Arizonans bring the desert's gentle palette indoors

Louis and Jean Dolins are Chicagoans who, like thousands of other couples from the East and Middle West, love spending some time in Phoenix. They purchased a patio home in Echo Canyon, a private residential area, because they fell in love with its views of Camelback Mountain and ``the sunlight on those gorgeous rocks.''

Its exterior is stucco made to resemble adobe. For the Dolinses, this home is an uncluttered and pleasing retreat from their Chicago life.

The Dolinses asked Phoenix interior designer Judy Sussman to start from scratch and design an interior that would be ``contemporary Southwest'' in feeling.

They wanted a fresh, regional look that would offer a sharp contrast to their home in Chicago. They wanted it not only to combine natural elements and colors of the landscape, but also to include ingredients of the local Indian culture. Easy care was another requirement.

Homes designed with the currently popular Southwestern look seem to invite the surrounding desert and mountains inside.

Furnishings reflect the feel of the desert, with sandstone effects and tables and chairs made of bleached, natural logs, stumps, and twigs. Basic color schemes include light neutrals as well as the soft mauves, blues, pinks, and russets of an Arizona sky at sunset.

Because there has been an influx of good artists and craftsmen of all kinds into the Phoenix area, the interior designer particularly wanted to support this pool of local talent.

One of these sources is Ralph Miller of Designer Components Inc., a local manufacturer of custom furniture and wall coverings. He supplied the saguaro cactus furniture, white-washed armoire, and white sandstone hall console for the Dolinses' home.

``Judy Sussman has made a stunning, sophisticated look out of Southwestern design elements,'' Mr. Miller said. ``She has recognized that people who move in here - like the Dolinses - often want to feel that they are living in the desert and are part of it.

``They want an entirely different feeling in their home than they had back East. The kind of Southwest look that we have originated here has great appeal to people moving in from other areas. They love it.''

To Mrs. Sussman, this look meant furniture made of bleached pine and desert cactus, white glazed Mexican tile floors, the use of Navajo and custom-designed area rugs, and both natural and sculpted cactus plants.

This look also involved coffee tables fashioned from old Indian drums, hand-painted and stone pots and lamps given a ``sand'' finish, and log chairs and ottomans and tree-stump tables, all in natural finish, from Thomas & Co. in Phoenix. Two rustic, natural twig chairs flank the fireplace.

Sussman terms the fabric hanging made for the living room by local artist Sherrie Zietlin as ``pure Southwest.''

And in order to get the dry, parched look of the desert that she wanted, Sussman asked local cabinetmaker Richard Vitzthum to bleach several times the natural pine that he used in the cabinets he fashioned for her. ``The bleached-out look is essential to a Southwest room,'' she explained.

Sussman worked with Mitchell John Designs in Phoenix to get just the handpainted canvas fabrics and pillows the scheme required. In each instance, she felt that working closely with Phoenix craftsmen gave her more opportunity to supervise the custom work they were doing for her, some of it to her own design.

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