Their children were grown and left the nest and Laurie and Ryan Reber were looking to downsize. They knew what they wanted: Single story, open floor plan and — unlike their previous home in Chandler — a more manageable backyard with no swimming pool.
“We loved it, but it was hard to keep up while teaching full time and coaching full time,” Laurie said of her and Ryan’s jobs at Andersen Junior High School in Chandler.
After more than a year of checking out countless options, they finally had made up their minds. Or so they thought until touring a model home in Gilbert.
“We were driving around and saw the development and stopped in,” Laurie said of Inspire at Recker Pointe by Shea Homes in Gilbert. “When we walked into the model, it was everything we wanted it to be.”
They went to lunch to ponder. They returned and ditched the plan to buy the other house and took the plunge at Inspire. Nearly a year later, the Rebers moved into their home in October 2018.
While the search was over, their new home adventure was just beginning.
At 2,543 square feet, the home is just more than half the size of the Rebers’ previous one. It features three bathrooms and four bedrooms – roomy enough to accommodate friends, children and grandchildren but not too daunting.
“I wanted it to be comfortable but at the same time, I wanted to make a statement with it … That people would feel wowed but didn’t feel like they can’t touch anything … a welcoming environment,” Laurie said.
Laurie is an art teacher and was excited to have a blank palette to incorporate all the designs and concepts she had seen and adored.
While the open floor plan sealed the deal for the couple, Laurie wanted to divide it up to create nooks for separate mingling and lounging. A large, sumptuous sectional in front of the flat-screen TV allows for entertainment viewing. Steps away are four high-back upholstered chairs in a circle that creates a separate spot for catching up over snacks and beverages.
A custom wood dining table that seats eight floats between those spaces and the open-air kitchen, which features an eye-catching island with modern-backed barstools and cabinetry below.
“I wanted to be able to see through. I didn’t want anything to be taking up my visual space,” Laurie said of her unobstructed view from the kitchen through the living room and into the backyard.
They loved the idea of a community pool, which gave them the convenience of a swimming pool just steps away without the headache of maintaining one. But they still craved the ambiance of water at their home. They achieved this with a fire pit that boasts a cool ocean color combination – called Caribbean Calypso – and is surrounded by Mexican beach pebbles that provide a seaside pop between sandy-shaded travertine.
“We had to go with something that reminded us of the ocean,” Laurie said. “We have no pool, so that was a way to bring that blue and Caribbean-style color scheme.”
After moving in, the 19-year teaching veterans welcomed the opportunity to make their house truly their own. Laurie teaches art, Ryan teaches physical education and together they coach the boys and girls soccer, girls volleyball and softball teams.
They chose not to be restricted to a single style but instead embraced a mix of all they liked. In addition to the beachy touches, the house exudes a neutral color scheme that boasts pops of color with decor and furnishings reflecting traditional, contemporary and bohemian vibes.
The new house was ideal for Laurie to flex her home decor styling muscles. Laurie documented the process on her Instagram page, “Home is Where the Bart Is," referencing the street on which they live.
“I have a great interest in it, so I really let it go,” she said. “It would be something I’d love to do.”
One guest room features sports memorabilia, a nod to one of Ryan’s passions. It includes a signed memento from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics — which they attended — signed by speed skater and decorated American Olympian Apolo Ohno.
Another guest room serves as a studio for Laurie’s bespoke cake business, SweetArt Cake Studio. It features a farmhouse-style cabinet that holds Laurie’s decorating tools and accoutrements. The cabinet is on wheels and folds to fit compactly into smaller spaces and conceal its contents.
Several photos of Laurie’s cakes adorn the walls, including those she makes for Icing Smiles, a non-profit that provides custom celebratory cakes to families with critically ill children. Often, these birthday cakes are the last ones these children will have. Bakers like Laurie are called “sugar angels.”
But the one dream feature that makes the Rebers smile widest is the butterfly garden in the backyard.
Five years ago, Laurie’s sister had cancer and was living in a hospice facility in Hawaii. Laurie was by her side for those last days. The woman who ran the facility raised butterflies in her yard.
One day, the butterflies were ready to be released. The woman asked Laurie if she would like to release them for her sister. She agreed and they did. Her sister passed away 20 minutes later.
“There was something about that transition from life and the metamorphosis of a butterfly that was so appropriate to my sister’s living and dying,” Laurie recalled. “So I swore that in my house, I was going to plant a butterfly garden.”
Purple passionflower and milkweed are among the plants incorporated specifically to attract butterflies and serve as a comfortable breeding ground. Countless butterflies have been born in and flown away from the Rebers’ yard. Just one week prior, about 30 caterpillars were making themselves comfortable in the purple passionflower vines. Purple was Laurie’s sister’s favorite color.
“We incorporated things we love and had them be part of our house,” Laurie said.
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