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Cactuses and old farm equipment add character to this desert dream house.
Photo: Bill Cookston (above); Joyce Hollister (middle & bottom)
When Tim Hafen and Janet McJunkin brainstormed the design for their new Pahrump house, they each had definite ideas. Influenced by 1920s-era Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley, he said no flat roof. She, who loves the southwest, said no straight lines. The result: a burgundy-hued home with a tower, a hint of Tuscany, and curves everywhere.
Architect Tom O’Neil of Architecture Design and Development in Las Vegas spent 18 months on the couple’s design, but from the beginning Hafen and McJunkin agreed that their outdoor space must reflect a southwestern desert environment and keep water use and maintenance to a minimum. What sets their 2 1/2 acres apart from other xeriscaped yards is how Jordan Chelsa Landscape Inc.’s Pat DeJean and Tom Santelmann mixed desert plants with rusty and broken tractors, graders, and old farm tools.
Hafen came to Pahrump from Mesquite in 1951 to grow cotton. Over the years, out-of-date equipment was tossed into the ranch junkpile. DeJean calls it “the boneyard,” where she rummaged around for decorative objects. She also drew on Hafen’s collection of old equipment he has gathered on trips around the southwest.
“Pat’s an artist,” Hafen says of DeJean, to whom he gave free rein on the project. “And I know with artists, you have to get out of their way. We worked on a landscape plan, then as Pat went along we could see the results, and we were really pleased. She took old stuff that I thought was completely useless and made quite a statement.”
While on a trip Hafen and McJunkin (left) made during the house’s construction, McJunkin received a call on her cell phone. She turned to Hafen, who was driving, and told him with a perplexed laugh, “Pat wants to use some of the old well casings for the fire pit. I think she’s crazy.”
DeJean was poking around the boneyard when she came across the casings. “Tim and Janet wanted something unusual for the fire pit. I thought that if the casings could hold heat, they would work,” she explains. Santelmann put the pit together using varying heights of pipe pieces and a 50-year-old ammo box to house the propane valves. McJunkin loves the result. “It can be cool here in the evenings,” she says, pointing to the backyard’s rock-lined hot tub. “When you get out of the Jacuzzi and head toward the house, you can stop at the fire pit to warm up.”
Hafen ran an alfalfa and cotton operation before becoming a real estate broker and general contractor in the late 1960s and early ’70s. He developed Cottonwoods at Hafen Ranch in 1992 and Artesia at Hafen Ranch in 1999. Hafen has long ties to the Pahrump area and Nevada, serving as a state assemblyman from 1966 to 1974. He was chairman of the Nevada Department of Agriculture board, president of the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation, and chairman of the Valley Electric Association. Hafen Elementary School in Pahrump was named for him.
DeJean has landscaped several of Hafen’s construction projects, and their working relationship is based on mutual admiration. “My respect for Tim Hafen was my absolute inspiration,” DeJean says. “I wanted to give him a landscape that enhanced the house’s design and reflected the personalities of its owners.”
Every plant in the landscape thrives on a small amount of water, which is delivered on a drip irrigation system Santelmann designed. DeJean installed eight mature saguaros, the only plant that McJunkin insisted upon. Although Pahrump is hot in summer, winter temperatures can drop to the teens. The saguaros have to be wrapped to protect them against freezing.
The tall cactuses give the landscape a distinctive vertical element. “To bring your eye back to the ground,” DeJean says, “we chose the yucca families—varieties that would best suit Pahrump.” The ground is covered with chat, a product that emulates desert soils, and river rock and massive boulders highlight specific areas. DeJean (at left) added color with lantanas and desert redbird of paradise. Large round pots hold seasonal plants—petunias and vinca in the summer, pansies and snapdragons in the winter, and chrysanthemums in the fall. Trees include palo verdes and desert willow.
Texture and dramatic shadows are provided by the old ranch equipment. “I just like it,” Hafen says of his collection. “A lot of it came from my dad’s farm in Mesquite and Southern Utah.” A few decades ago, Hafen could pick up cast-off tractors for nothing. “I used to ask farmers if I could have the old equipment if I hauled it off, and they’d say yes.”
The landscape provides a patch of green grass for grandkids to play on and a patio for grownups to gather. Hafen and McJunkin like to lay back in the hot tub and enjoy the night sky. “I love to look at the stars and watch the airplanes go by,” McJunkin says.
Architect O’Neil found it a challenge to draw the house’s original plans by hand because there wasn’t a straight line in the place, but he says working with Hafen and McJunkin was great. DeJean concurs. “I had a wonderful time,” she says. “The last days on the project were bittersweet. I often thought, ‘I just want to do this all over again.’”
Jordan Chelsa Landscape Inc.
601 S. Highway 160, Pahrump
Architecture Design and Development
2160 W. Charleston Blvd., Ste. J, Las Vegas