Honeymooning their way through the desert, these newlyweds breezed into town all a flutter- picturing their new life and what it might be like to live in Phoenix. As with many Californians, Shane and Ellie were surprised by our real estate- the neighborhoods, architecture, prices, space, and style were so much better than expected. After touring through the Onyx house with the couple, I could see their wheels turning. They ultimately decided it wasn’t the right time due to work and school, but AZ would indeed be in their future. The couple returned to the Bay Area after honeymooning through the Southwest and resumed loft-living in Oakland, CA.
It didn’t take long before Shane and Ellie grew tired of covid-life in the city; they yearned for more space, more solitude, and a change of scenery. Timing was thrown out the window, and in its place was the advantage of working remotely, attending class online and figuring out how they could make life work in Phoenix. The pandemic made priorities crystal clear, and for this couple their #1 was each other.
With the Phoenix market becoming increasingly competitive and inventory shrinking in every price point, I knew it would be a challenge to find something worthy of the big move. Tapping into “off-market” homes (which really meant, approaching people I knew that wanted to sell) I was able to play matchmaker for a seller/dear friend and my new clients. It all felt serendipitous, no fuss- no muss, and the perfect welcome to Phoenix for a couple so in love.
Now, six months into desert living, the happy couple opened up their home and shared their story.
N: Where are you both originally from?
Ellie: From the DC Area by way of Paris. I grew up in Northern Virginia and moved to Denmark and then France. I lived in Paris for a few years before moving to the Bay Area.
Shane: From South Africa by way of the Bay Area. I grew up in South Africa and then moved to San Francisco in the early 90s.
N: How did you meet?
S: We met outside a bakery in Oakland four years ago. On an early Saturday morning. Pure coincidence.
Ellie: I had just moved to Oakland and was sitting on the patio having breakfast with my dog. This strange man who sat down at the table next to me started talking to me.
S: I was and am that strange man. Pretty quickly we were talking about obscure French pop music. Romance and ever-lasting love was therefore inevitable.
N: What do you both do for a living and have you been able to work remotely?
S: I run an advertising agency and we went fully remote soon after Covid hit.
Ellie: I’m an Account Executive at a tech company. We closed the office last March and made the decision to be permanently remote in September.
N: What made you want to leave Oakland/California?
S: We were looking to reset our priorities and build a new life. We were living together in an old loft in downtown Oakland. Basically a huge concrete room in a converted candy factory. We started looking around the Oakland Hills for something less “edgy” with more space. The double-whammy of Covid and the California fires hit Oakland really hard, so we decided to look outside the Bay Area for a complete change of scenery, more space and a different lifestyle.
N: What drew you to Phoenix?
S: Phoenix was an accident – a happy one at that.
Ellie: We had this big wedding planned in France last summer, grand château and all, and Covid canceled everything. So instead, we eloped in Joshua Tree on a whim in April. Shane’s mom lives in Santa Fe, NM so we wanted to go see her after our elopement. Covid was still very new and we were worried about spreading it. So we quarantined for a week halfway between Joshua Tree and Santa Fe, which just so happened to be Phoenix!
S: While we were quarantining, we started exploring and fell in love with the midcentury influence on the city. We’ve always loved the desert.
Ellie: And the heat!
S: Yes, we love the heat. So we kept coming back to visit!
N: What was the deciding factor on making the move now vs. later?
Ellie: Finding the right house – which we absolutely did.
N: How has the transition been from the bay area to the desert?
S: It’s been a warm (ahem) welcome. Seriously, it is certainly an adjustment, but we’ve felt really welcome. We have wonderful neighbors and have made some good friends. We are still getting used to driving everywhere, but we’ve also been walking and hiking for pleasure a lot more since we got here. We’re constantly amazed just how clean everything is here. I sometimes even miss the graffiti a little.
N: How would you describe your interior style?
S: Modern classics with a pop of personality. I keep our palette monochromatic and then accent things with color. Since we moved to the desert, we’ve put a lot more yellow into our life. I love that I painted my office wall a color called Golden Abundance – hat-tip to my friend Nick Mancusi who is a talented local architect here in the Valley and recommended the color.
N: What is your favorite room in the house?
S: The interior courtyard. It’s not a room, but it’s where we love to live. It’s also the most profound departure from how we lived in the Bay Area. Oh yeah, and the pool.
Ellie: Same here. The courtyard is essentially our living room. It’s where we are when we entertain and when we need a break during the work week, it’s where we relax. But, I must say, every morning when I wake up, that walk to the kitchen and how it opens up to the view of Palo Verdes makes me smile every time.
N: Favorite piece of furniture or art in the house and why?
S: Impossible question to answer because almost everything in here has personal significance. Probably our dining room table. It’s 14 feet long and made of resin. The artist Elizabeth Paige Smith built it and we wouldn’t have purchased the house unless the table fit.
Ellie: That table is the reason we had to move to Phoenix! We couldn’t find a house that could fit it in Oakland. Mine is the focal point of our living room. It’s an oil painting by Jennifer Morla and I love the textures and use of geometry. I think it’s perfect for our house because it accentuates the height of the roof line.
N: What has been the biggest surprise about Phoenix?
S: How green and clean it is.
Ellie: And how many liberal and like-minded people there are here.
N: Any favorite restaurants or places for take out so far?
S: Pizzeria Bianco obviously. It lives up to the hype.
Ellie: Flower Child and Sa Bai Modern Thai.
N: Any favorite shops?
S: We just love For the People – Shawn and Chad are wonderful guys with a sharp eye for interesting yet accessible design. Shameless Plug: They are now carrying some of the art that I’ve been making since we moved here. Phoenix inspired me to play with breeze blocks and color acrylic. My work is now hanging on their walls.
Ellie: We are also big fans of Now or Never – a really curated store that carries Margiela, Kartell and interesting local ceramics.
In a short amount of time, the couple has settled in their beautiful home, met some wonderful neighbors, shop owners, and even convinced some friends to take the plunge and move to the desert. It brings me great joy to play tour guide to help clients discover Phoenix; things they love to eat, wonderful places to shop and of course beautiful homes to live in. It is even more thrilling for me when I can welcome a couple like Shane and Ellie. I believe that the energy of love brings more love and when we welcome wonderful people to the valley, more wonderful things can happen. This is a love story as much about a couple as it is about our unique city.
Written by: Misha Renteria. Photos by: Spenser Lee