Downsized from five bedrooms to one, these Tucsonans have managed to pack plenty of style into 500-square-foot home. -By Gillian Drummond -Photos by A.E. Araiza
Richard Steen and Jefferson Bailey downsized in the extreme when they gave up their five-bedroom, four-bath house in Armory Park for the quaint little one-bedroom house next door.
Not that they didn’t know what they were getting into; they had lived in the small house after Bailey bought it in 1986, neglected and abandoned. A year later, he bought the 4,000-square-foot house next door, which they fixed up, too. And that became their home.
And although they always intended to move back into the small house eventually, the move wasn’t easy. In two decades, they had expanded to fill the larger property and had acquired an army of beds, dressers, lamps and pieces of art.
But Bailey, who works with the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation and is a deacon at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, came here from New York City and had had his share of living in tiny apartments. And Steen, a teacher at Holladay Intermediate Magnet School, says he quickly grew hardened to the process of sifting, selling and throwing out.
“It’s hard at first, because you go through a box and go, ‘Remember when . . .?’ and you put it in the ‘save’ box. But it got to be really easy after a while, and you could breathe easier with each thing you tossed out,” says Steen, 56.
The process continues, says Bailey, 64. “And I imagine it always will. One needs to consider twice before buying anything to add. I think of need or greed, and that helps.”
As for their clothes — which fit on one rail of a 5-foot-wide armoire in their bedroom — Steen is philosophical.
“There are really only 12 or 14 things you wear. Then there are the ‘This was for my sister’s wedding’ and ‘I may need a tuxedo sometime’ or ‘I may fit into it again one day,’ ” he said.
But as well as space-saving techniques, there are surprises. A grand piano meets you just beyond the front door, the walls heave with art, and the furniture is neither small nor minimalist but, in keeping with the Victorian feel of the whole place, ornate, wide and big — a collection of family heirlooms and finds from estate sales and more.
When he bought it, Bailey had the ceiling raised, laid a pine floor and knocked down walls (it had been converted into separate apartments when he bought it).
In the two years since they’ve moved back, they’ve spent $50,000 remodeling their bathroom and kitchen, each black and white with shades of gray.
With Steen’s background as a former landscape designer, it’s not surprising that they’ve turned the expansive backyard into a leafy retreat. There’s a line of fruit trees, a chinaberry tree for shade, plenty of pots and a vegetable garden. Steen is all set to acquire some chickens, too.
A narrow pool runs along one side, and at the bottom of the garden there’s a small structure that serves as a laundry room, guest room and extra personal space. There, Bailey has created a cozy nook with an antique bed surrounded by his family photos.
He takes his daily siesta here if Steen happens to be at home. Because, Bailey says, “of course we sometimes get under each other’s feet.”
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