This Darling House

Chances are you have seen the incredible home of the New Darlings before- whether directly through the couple’s Instagram, blog, or browsing on Pinterest, you likely have encountered these stunning Tudor with it’s stylish, earthy decor.  Owners, designers, and influencers, Robert and Christina Martinez, have transformed their home over five years- adding so much value, beauty, and style to their space.  The couples choices have thoroughly enhanced the aesthetic of this 1930 Tudor home, celebrating the historic qualities while showcasing their love of the desert through palette choices and airy decor. It’s impossible to not fall in love with; the yard is a magical reprieve from the heat- lush, mature, and green- the guest house lets your creative ideas flow and the primary suite could rival any multi-million dollar home with it’s expansive closet, skylights and vaulted ceilings.

So why sell this little slice of heaven?  I’m sure so many are asking this question, (in fact I know the couple has received endless DM’s asking this very thing) and rightfully so.  It’s hard to find incredible homes like this, and even harder to live through the scale of renovations they have done.  After years of remodeling, additions, and improvements, this couple is ready to start anew in true designer fashion. They yearn for space, views, and solitude- as well as another big project!  

Dream clients and dear friends, Robert and Christina (and Ollie of course) have been hard at work planning their next move. After helping with the purchase of their beautiful home in 2016, I was thrilled to be chosen to represent them on the sale. While preparing to list the home we reminisced on their journey of homeownership and the incredible growth of their business and family.  

N:   How did you find this house? 

D: We started looking at homes very casually in 2016, with really no style or neighborhood in mind. We were randomly linked up with you (Misha) on a real estate site while my parents were in town and honestly, we just wanted to get a feel for the real estate in Phoenix, as we had no prior knowledge of it. From March until October of that year, we looked here and there until we found our beloved Tudor. It was painted pink, and was covered in trees. It felt like the homes we were used to seeing on the East Coast, so it just pulled us in and we couldn’t look away. We put in an offer the same day and the rest is history.

N: Did you immediately have a vision for this house? Or did it develop over time?

D: Everything definitely happened over time. When we first moved in, we were stumped by the layout and the style. Our design always leaned a bit mid-century, but we didn’t know how that would fit into a home built in 1930, so we initially designed on the traditional side, but over time it just didn’t feel like us. We tweaked and tweaked until we landed on what we have now which feels light, airy, neutral and desert appropriate. We wanted that breath of fresh air that you feel when you’re in the open desert, without stripping the house of it’s 1930 charm and character. I think we achieved that. 

N: If you can recall, what was home ownership like early on? What were some of the challenges?

D: We never owned a house before this one, and I remember at first just feeling like we were borrowing someone’s house. You’re living among someone else’s design choices and finishes, so it’s all very funny at first. The previous owners had a garden in the yard with all sorts of fruit trees and arbors, which was probably very suited to them. For us, a lot of it wasn’t useful, but that all took some time to figure out.

N: How has travel affected your design choices and overall aesthetic?

D: Traveling has played such large role in our design aesthetic, however it can definitely mess you up too. We saw so many amazing styles in various different cities and countries and we wanted to go home and apply them all to our house, but it doesn’t always translate well. We stayed in some gorgeous hotels in Europe, but trying to bring those elements to Phoenix just never felt right. It was actually when we stopped traveling that we really honed in on the desert style that we’ve come to love so much. We want our home to feel like it is a representation of the city we live in, and be a reflection of the surrounding landscape. Now, we focus more on bringing home small accents and touches of a city we loved, verses a whole design aesthetic. 

N: Do you feel like your home is a capsule of your story?

D: Our story is definitely written all over our home. From the soap, to our books, and even some linens, our home is a mixture of where we’ve been and where we live. We have such a respect for the desert and the Southwest, and really wanted to capture that all within our walls. Our wall to wall bookcase and shelving unit is one of our favorite elements in our home. It was such a labor of love and made locally here in Arizona with Affinity Kitchens. I love that we worked so closely with the designers there and the shelves are coved in some of our favorite books and ceramics from makers across the globe.

