Extreme personal-style makeover

Grunge is gone: Home purchase a catharsis for owner
2011-06-19T00:00:00Z Extreme personal-style makeoverBy Gillian Drummond Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

If you were looking for one word to describe Jason Isenberg, you might choose polished.

And his house? Orderly. Very.

Bohemian, though? Absolutely not.

The man who stands before you in pressed khakis and golf shirt, skin that looks like it enjoys regular facials, and hair that gets cut every two weeks, screams metro-sexual rather than slacker dude.

So, when he tells you he is a recovering bohemian and shows you photos of grungier days - sporting long hair, a trench coat and military-style boots - it takes a moment for that to sink in.

When people buy a new home, they tend to want to transform it, or at least put their mark on it. For Isenberg, the home transformed him.

When he saw this modern two-story house plus guesthouse - designed and owned by architects Rénee Cheng and Eric Olson - he jumped at the chance to own his first home. Having heard about the forthcoming sale from a friend, Isenberg managed to secure the deal before it even went on the market.

But he felt that the easygoing, rambling decor of the downtown rental he was living in at the time, one with hand-built furniture and collections of "cool-looking seeds," wouldn't translate well to his new space.

"I had very little furniture; I was a garden guy," he explains.

And so began Isenberg's own personal style makeover. He bought contemporary furniture from the likes of West Elm and Room & Board, plus a few rustic pieces from Colonial Frontiers in Tucson's Lost Barrio. He went for simple, clean lines, like the leather Le Corbusier-style chaise longue.

He dumped a lot of his former belongings. He looked around for a good hairstylist, downed a couple of glasses of Scotch and dumped the hair, too.

"It was a total catharsis for me," he says of leaving his clutter behind. "We're all bound by all of these tangible trappings." His solution for getting over it? "I took a photo, and that solved the problem."

The 1,800-square-foot main house, built in 2001, was already set for energy-efficient living, with insulated block walls, rolling metal shutters on the two-story windows, and concrete floors on the ground floor.

But Isenberg, a graduate of the University of Arizona and owner of a landscape design, building and maintenance company, Realm: An Urban Organics Company, has added to that.

He designed a sunken patio for the backyard, which not only provides a hip entertaining spot but offers other advantages, too. Situated 30 inches below ground, it is pitched so that water runs to two drains and, via underground pipes, irrigates a line of trees outside of his perimeter wall. And it gives the backyard extra privacy and quiet from the street.

"I'm not a view gazer," says Isenberg, 40, who would rather focus on his guests, he says. "My personal philosophy is: if I want to see the mountains, I'm going to go for a hike."

In his guest room, one of several rooms in the house with bold painted walls, is a large chalkboard where he writes messages to visitors and they leave messages for him.

One of them wrote: "Faces have wrinkles that show your life, just like your floors."

It was a reference to the plywood floors that cover most of the second floor of the home. They came with the house. Isenberg considered replacing them, as he knew the plywood would get scratched by the paws of his two dogs, and by shoe-wearing guests.

But in the end he kept it and let the scores, nicks and scratches leave their mark. Which would suggest that there's still some grunge in the guy yet.

Ideas to Steal

• Happy hour - A "cocktail garden" of planters at the side of the house is home to semi-dwarf Meyer lemon, Mexican lime and ruby red grapefruit trees.

• Crop rotation - Vegetables are planted in a series of sectioned-off mini gardens, raised slightly from the ground and edged with 4-inch by 1/8-inch steel straps. This makes it easy to manage separate crops, says Isenberg.

• Easy does it - When accidents happen in the only carpeted area of the house - the living room - the FLOR carpet tiles are easy to remove and clean. For more information on FLOR's recyclable and partly recycled carpet tiles, visit www.flor.com

• Locker room - A bright orange locker, from a client who wanted to throw it out, provides storage with a punch in the living area of the house.

• Roughing it up - Isenberg's kitchen counters were originally sealed stainless steel. He had the protective coating stripped off and took steel wool to it to give it a more lived-in look.

Contact Realm: An Urban Organics Company at 791-9131 or www.realmenvironments.com

Gillian Drummond is a Tucson freelance writer.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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