After living in New York for more than twenty years, Christina and Robert Martinez, the couple behind and in front of the camera at New Darlings, decided it was time to create their very own southwest paradise. So they packed their stylish leather (we assume) bags and headed straight to Phoenix, Arizona, a city they knew nearly nothing about. What awaited them was more than just year-round sunshine and space to breathe, but an opportunity to create a new home together. In contrast to their boho-infused, pattern-heavy living quarters of the past, this time around they knew they wanted to stay true to the historic nature of their house and in turn, honor their own history and how it brought them to where they are today.
By surrounding themselves with prized family memorabilia and being intentional with what they bring in to every room, Christina and Robert are the perfect embodiment of Schoolhouse Living and mindful design. Take a tour below of their sun-soaked and Schoolhouse-filled classic 1930's Tudor home and read their challenges of renovation, triumphs of revitalization and practicing every day gratitude.
Tell us about your new home! How long were your looking and how did you know this house was the one?
"The search for our first home started back in March of 2016 when we had some family in town who wanted to know what the real estate market was like in Phoenix. At the time, it was more about curiosity than anything, but walking through a few homes with an agent really planted the seed that just continued to grow over the next few months. We knew we wanted to live in a historic home from the start. We knew we wanted a real charmer with nods to the past, but we were not prepared for how competitive everything was going to be. Our real estate agent, who has now become one of our dear friends, really urged us to pounce on any property that we loved right away. At first we thought she was a little crazy for being so aggressive, but we quickly realized that thinking things over for too long was the deciding factor in some of the earlier homes that we fell in love with and missed out on."
"We knew moving forward that once we found the right one, we would have to put in an offer right away. When we drove up to “our house” we knew it was going to be a special one.
You don’t often see pink tudor homes with beautiful, lush trees lining the house, green grass, and a perfectly manicured garden in the yard with hens, honey bees, and butterflies flapping right by our eyes. We were completely smitten and knew we wouldn’t find something like that in Phoenix ever again.
We thought it over for just a few hours and knew we had to put in an offer. The rest is history! This 1930’s tudor in downtown Phoenix is now our home and we are still giddy to call it our own after five months of living here."
What were your first priorities in terms of renovation? What was the jumping off point for the feel and design?
"To be honest, there wasn’t really a huge plan to renovate when we moved in. The previous owners did a wonderful job maintaining the historic nature of the house and we didn’t have intentions to make any major changes. After living in the house for a couple months, we started to wonder what we could do to make it feel more our own. We loved the current state of the home, but it didn’t necessarily scream us. We started with small thoughts… replacing the upper cabinets in the kitchen with open shelving to make the kitchen feel a bit larger and let in more light, replacing the existing vanity in the master bathroom with a double vanity, and removing the texture from the walls of the entire house.
We started there and quickly began adding things to our list. Before we knew it, we were completely redoing the master bathroom from scratch, upgrading the second bathroom, and giving the kitchen a face lift to make it a bit more bright and modern."
"I wish the feel and design came easy to us, but for some reason this house has really stumped us. We still haven’t completely figured it out after five months, but we know it will continue to evolve as we spend more time in the space. We knew we wanted the house to feel historic with one of a kind, vintage artwork, dramatic light fixtures, and a bit more personality than we had displayed in our past spaces. We want the rooms to invite our guests to explore them. Our books are on display all over the house, photos of our grandparents adorn the walls, and there is definitely an attention to those who inspire us."
Describe your aesthetic when it comes to decorating. What styles are you drawn to personally?
"Our style has evolved over the years and although we try to fight that sometimes, we are really trying to just let go a bit and let that shine. The apartment we lived in before definitely had some desert, boho vibes with a lot of pattern and tons of plants. We wanted to tone that down a little bit. It’s an old house from 1930 and we really didn’t want to just throw all of our current things in there and call it done. We are definitely minimal in style and color palette, and allow our personal items to give the space a cozy feel.
As we get older, we have turned our attention to our families and the history that led us to where and who we are today, so that’s been in the forefront as we decorate."
At Schoolhouse we’re very mindful of what we choose to bring in to our home. This season, we launched #schoolhouseliving: an ode to purposeful design + thoughtful living. How do you relate to that in your own home and way of living?
"Like we said, we definitely have turned our attention to our families and the history that led us to who we are today, so that’s been in the forefront as we decorate. Instead of our home feeling like it came out of a big box, we are being more intentional with what we have in each room. Books that were handed down to us from our late relatives, old black and white photographs from our grandparents dating years, personal notes we wrote to each other years ago, and souvenirs picked up from our travels are a few things you’ll find in our house. This is our first house and the memories we will make here will be so valuable to us, so it’s important to us to style with a purpose."
What are some of your favorite Schoolhouse pieces?
"We love our Princeton Long Plug-In Sconce that hangs in our living room. It provides the perfect light over our chair that we love to read at, and always receives a compliment as soon as our guests walk in the room. It’s a beauty! Our dining room is dramatically lit by the Vega 5 Chandelier which was the first new item we picked out when we moved in. We had our eyes on it for quite a while and couldn’t wait to make it the focal point of that room. Other than lighting, we proudly display the Hasami Mugs on our open shelving in the kitchen. They are the perfect contrast to all of our white dinnerware and are just so well crafted."
Do you have a favorite spot in the house yet? Tell us what you love most about your home.
"I’d say our favorite spot is definitely the dining room. It has a big archway that we love looking into or out of, coved ceilings, some shelving that we added and gets beautiful natural light in the morning as we have our breakfast. It’s the spot you’ll find us most in and we’re not complaining about that. Who doesn’t love a good, long meal, right?"
"Old houses tend to have trickier floor plans and we have struggled with that so far. Our living room is a long rectangular space with the entry to the house opening up in the middle of the room. It’s made it tough for us to figure out the placement for furniture. We’ve moved our couch around three times already and have tried five (yes, five!) different carpets in the room. We like to say that it's still a work-in-progress, with an emphasis on 'progress'. Ha! So stayed tuned for that reveal."
What makes a house a home to you?
"When I think back to my childhood home, I always think of the family parties we had there, playing board games with my sisters, my dad playing catch with me late into the night, and so many other great memories. I think that’s what it’s all about. Every time we host a little gathering, have family come from out of town, or even just a simple task like hanging a mirror on the wall, these are moments that bring a house to life and make it feel like home. We travel often and are so grateful for all the adventures and places we have been able to explore, but there is nothing better than coming back to a space that is solely for you and your loved ones. There’s nothing we appreciate more than having the windows open on the weekends, with our records spinning and preparing a good meal together."
"We have a few really exciting trips coming up, a website redesign launching late this spring, and turning our garage into a guest house are the next big things that are happening over here. We had hoped things would slow down after the renovations in our house, but we aren’t ones to linger around for too long, so on we go!"
If you were to sum up how you feel about your life right now, what you say?
"We are just so grateful. We came to Phoenix in 2013 after spending our entire lives up to that point in New York. We took a huge chance on a city we didn’t know too much about and in under four years, we’ve made lifelong friends, taken trips all over the world, and bought our first home together. Things haven’t always been easy along the way, but getting to take these chances together and learning from our experiences has lead us to where we are now and we are just incredibly thankful for that."
Images via New Darlings