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The Tucson House

Plans for this 1930s Pueblo Revival stucco home included expanding the kitchen and patio areas and building an outdoor courtyard and veranda, all against a breathtaking backdrop of mountains and desert in Tucson, Arizona.

Just 60 miles north of the Mexican border, the vibrant desert city of Tucson, Arizona, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the New World. We traveled there to help homeowners James and Colleen Meigs navigate the challenging process of renovating their 1930s one-story, Pueblo Revival stucco house, and the renovation remains one of our favorites. The Meigs had lived in the house for years and Jim, an architect, knew from long planning exactly what he wanted to do to the house to make it just right for his family of four.

Located in the National Register of Historic Places neighborhood of Colonia Solana, the Meigs' home reflected the true character of Tucson. The house was surrounded by spiky desert vegetation and set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Sonora Desert. From its courtyard to its adobe walls, the striking geometric architecture of the house exhibited the Indian, Spanish and Mexican influences that make up the true flavor of the Southwest.

Tucson is a city in a desert—and a builder's considerations are therefore very different from what we're used to in New England. We worry about water, they worry about sun. We worry about keeping out the cold, they worry about keeping out the heat. The old-timers knew what they were doing when they built the Meigs' house; our challenge was to blend their good ideas with modern technologies to meet the needs of a family in the '90s.

This Old House's crew joined forces with local architect Alexandra Hayes and builder John McCaleb to expand and update the Meigs' home. While the Meigs' were originally hoping to spend about $150,000, add-ons and unexpecteds nearly doubled their final outlay. The team remodeled and expanded the kitchen and patio area, revamped the "Arizona room" into a family media center, added a master suite, turned an existing bedroom into a library, and built an outdoor courtyard and veranda, topped off by an "endless" pool with a built-in current to swim against.