N: When did your big remodel occur and what was the scope of the project?

D: Our remodel happened in a few phases. The first one was just minor tweaks in 2016, the second phase was the guest house in 2017, and then in 2018 we really went for it. The 2018 renovation was everything we wanted to do and then a little more. We didn’t really pump the breaks and just made all the changes at once. It made sense for us at that point – we had already been living in the house for a bit and really gained an understanding of how we lived in the home, so each change was very intentional. 

N: What did you learn from the first remodel that helped in the 2nd?

D:We learned that communication is key. With the first one, we would lay out our plans and asume they were understood. It taught us that finding the right contractor and team with the same vision as yourself, is so important. (For the couple’s most recent renovation, they used Loyal Construction Co and Ron Elliot Studios)

N: What are your favorite rooms or areas of the house?

D: The main suite is our favorite area of the home. From the vaulted ceilings and skylights, to the big soaker tub in the bathroom, and finally the big walk-in closet with laundry. It checks all of our boxes and we’re really going to miss it when we move out. It just has that fresh feeling and has been the perfect space to wake up in each morning.  

N:  What projects did you think about doing, but just didn’t get to?

D: At one point, we were set on adding a pool to the yard. The summer’s here are pretty tough to get through without one, but in the end, we just didn’t go for it. One of the things we were attracted to the most with this property was the lot size so close to downtown. We kind of have the best of both worlds with a lush, private yard and being able to hop on the freeway to get to all of our favorite places in Phoenix. I still think a pool is good idea though – whoever ends up loving this home next could really create something special back there. 

N: What do you hope the buyers of your home will enjoy? Keep? Treasure?

D: Oh man! I hope they keep it all, but would totally understand if they changed everything as well. We did, haha! We designed every inch of the house to reflect everything we love about design. We collected ceramics for years that fill the shelves, we retained the original archways that give the house so much character, the wall-to-wall book case was so meticulously planned and executed, and the finishes we chose are modern, yet classic, so we really hope that the next owner falls in love with it as much as we did. Also, I hope they put that guest house to good use! This last year has been such a difficult one for everyone, but I think people are really looking forward to gathering with friends and family again. 

N: The best advice you can give to those that are house hunting…

D: Be open minded to the experience. You may be led to something you didn’t even know you were looking for. We never intended to renovate, or live in this neighborhood, or raise a baby here, but it all happened and we loved every minute of it. Yes, it was all a bit stressful too, but we’re so happy we lived through it. I think if we were fixated on a specific type of house or an exact location, we would’ve missed out on a real gem, like this Tudor. Homes can always be tweaked over time and become exactly what you want it to be, so don’t get too caught up on the paint color or a light fixture. It’s all part of the process!

Mixed with emotions, Robert and Christina said farewell to their home and moved into a condo in Phoenix for the transition between spaces.  It was a tough goodbye, and at times it felt like the house just didn’t want to let them go; but in the end this house found its new owner and steward for the next handful of years.

Something I always say to my first-time homebuyers is, “It’s a starter for a reason, it gets you stared on your journey- and likely won’t be your forever home.”  I mean that whole heartedly, yet I also know that it’s so hard to leave your first home, especially when you have had such an amazing life within its walls.  This home really catapulted Robert and Christina into full fledged interior designers and helped them grow so much- but it is only the beginning of this mega-talented couples journey.  As I walked through the home for the last time, making sure we were ready to close, I was a bit overwhelmed with emotion for my friends; they would never sleep there again, eat in the dining room, have friends over in the yard- it really caught me off guard.  As I composed myself, I thought of the lasting impact they made on such a special home in Phoenix and in the neighborhood of Brentwood Historic. Let the journey continue and your next home be even more special than the first! 

Written by: Misha Renteria

Photography: Austin Baker

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