The United States home remodeling industry generates an estimated $47 billion in revenue. However, in recent years, the projects that have generated these profits have begun to focus more on smaller homes, rather than the large McMansions that were popular in the past. Few homes illustrate this shift as well as a renovated bungalow in Coronado, AZ’s Historic District, which was recently featured on a number of architectural websites for its mix of historical and modern features.
Real estate agent and designed Joel Contreras says he started remodeling homes after being disappointed by many of the investor flips he saw in Phoenix’s housing market. Several years after this decision, he has a proven track record of renovating homes in Phoenix’s historical downtown neighborhoods. His style tends toward the modern-industrial, adding a fresh, edgy look to older homes.
For his most recent project, Contreras partnered with Greg Markov to double the square footage of a 1927 brick bungalow in Coronado. In many ways, this combination was a match made in heaven: both share a love for Modernism and historic properties, which often feature a variety of textures and materials largely absent from modern construction. Further improving matters, the house was under contract even before it could be listed for sale, and the prospective owners are currently living in a smaller house Contreras also remodeled.
Despite these advantages, Contreras says that the project was beset by several challenges. For example, budget issues emerged halfway through the renovation process, the local Historic Preservation Society didn’t want them to tear down the 1930s carriage house, and the city originally objected to their plan to convert the carriage house into a studio. But while these problems took some time to sort out, Contreras called the project their best to date because of the team’s willingness to stay the course.
The fruits of their labor are immediately visible: the property features an almost 1,600-square-foot main house, complete with two small bedrooms, a guest bath, large great room and master suite. Meanwhile, the two-story, 584-square-foot carriage house is now a guest suite, as city permit issues have been resolved. Both buildings display Contreras and Markov’s dedication to modern and historic design: the front living room, for example, still has its original exposed brick, oak floors and refurbished windows. However, the house’s open great room extends from the bonus room to the central kitchen, covered by wood ceilings that peak at 15 feet, creating a new, open feel. Below, the flooring is sealed concrete with an aggregate mix. However, because Contreras mixed in small white stones to add contrast, it better resembles an industrial terrazzo, further adding to the modern design.
Outside, the house connects to three large patios and a backyard, emphasizing its open design. This transition also benefits from two expanses of steel-framed glass pivot doors, one on the south side and another on the west. The western doors open onto a covered patio, while the southern side connects the kitchen to a deck with a steal linear fireplace, creating the perfect place to relax outdoors.
Contreras and Markov have added focal points throughout the property to add visual interest. The central kitchen is one of the main examples of this, displaying custom walnut cabinetry that extends to the ceiling. Nearby, a Carrara marble island with a waterfall edge and matching backsplash are offset by black Brizo fixtures and two Tom Dixon-style copper pendant lights above the island.
Another focal point can be seen in the walls of the master suite, which feature Moroccan-style tile with blue and orange accents. Ordered from Guatemala, the wall extends outward, complementing the house’s exposed brick. Contreras and Markov also used the tile on a wall near the front entrance. But while not as eye-catching, the master bath can’t be missed either: concrete artist Brandon Soetto of Slabhouse created a double vanity, which stands in contrast to the high, sloped wood ceilings, white subway-tile walls and teak and concrete flooring. This creates a modern spa feeling in keeping with the designers’ industrial tastes.
Now that the bungalow has been finished, Contreras has reportedly started another project in Coronado. He says he is drawn to the area and its potential: unlike ritzier historical districts in Phoenix, such as Willo and Encanto-Palmcroft, Coronado is currently a unique blend of artists, markets, churches and converted corner stores. It may lack definition at the moment, but Contreras believes that this area could soon draw an urban chic crowd. Inspired by his last project, he says he encourages people to consider the alternatives to a bigger home far away from the city, continuing the smaller house trend in Phoenix.