The residents: Heather and Tom Wuelpern (37 and 47) and their daughters, Annika, 5, and Tessa, 2. Heather is an artist, interior designer, and faux-finish expert who works with local homeowners on interior color and design. Tom is a designer-builder whose firm, Rammed Earth Development, specializes in eco- and regional design and materials.
How they got here: Tom moved to Arizona from Michigan for graduate study and to learn about adobe and rammed-earth construction. It was a ground-up experience. "With my MBA in hand, I started a $7-an-hour ditch-digging job at a rammed-earth project," Tom says. He moved to Tucson and fell in love with the Spanish heritage of the homes in the city's core.
Why they're never leaving: The 2,700-square-foot rammed-earth home, built by Tom in the tradition of other Sonoran hacienda-style houses in the Barrio Santa Rosa, a neighborhood that's more than 130 years old. The Wuelperns' home has a tall "great room" with craggy, recycled beams and warm-toned concrete floors, and a covered porch that wraps around a sheltered, north-facing courtyard.
It's an easy walk to downtown's art galleries, museums, and restaurants. Then there's the neighborhood culture: After the day's heat, people spill out onto the streets and chat or sit in an adjacent park. "Since the front walls of the homes run right to the street, the Barrio lives and feels more like European or northern Mexican communities," Tom says.