Celebrating the unique character of spaces and the people who inhabit them is one of the things we love best about our COLLECTIVE’s approach to life, living, and doing business. As the pandemic shook up our content creation world with limited opportunities for accessing the spaces of others, we started the Collective Casas series to open the doors wide to the unique abodes of our team members, with full disclosure of all of those curiosities and quirks that make a home, well… feel like home. From adaptively re-used historic storefronts to sprawling mid-mods, lovers of downtown-adjacent SLC living and those appreciating some elbow room in the foothills. It’s made us fall in love with and appreciate our Salty City and her environs all over again from the perspective of our own doorsteps.
For this round of Collective Casas, we checked in with cityhome real estate agent Joseph Tuenge. If you know Joseph, you’ll also know that he brings his own savvy style and intuitive flair for top-notch client care to our crew. Along with spending lots of family time with his lovely wife Genevieve (an uber-talented graphic designer) and their adorable five-year-old daughter Evelyn; Joseph and Genevieve love nothing more than bringing their well-honed aesthetic chops to DIY renovation projects. We were especially pleased to have the opportunity to take a peek at their most recent endeavor, a Sugar House bungalow that they’re now renting out as an Airbnb. Cityhome’s founder, Cody Derrick, met up with Joseph and Genevieve via a video call to find out more about how this absolute cutie of a cottage came together.
"the character of the home really spoke for itself..."
Cody Derrick: So, that first moment you walk into a house is a crucial one, right? Was this one of those houses that was an immediate “yes,” or was it a “maybe” that had a special moment that turned it into a “yes”?
Joseph Tuenge: I thought the house and the neighborhood were as cute as can be, and I was immediately drawn to the home and its underlying potential. I loved that it was it was the corner house at the top of the block. Even though it was a mess and needed some TLC, I initially thought it was going to be more of a “lipstick” project; that it could just be styled. It was really motivating for me to think of giving it that lift, that boost. Bring it back to its glory. So, at that point I needed to run it by Genevieve.
CD: So how did that visit go? What finally sold it for the both of you?
Genevieve Tuenge: And I was doing my best to not show it, but I was instantly excited when we pulled up and he said, “That’s it, that’s the one.” The character of the home really spoke for itself. It’s over one hundred years old and has a lot of original details in it: The fireplace surround, the moulding on the doors and entrances. It gave me goosebumps then, and still does today as I speak about it. It began a fun chapter in our lives, with so many memories we’ll forever cherish.
JT: I was building her interest by telling her my ideas for the home before she saw it, for sure. But when we got there, I decided to treat her as I would one of my own clients, where I just let her in the door and observed her reactions to the space as she moved through the home without interjecting my own thoughts on her experience too much.
CD: I love seeing how everyone’s design aesthetic plays out. I mean, I love a maximal approach with all the stuff, but also love how you guys did such a great job at being very pared down with your minimalism and still curating unique pieces so perfectly. How’d you find that balance?
GT: Well, I feel like not having a budget at first drove a lot of our design decisions! [ed. note: much of their initial renovation budget got absorbed – literally—via a main water line disaster just days after closing.] We also designed the home backwards, in a way. You know how you usually start with a big piece of furniture and then work elements around it? Well, we started with a vintage coffee table I scored for 20 bucks. I loved the curves and imperfections of it so much, and it just really set the tone for what we wanted to do in the house. We wanted to mix in various styles.
JT: We went through so many different ideas with this place, but really, I owe a lot of it to Genevieve for editing it back when I’m prone to overthinking it too much. I’m all, “we could do this, and this, and this,” and she’s great about reigning it all in, getting back to simplicity.
CD: What was so special about that coffee table that ended up influencing the aesthetic of the house?
JT: We were living in the house as we did all of the DIY work, so we’d just have random stuff like that coffee table we were using as placeholders until we could figure out the big pieces. And before you know it, we’d started using that coffee table, and putting flowers on it, and a ton of candles everywhere, and I unexpectedly fell in love with it. It became an inspiration for us.
"Once we decided to make it a bnb, i put myself in a vacationer's shoes..."
CD: I love that you really seem to have honored what the house needed, rather than imposing a particular era or style on it. It doesn’t feel forced.
GT: It was really integral to the process that we decided to live in the home during the mayhem and kind of let it speak to us. And we got to know intimately the great “moments” of the house that make it special. The original woodworking around the fireplace and the front room are so cozy, and the bathroom is really charming, with it’s great, old clawfoot tub. And we love the windows by the coffee bar. We’d stand at them and look out every morning while enjoying our coffee. Once we found and fell in love with the unique characteristics of our home, we designed around them. Our favorite room quickly became the front room, mainly because it’s where we gather by the fire all together. But also, because it showcases our very favorite furniture piece--the white boucle sofa. Risky for an Airbnb, but it’s the money shot, right?
CD: Did you have any other considerations in mind knowing that you’d probably be using it as a rental property down the road?
JT: We’d identified that the most desirable locations for a BnB were in walkable neighborhoods or places with great access to the mountains. And we think it helps to have some character to it, and some cozy elements. A home away from home.
GT: Once we decided to make it an BnB, I started putting myself into a vacationer’s shoes. When I’d look at listings to travel to, I’d ask myself if it looks like somewhere I’m going to really enjoy spending my time? I look for things that make it feel like it’ll be a special place to stay, not just someone dropping a showroom of furniture into a house and calling it good.
CD: You mentioned that getting to know your neighbors during the renovation was a highlight of the project. They sound terrific; can you tell me more about that?
JT: Absolutely. And the timing actually worked out with the pandemic, as weird as that sounds, in that we moved in and then, bam, we really couldn’t go anywhere else from March on. It gave us the opportunity to explore the neighborhood on foot a lot more than we probably would have, otherwise, while we were going on family walks. We got to know our neighbors when we’d sit out on the porch, while walking our dog, or on our way to get ice cream.
GT: We really discovered the best, most walkable restaurants and bars that way as well. It forced us to get out and adventure around our neighborhood!
JT: We got to know the entire block of neighbors really well and they’re all so eclectic and different. Folks were really excited to hear about our plans for the home, since it had not been given attention for a very long time and everyone was glad to see that we were giving the home the medicine it needed to kind of heal that part of the block.
CD: Sounds like you miss it, a bit.
JT: It was a very soothing place to live for a moment in time. We poured as much love as we could into that home, met great friends, created amazing memories, and with local restaurants being literally just steps away, we ate like we were royals. In the midst of all that, we managed to design a romantic and calm get-away for those that would choose to stay at our humble Sugar House abode. We hope they’ll experience some of those same vibes that we experienced. I’m sure they will.
CD: Any last thoughts?
JT: Give our home’s Instagram a follow @sugarhouse980 and hit us up anytime you’d like to stay. We’d love to host you!