Celebrating the States

Celebrating The States: The Southwest

by Erin Austen Abbott

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

When I think about the southwest, I feel drawn to thoughts of the stunning National Parks, the vast skies, and the warm earth tones. In my mind, the region feels relaxed yet refined. I dream of taking a long road trip, stopping off first in New Mexico at the El Rey Court for a few days, then working my way north, through tiny, off-the-beaten path towns throughout Arizona. Next I’d head to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park in Utah for a few days of camping, before heading to Salt Lake City, then west to Reno and Lake Tahoe. These places in the southwest call for you to slow down, and really savor all that surrounds you.

The creatives whom I talked with about their states seemed to all be drawn to the natural world around them, feeling the creative pull from the other artists that have decided to call the southwest home. “I think part of it is the gorgeous natural surroundings — you can’t help but be inspired by the rugged mountains up north and the red rock desert down south,” shares Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Co.

Scroll through and get to know some of the southwest’s creatives that are savoring every bit of their home states. We’d love to hear what inspires you most about the southwest. —Erin

Check out our other Celebrating the States posts here.

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

NEW MEXICO  Zippy Guerin of Santa Fe Found, is helping forge that slow, artistic community of Santa Fe, NM.

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

NEW MEXICO  Nichol Naranjo says, “New Mexico is truly the land of enchantment! We are fortunate enough to experience all four seasons, but in moderation (for the most part). Due to our weather we are the perfect state to experience outdoor activities such as: skiing/snowboarding, hiking, white water rafting, horseback riding, running, cycling, kayaking, just to name a few! October is one of my favorite months in our beautiful state because it is the month we welcome visitors from around the world for our annual balloon fiesta! This is the time of year when our blue skies are littered with literally hundreds (approximately 600) of hot air balloons! It is quite magical and something I recommend everyone experience at least once in their lifetime.”

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

NEW MEXICO  Photographer Ja Soon Kim shared her home with us on Design*Sponge. 

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

NEW MEXICO  “When I moved to Santa Fe from New York City, I was still very much a New Yorker, but over the years, I saw the raw beauty of the land, gentle native people who have been here before us and the rich history of the place absolutely captivated me. For me this is what America truly is,” Ja Soon shares.

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

ARIZONA  Of her favorite parts about her city, Celine Rille loves “Its size — Phoenix is just the right amount of big and small. It’s big enough that it has everything you want in a city (cultural institutions, galleries, great restaurants, thriving music scene, a community of people up to stuff) while still being small enough that you can make a difference. I’ve been part of organizations and businesses that have helped change the culture and landscape of Phoenix, and that’s been so exciting and rewarding. I’ve lived in London and New York, and while I love those cities, Phoenix has allowed me to really participate in the community. [I also love] its affordability — I don’t take for granted the luxury of having space that’s affordable, both at home and at work. My mind has the freedom to create without the worry of outrageous bills or the confinement of closed-in spaces.”

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

ARIZONA  The Arizona home of shop owner Meg Van Lith is filled with worldly treasures that she has collected on work trips.

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

ARIZONA  “What is newer [about Phoenix, AZ] is the incredible variety of fabulous restaurants and shopping destinations that have cropped up all over the Valley. Our family of five loves to start out our weekends by hopping on our bikes and heading up the Murphy Bridal Path (a lovely tree-shaded jogging path that runs 2.5 miles along Central) and stopping at the Uptown Farmers Market at Bethany Home. Just a bit further south, a cluster of our favorite haunts take up a city block. All run by the Upward Projects group, we love to stop for guac and margaritas at Joyride, or for the Greek God plate at Windsor. If properly fortified, we can bike a bit further down and check out one of Phoenix’s best boutiques, Frances — or pedal down Camelback to go to the Phoenix outpost of Changing Hands Bookstore. As a teen growing up in the city, I can’t imagine being able to hit so many cool spots in one family bike ride! I commute to my store, Tierra Del Lagarto in the Airpark area of North Scottsdale. We have a great concentration of furniture stores, home renovation sources, and interior design studios in our hood. In addition to our funky mix of imported finds from our travels around the world, we have southwestern specialists like Fiesta, luxe upholstery wizards Feathers, our beachy neighbors Bungalow, and Old World experts like Rustic Stuff nearby. There is something for every home style in the Airpark, and it’s a fun place to spend a day popping into different shops.  When clients get peckish we recommend a stop at Habaneros, a family-run taco shop a few blocks away, or for a pint at the Scottsdale Four Peaks just north of us,” Meg says. 

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

UTAH  TV hosts and authors, Andy and Candis Meredith of Old Home Love, live with their seven children in Utah. They recently founded the Home Love Network.

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

UTAH  In Utah, the beautiful home of Ali Hynek — which she shares with her husband and triplets — brings forth her Guatemalan heritage.

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

UTAH  “I think there’s a misconception that there isn’t any good art or design coming out of Utah. When Kirk and I are traveling for work, or meet someone in the online world, people are often surprised to find out where we live. But there is so much creativity here on so many levels — from the Sundance Film Festival, to a vibrant underground music scene, to Queer Eye‘s Tan France, to a whole network of bloggers, makers, and more. I think part of it is the gorgeous natural surroundings — you can’t help but be inspired by the rugged mountains up north and the red rock desert down south. For some people here, part of it is growing up in the Mormon culture, which promotes a DIY spirit and a strong work ethic… I’m sure there are many more factors that go into it, but the important thing is this — here in Utah, we have found a lot of great people doing wonderfully creative things in an often achingly beautiful place. What’s not to love?” Eva says. 

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

NEVADA  Artist and designer Zet Gold creates colorful works, and finds inspiration in her home state.

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

NEVADA  Jennifer Lorton converted her live/work bus during a Las Vegas summer. “I’ve never sweated so much in my life! It was also really rewarding and I’m so happy with my tiny home. I would like to give a shout-out to friends and family members that pitched in, and helped me to make it happen.”

Celebrating The States: Southwest States

ARIZONA  “I can earnestly state that I love residing in Phoenix, Ashley shares. “I’ve lived in the midwest and both coasts, but Phoenix is home. Our city was voted Best Pizza in the US for 2018. (Oprah’s favorite pizza is Pizzeria Bianco — which is totally worth the hype.) Our food scene is vast, affordable, and slap-you-in-the-face delicious. The mid-century architecture in Phoenix is a calling card that speaks to my soul. The reverberation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s aesthetic heavily influenced the Phoenix palette and city development. The cultural vibration is a melting pot, and improved by welcomed diversity. We are enthusiastic about supporting music, fine art, dance, and theater in this city. I’m thankful that I live in this incredible Southwest region, filled with rich resources to educate and inspire not only ourselves, but our three young children.”


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  • I was in Phoenix for the first time a few weeks ago and drove up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Man, oh man, is Arizona a beautiful state. I agree with Ashley — it definitely spoke to my soul.

  • I love the Southwest and all. It is really pretty, and nice. But why is no one talking about the schools? Or the high poverty? Or the extreme crime rate/umemplyment?

    • Dez

      Talking about the positive aspects of an area doesn’t mean the more difficult parts don’t exist. But this is a design website and this column is part of a series intended as a celebration of what people love about living in that area.