The Ranch Mine: 2015 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Design

You submitted nominations for the best and brightest emerging Valley creatives, and the results are in. Presenting the 2015 Big Brain finalists.

Leading up to the announcement of winners at Artopia on May 9, Jackalope Ranch, Chow Bella, and Up on the Sun will introduce the finalists. Up today is The Ranch Mine.

Behind a tall block wall just east of Seventh Avenue in Central Phoenix stands an architectural oddity. Among Yaple Park historic district's many ranch homes, this modern Rich Fairborn two-story house encased in curving redwood paneling and massive north-facing windows is getting a much-needed makeover.

That's thanks to Cavin and Claire Costello of the Ranch Mine, a design company that specializes in restoring and designing homes in historic and mid-century neighborhoods. On this warm March afternoon, the couple, 29 and 28 respectively, is seated at a table outside the home's kitchen, windows at their back. Dressed casually in button-down shirts and jeans, they're thinking back on when this project started a year ago.

See also: Leonor Aispuro: 2015 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Design

Previous owners had modified the home, adding walls and extra bedrooms. It was the Costellos' mission to unearth the architect's vision while extrapolating design concepts to modernize the 1981 house. It's a way of thinking they've brought to other residential projects, which include homes designed by Bennie Gonzalez, Ralph Haver, Al Beadle, and Charles and Arthur Schreiber, a who's who list of Phoenix's mid-century architects.

"If we're not slightly scared," Cavin says, "we're not doing anything interesting and new."

A mutual friend introduced the two in 2009, when Claire recently had returned to her native Phoenix after studying English and communications at the University of Colorado. A fan of architects Richard Neutra and Will Bruder, Cavin moved to Arizona from Connecticut after getting his master's in architecture. They were looking for work in real estate and design, respectively, but Great Recession-era jobs in the housing market were tough to come by. So they got creative and started the Ranch Mine in late 2010 as a side business.

Remodeling their own Arcadia ranch was their first project. Blending industrial elements with clean lines, their budget-friendly bathroom got attention from the Arizona Republic, which published photos of the space and interviewed the duo about their DIY endeavor.

Soon after, inquiries began rolling in. And the Ranch Mine took off.

What makes a Ranch Mine home a Ranch Mine home isn't about a signature look or a particular element -- though the Costellos do tend to marry strong white elements with organic materials, embrace natural light, and install large sliding glass doors. Instead of a set of things you're guaranteed to see in a Ranch Mine makeover, there's a list of things you'll never see: granite countertops, carpeting, front-loaded garages -- pretty much anything you'd associate with suburbia, Cavin says.

"There's always some point where they come together -- the old and the new," Claire says. "We don't track a lot of trends." The key with each home, whether it's as small as making over a bathroom or a building from the ground up, is understanding the lifestyle trends of its inhabitants.

These days, the Costellos have about 15 projects in various stages at any given time. Next up is a townhouse complex, their first-ever multifamily endeavor.

From the front garden at the nearly complete Fairborn home, a pathway curves around the side to a pool and a detached master bedroom. Up a new metal staircase to an open circular landing that looks out to downtown Phoenix, the Costellos see nothing but potential.

The 2015 Big Brain Award winners will be announced on Saturday, May 9, during New Times' Artopia, an evening of food, drink, art, and music at Monarch Theatre. For details and tickets, $25, visit www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bigbrainawards.

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