the Halloween colors, the whole vibe. There’s been a few tweaks since last look and I’m here with them all. Changes include a new (to us) highboy dresser, a new ceiling fan, new nightstands, a new humongous bed, and amazing new wallpaper in the dressing room area! (All sources at end)I’d been unsuccessfully looking for a vintage highboy dresser since we moved in and as I was getting prepared to pay dealer rates, I found this one tucked away in a bedroom at a random, crappy estate last year that I almost drove past. It is by Red Lion and is marked as a sample on the back. I haven’t been able to find many examples of these (just this one on Chairish), but I do know mine didn’t have original knobs so I replaced the mediocre existing ones with giant vintage copper rounds.

A new and bigger mattress has been a HUGE upgrade. I was hesitant to go so huge and indulgent, but this large room can take a king and we are so happy with our insanely comfortable bed. One day we will get around to building a frame/headboard with floating nightstands, but for now this vintage cane headboard by Calvin Furniture and these nightstands from Target (found for $20 on sale) are stellar stand-ins.mid century bedroom black orange lane dresser vintageI love our dressing room new wallpaper so much. It really works with the bedroom.I blabber on and on about our new ceiling fan here. It is this one, and then I painted it/have issues… (And I’m trying out that clock from my son’s room but don’t think I’m loving it in here.)
Orange door is still going strong. I am obsessed with it to this day. The ONLY thing I would change is having a wall of sliders out to the backyard. All house things are possible, so maybe one day!? (Do you believe that? I do wholeheartedly, and I think it gets me into dumb house situations that other people don’t seem to find themselves in….)


side tables – Target | mobile – CB2 | headboard – vintage Calvin Furniture  | desk – vintage

wallhanging – DIY | low dresser – vintage Lane | tall dresser – vintage Red Lion | painting – me

sconces – vintage | ceiling fan – Possini Admiralty | mattress – Brentwood Home 11′ Bamboo

wallpaper – Norwall | black accent wall – Behr Stealth Jet | orange door – Behr Fireglow


We are nearing the end of the journey in here:

  • Remove so much wallpaper
  • Remove old shutters
  • Hang bamboo blinds
  • Paint walls/ceiling/trim
  • Paint black wall
  • Install sconces
  • Paint backyard door
  • New ceiling fan
  • Replace light switches
  • Paint pocket door between bedroom and dressing room…accent or boring white?
  • Install hardwood floors maybe
  • Black grasscloth for the black wall
  • Build bedframe
  • Build a screen door for backyard door (done!)

I’m not sure why we are incapable of sealing the deal on any one room, but we are *so* close this time! We actually just put in a screen door right after I photographed these, so I’ll share that soon (here it is!). And this week I’m hoping to hang black grasscloth on the black wall. I have the wallpaper, I just need to find the time to hang it. It won’t be a drastic change, but the heart wants what it wants and mine is forever stuck on grasscloth texture….

Thanks for looking at my bonkers room and for reading everybody! xoxo