Downtown Living: Fontenelle Lofts
March 18, 2016 by Fara Illich
Touring the Downtown Phoenix home of newly engaged couple Ryan Tempest and Quinn Whissen is like journeying to another time and place.
Designed by early Phoenix architect George Pheby in the 1920s, the Fontenelle Lofts feature amazing design touches like the original brickwork, exposed glulam beams, a custom steel staircase ascending into the master suite and cherry hardwood floors.
“It’s kind of like an architect’s dream,” said Tempest, who works at design firm Gould Evans in the Warehouse District. “As far as quality goes, there are just a lot of custom details and it’s not something you would see here in Phoenix.”
The historic old-world charm mixes beautifully with modern design elements like a sunken living room, dual travertine sinks, stainless steel appliances and sleek track lighting. But the clincher for Whissen, a freelance marketing consultant and graphic designer, was definitely the location.
“One of the biggest things is that we don’t have to own cars, so everything is within a short enough radius that we can walk, bike or use the light rail,” she said. “When you’re in a more walkable community, you see people you know all the time, run into your friends at the coffee shop — it’s kind of like the smallest big town in America.”
That’s the draw of living in the Historic Roosevelt Neighborhood, according to the couple. They have a strong connection to the community, drive very little, and work collectively with local advocacy groups to improve transit and reduce suburban sprawl.
In fact, the two started urban awareness group This Could Be PHX in August 2013 to further that mission. They try to inspire people to think differently about the built environment through online “envisioning projects,” covering issues like transit, infill development and blight.
“To be living here, working here and actually being an advocate for Downtown Phoenix is kind of crazy,” Whissen said. “Growing up here I would’ve never painted that picture of my reality.”
Originally from north Phoenix, Whissen said she got out of the Valley as soon as she graduated, returning home during the recession in what she thought would be a “pit stop.” During that time, she rediscovered downtown and was captivated by the ongoing revitalization.
Tempest fell in love with downtown for similar reasons, citing the welcoming community and abundance of like-minded people.
“People are craving a connection with their neighbors — a more walkable, bikable place and being able to take transit to different amenities — people are going to continue to want that,” he said.
Whissen and Tempest are kind of like the quintessential hip, young professionals you read about moving to center cities across the country. Both are creative, successful and moved to the Roosevelt Row area shortly after college, Tempest a little earlier. He’s been in downtown since 2007.
With 1,250 square feet to play with, plus a lush private yard with mature shade trees, they’ve made their loft at the Fontenelle into a beautiful modern oasis that mirrors their passionate personalities.
Bright colors, clean lines, house plants and personal details like a homemade bookshelf round out the décor, making this seem like a home built just for them.
(Photos: Brandi Porter)