Walking up to Kelsey Dake’s home in F.Q. Story, guests are greeted by Roger, a 500-pound pink aluminum pig.
“My neighbors have brought hats for him, and he was mentioned on NextDoor,” Dake says with pride.
Stepping inside the front door, it’s obvious Dake, a freelance illustrator, has an eye for the unique and eclectic. A 1970s Rosewood Eames lounge sits next to the original brick fireplace. On the mantel in a glass case is a perfectly preserved stuffed duck believed to be more than 100 years old. Dake purchased the waterfowl at an antique shop in New Mexico, and he serves as a reminder of an important turning point in her life.
Built in 1931, the 1,449-square-foot Tudor Revival has three bedrooms and one bathroom. Dake got the keys to the house on Valentine's Day of 2015 and started remodeling in March of this year.
So far, she has repainted the interior, refinished the kitchen floors, retiled the kitchen walls, and replaced the antique oven with a Wolf range. Her most recent project has been gutting the bathroom.
“I tore layer after layer of wallpaper down in this house!” she recalls. “The kitchen walls had pictures of different types of pasta.” Most of the work Dake has completed herself, with her mother’s help.
Dake says she's worked to restore the house as best she could, being mindful to choose fixtures that were period-appropriate. In the living room hangs a light fixture she found in the attic.
Prior to buying the house in F.Q. Story, Dake and her parents purchased and remodeled a Ralph Haver home. Dake’s parents still own the home, located in one of Phoenix’s famous “Haver Hoods,” Janet Manor.
Most of the unique pieces in the home have been cultivated and collected from various antique stores, while others were purchased on Ebay. While living in Seattle, Dake spent her free time hunting for treasures of all kinds.
“It’s easier to come by vintage items in Washington,” Dake explains, “because there are so many old homes and salvage stores.”
The back bedroom of the house is Dake's studio, which is adorned with vintage signage she’s collected along with her own original artwork.
When asked what attracted her to this particular home, Dake is quick to respond, "the neighborhood."
“I knew that people knew each other and talked to one another, and there was a home tour and a steering committee – that drew me to this house.”
She notes that sense of community can have its drawbacks.
“I know way too much about my neighbors,” she says laughing.
Dake says she enjoys having friends her age with whom she can hang out, go to church, and enjoy downtown living. Having a sense of community is particularly important for a freelancer, she says.
"It can get a little lonely," she admits. "But now Chris and I can go out and make friends together!"
Dake is a Phoenix native and her fiancé, Chris Rushing, hails from Georgia. The couple met on Twitter when Rushing was living in New York and Dake was in Seattle preparing to move back to the desert. Fellow designers, they had been following each other on social media for some time. Then one January day in 2015, Dake tweeted something that resonated with Rushing.
“I had no agenda,” he says, “I just messaged her because what she said really spoke to me.”
“We met on January 20 – we actually have a screenshot of our first conversation – and we haven’t stopped talking since that first message,” Rushing says, smiling at Dake.
When they met, Dake had already planned to fly out to New York in March to meet with clients. She asked Rushing, having never met him in person, if she could stay with him.
“I could have showed up and found he was a serial killer!” she laughs. But her leap of faith paid off, and they’ve been together ever since.
“We went to Toronto the first weekend I was out there,” Dake says. They agree the whole thing was pretty magical.
The relationship continued long-distance for the first year, with each of them visiting the opposite coast every few weeks. Rushing moved to Arizona from New York this past spring.
“We were both freelancers at the time," Rushing says, "so we had a lot of flexibility.”
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Rushing now manages the brand team for BuzzFeed, which allows him to work on both coasts.
“BuzzFeed has offices worldwide, so we’re on video chats most of the day anyway, no matter where we are,” he adds.
Dake and Rushing are getting married in Sedona in October, so the current task is to make space in the house for their respective collections.
“We’re both creatives,” Rushing says, “so we both own a lot of weird antique stuff and old vintage signage. Fortunately, our styles mesh pretty well.”