Matthew and Maria Salenger are both artists and architects. That is perhaps the main reason they could not reach a consensus about the design of their dream home.
One thing they agreed on: They intended to live unconventionally.
When they purchased their 1953 Tempe bungalow, the first thing they did was gut the 1,150-square-foot building, which had not been remodeled since the 1950s. The space included three small bedrooms, two very small bathrooms, a dining room and an all-pink kitchen.
“I wanted to live in the house for a little while and get a feel for the neighborhood and the property and what the house was like and what it was needing,” Matthew Salenger said, “but Maria said, ‘No way, we’re gutting the whole thing right away.’ ”
Initially, all of the rooms were closed off, giving the space a stuffier feel. But the couple preferred to live in a more flexible environment. They removed most of the walls and created a large open room instead.
During this experimental and bohemian phase in their lives, the homeowners slept in mobile bedrooms they built in the backyard. These “sleeping pods,” as they called them, were built with steel and corrugated fiberglass. One had to walk across the lawn to access them, and they were just large enough for a full-size bed.
The couple designed a modern and energy-efficient addition to serve as a living space and studio complementing the original building housing their bedrooms. The two buildings are connected by covered walkways around the perimeter of the courtyard. (Photo: Bill Timmerman)
“It was really neat for a while,” Salenger said, “but then we got married, and we got pregnant. Having to walk from the pod in the middle of the night to use the bathroom was untenable with Maria being pregnant. So we started sleeping inside.”
On top of that, the couple began running their firm, coLAB studio, out of their home. Holding meetings with employees in their home had become increasingly inconvenient, with visitors tripping on their son’s toys scattered over the floor. It was clear that they needed more space. Only this time, they decided that they could not think exclusively like artists. They needed to consider the resale appeal of the home.