If Tim Burton and Betsey Johnson were to build a life together in downtown Phoenix, it likely would look something like John and Liz Tavarez's 1926 Sears Craftsman home.
Located in the Fairview neighborhood just east of the Arizona State Fairgrounds, the historic abode is best described as gothic glam -- complete with macabre knickknacks, gold accents, and more skulls than you can shake a femur at.
"I've always been a little dark," admits Liz, an aspiring designer who received her residential planning diploma from the Arizona Art Institute. Since she and John, a musician and commercial manager, purchased the two-bed, one-bath home nine years ago, the residence has been an ongoing work in progress and live-in canvas for the creative duo.
Their improvements, which have included everything from gutting the kitchen to repainting the walls, are documented on Liz's blog, greyhousedesignstudio.com.
The Tavarez home offers a blend of antique and modern tastes. The original deco hardware has been left beautifully persevered on the house's whimsically small doors, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland or Willy Wonka, while the bathroom has been remodeled with white subway tile to give it a clean but classic look.
You'd be hard pressed to find too much color in any room. For Liz, black is always the new black. So she relies instead on the occasional statement wall or hanging art display to really make things pop. When it comes to art, the couple has done well to take make friends in the right places and they own works by Lucie Murtagh of London-based Luma Studio Ltd, Michael B. Patterson, and even a mural by Mikey Jackson in their backyard.
Even more eye-catching than their framed art however is Liz's "creepy cabinet." This armoire of morbid curiosities features shelves of discarded animal skulls, miniature skeletons, waxy decomposed candles, dead roses, and a gory photograph of a mutilated foot.
It's all visible from their cozy dining area, a room which demands attention thanks to a gold Tom Dixon knockoff lamp that projects an eerie red glow and looks straight out of the early 1970s.
When it comes to furnishing her home, Liz doesn't discriminate between dumpster diving and department store buying. Her favorite home decor destinations include everywhere from Target to Cucmberz to the city's big haul trash days.
"If I see it, I get it. And I make it work," Liz says, as she gestures to a worn antique leather chair from Rust and Roses that she had stapled back together.
Her favorite seat in the house is a discarded wingback chair she found on the curb. Liz replaced the seat cushion had the piece of furniture reupholstered through the Florence Prison.
When your tastes change as often as the Tavarez's, it pays to know where to cut corners. Liz notes that she made the mistake early on of buying expensive home goods and then hating them later.
"Now I get stuff that is affordable, that I really like, and then I get rid of it without the guilt," says Liz.
To the average house guest, the Tavarez home looks complete, but to Liz and John the devil is in the details.
"There's still projects I can do," says Liz as she looks around her spotless living room. She laughs and adds "And once I do, I don't know what I'm going to do!"
See more photos of John and Liz Tavarez's home on the next page.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.