Years ago, Rick Baker used to walk his dog through the Rocky Acres neighborhood in central Phoenix and daydream about owning a home in the area.
Tucked away behind Piestewa Parkway, the neighborhood has a rural feeling and boasts unique homes and oversized lots.
Last year, Baker’s dream came true with Mitchell Ranch, a stunning horse property set apart by a hacienda-style gate “branded” with the initials MR.
“My first impression of the property was “WOW”…. we call it the gate affect,” Baker said. “I loved the fact that it felt like a hidden ranch in the middle of town.”
The property was a unique find, Realtor Mike Weeks said.
Weeks was initially scouting a temporary home for Rick and Kristin Baker so they could move out of their north Phoenix home and begin an extensive remodel.
“During my every day home searching, I found what they were trying to create at their existing home but more ... more home size, more lot size, more garage space, existing pool, a fantastic detached casita and as a bonus it’s like a Texas ranch, but at 20th street and Bethany Home,” Weeks said.
The couple quickly scrapped plans for the remodel and went to work putting their own mark on Mitchell Ranch.
Rocky Acres is a small neighborhood near Bethany Home Road and 20th Street and home to ranch-style properties. The Bakers' home was originally built in the 1950s and then underwent a complete remodel and expansion in 2002 by owner Steve Mitchell, a Phoenix attorney.
Rick Baker said Mitchell was part of a legal team that fought tobacco companies in the 1990s on behalf of the state of Arizona, and that affiliation prompted some in the neighborhood to call the property “Marlboro Ranch.”
The spacious home and nearly three-acre lot was an ideal fit for the Bakers and their two children, Jaxson, 17, and Jordan, 13. But they needed a little less ranch and a little more family space.
Transforming the back and side yards of the property was one of the biggest undertakings. The ranch had been built for horses, making much of the space difficult to access and enjoy.
“I loved the front yard view of Squaw Peak (Piestewa Peak) but was upset about the lack of mountain views in the backyard,” Rick Baker said. “We opened up all of the horse pasture and built new patios to feature the view of the mountains.”
Plans also included trading the old horse corrals for an inviting patio, sport court and chipping green. The couple left the large pool as is and repurposed kitchen cabinetry and outdoor fencing to fit with the new outdoor spaces.
Today, the property is dotted with casual seating and dining areas. Family and friends can warm up around a fire pit, lounge by the pool, gather around a long dining table, or cozy up on a couch.
Creating livable outdoor spaces allows the family to fully take in their surroundings, Kristin Baker said. Days and nights are filled with everything from sightings of hawks and other wildlife to the sounds of neighboring horses to the smells of nearby orange blossoms.
And the views can’t be beat.
“At sunset, from the backyard, you can look over the house to the west to see the amazing colors of the Arizona sky and then shift your attention north to watch the hikers’ lights on the side of Squaw Peak (Piestewa Peak) as they do their evening hikes,” Rick Baker said.
Inside the home, the couple updated rooms, reworked spaces to make them more usable for the family, and lightened up the overwhelmingly brown interior. Kristin Baker worked with designer Paul Hanchette, visual merchandiser for Furniture Affair, to create unique spaces throughout the house.
Influenced by the popular HGTV show Fixer Upper, Baker decided to use weathered shiplap on walls in the master bedroom and casita bedroom. Hanchette also installed rusted metal panels, framed with barn wood, on an entryway wall. He continued the look in the living room, with metal panels on either side of the fireplace.
Baker and Hanchette filled the home with framed family photos and mementos that remind Baker of her Texas roots. They also repurposed items like vintage metal crates for shelving to hold keepsakes.
Though the home is spacious, it comes across as intimate and inviting. Visitors often tell the couple how comfortable the home feels.
“Kris did an amazing job of making the inside feel like it should have always been that way,” Rick Baker said.
What surprises guests the most is what drew the Bakers in — the property’s unique rural setting.
“People have a hard time believing that this type of place exists in the heart of Phoenix,” Rick Baker said.