Walking into Sam and Anita Means' Craftsman home on a cold, wet January day is like being transported to another season. One where the sky is clear, the sun is shining, and the flowers are in full bloom. The walls in the front room are painted an eye-popping coral hue, framed by bright, white wainscoting. The centerpiece of the space is a deep, shabby-chic-inspired sofa, replete with many soft, cozy pillows. It's pretty happy in here.
Sam and Anita and their daughter, Lola who is 6, moved into their home three years ago after living in the Willo neighborhood. The couple shares a love for historic properties and has a deep appreciation for the history behind their homes. This house, built in 1921, boasts 2,300 square feet, including three bedrooms and three bathrooms, and sits on a lot just shy of an acre in the Los Olivos neighborhood of Phoenix.
The two met through a mutual friend with whom Anita used to exchange instant messages when she was working as a receptionist in downtown Phoenix. As the first date story goes, Anita went to Sam’s apartment and they stayed up until three in the morning talking and doing laundry. The rest, as they say, is history.
“Yeah, I was a single chick going to some dude’s house with my dirty laundry! Fortunately, it turned out okay,” she says smiling.
Sam is a musician, formerly with the band The Format, and has a new solo album set for release later this month. His music has been featured in commercials around the world, and won him an award in the Netherlands.
“The songs are used in commercial spots in different countries, and I don’t always know," he says. "So, I got a call from Sony asking me to sign something, and after doing a little research I learned I had the number three song in the Netherlands,” Sam says incredulously.
“He has three million streams on Spotify,” Anita adds.
In recognition of Sam’s rock-star status in Holland, Anita commissioned an artist to create a piece featuring the “a little bit of yeah yeah” line from the song's chorus.
“We like to say, 'He’s big in der Neder,'” Anita says.
In an effort to expand his entrepreneurial horizons, Sam started Hello Merch in 2008 as a sort of spin-off from the band. The company allows artists to sell their merchandise online and on tour without having to sign “major label-style” contracts.
“He wanted to be an honest, good merch company and he knew he could do it,” Anita says.
Sam and his sister-in-law launched the brand by heading out on the Warped Tour, T-shirts in tow, to see how the public would respond. In his words, they failed miserably.
“It definitely wasn’t our audience or demographic,” he says.
Though Hello Merch got off to a rocky start, Hello Apparel experienced success more quickly. The brand was born from an idea Anita had to make cute, affordable handmade baby leggings to sell on Etsy. Within a couple of months, orders were coming in faster than they could be filled. Hello Apparel is now an internationally recognized, homegrown clothing line.
The brand has grown with the help of social media, and the Means family models the product themselves.
"I would tell Lola she could have a pretzel from Target if she would put on a tee shirt and be in a photo," Anita remembers, laughing.
Production and distribution takes place in a warehouse in the West Valley, and the clothing and accessories are sold online and at Frances boutique in Central Phoenix.
It just so happens, the Hello Apparel line is also big in Holland.
“We’re the Kardashians of the Netherlands,” says Sam. “But not skanky or shocking,” laughs Anita.
When the couple moved into their home in 2013, there was little information about the history or any changes the house had undergone over the years.
“One night I got online and subscribed to some newspaper archive that looked really sketchy and stayed up until 3 a.m. scouring the papers.” At the end of his exhaustive search, Sam discovered a picture of the house, but he wasn’t entirely sure it was the same one he and his wife had just bought.
“I took this really grainy picture and started walking around the property trying to figure out if it was the same house,” Sam says. He showed the photo to their contractor and some of the neighbors and the consensus was unanimous: It was definitely the house.
The couple says there has been some “major weird reconstruction” to the home over past ninety-seven years, including a walled in power outlet and wall switch they uncovered when remodeling the bathroom.
“It’s all original stuff, but it’s been almost a hundred years," Sam says. "Who knows what’s happened?"
Sam learned the house was built on land purchased and developed in the early 1900s by Dwight Heard, founder of the Heard Museum. The home was built and owned by Heard’s business manager, M.P. Smith. According to Sam’s research, Heard owned the land and encouraged friends and business partners to move to this burgeoning community.
The neighborhood was the first "subdivision" in the downtown Phoenix area and promoted a “15-minute trolley ride to downtown” in advertisements directed at future residents.
Anita says most of the work they did after buying the house was on the outside, but there were some interior projects as well.
“The house was a foreclosure,” Anita says, “and the people who bought it had ‘flipped’ it – but in a very tasteful manner.”
The windows had been restored and the wood floors were all original. The biggest project was the kitchen, where the couple replaced the dark oak cabinets and the added the black-and-white checkerboard flooring. They also hung the wainscoting and painted the living room the bright coral it is today.
Outside, they paved the driveway and added a fence and an entry gate. There was also some serious landscaping to be tackled, as the property was overgrown and had been neglected for some time.
Inside the house, the master bath was expanded and the "creepy" basement was turned into Sam's music studio.
“We’re pretty sure they tortured animals down there,” Anita laughs.
When asked what drew them to the house, Anita is quick to answer.
“We’ve always loved this house, and it’s an acre in downtown (Phoenix); where do you find that? You look at this house and it still looks like an old house,” she says.
She also feels pretty fortunate to have a spouse who appreciates bold colors and patterns.
“I always say I’m lucky that Sam likes pinks and bright colors because he let me do this,” Anita laughs in reference to the floral wallpaper in the dining room and bright, bold walls in the front room. “I know a lot of husbands who wouldn’t be into that.”
As for the wallpaper, Anita says it “freakishly" matches everything she puts in the room.
“I decorate for every holiday and season,” Anita says. “My parents bred me to do that. And whatever I put in this room – even Halloween decorations – goes with this color scheme.”
Anita says the only drawback to the home is the lack of storage.
“We looked into building a garage,” she says, “but it was too expensive. Maybe if we win the lottery! We should go buy a ticket,” she laughs.